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An Actor’s Preparation For An Audition
Auditions may be for individual productions or for an entire season. They can also be for one theatre company or for several as in the case of regional combined auditions that happen around the country, particularly from January through March. Auditions for individual shows usually involve reading from the script. The actors may read with other actors throughout the audition, or the actors can read lines with a staff person. Generally, there are two basic types of auditions: open casting auditions, also well known as “cattle calls,” and casting auditions, or casting interviews.
Open Casting Calls
Open casting calls are usually open to anyone who finds out about them. It is not unusual to find a varying array of types or plain individuals with not much acting experience trying out for these roles. Obvious advantages of open casting calls are that anyone can try out, even if the person doesn’t have an agent. And so for the actor not yet with an agent it might be an opportunity to land one by impressing a casting director well enough so that a referral is made.
Open casting calls try to attract as many potential candidates as possible, so you will often find advertisements for them in newspapers and magazines or on web sites. Another advantage for trained actors is that they may fair better in the audition than the untrained and inexperienced hopeful who get weeded out in the early going. But for the trained by inexperienced acting hopeful, open casting calls can offer plenty of practice auditioning within a limited time frame in usually less than ideal or pressured environments.
There are disadvantages to open casting calls as well. For one, with so many tryouts audition time is severely limited. A good impression has to be made very quickly (an advantage for a trained, experienced actor). Another disadvantage is that casting directors often use open casting calls to fill what are mostly minor acting roles. Sometimes, casting directors use open casting calls to meet new talent and re-evaluate veteran actors to see how much they may have improved. Another theory is that the casting director is not sure what he or she is looking for in terms of the type of person to fill a particular role, thus resulting in this kind of audition that insures an array of types. For most actors in these auditions, the tryout won’t lead to a role, but by impressing the casting director enough, you could be kept in mind for future projects.
Typically, the line for an open casting call usually starts at the door of the building and spills out on to the sidewalk. Because you may be standing for several hours in line, wear comfortable clothes and comfortable shoes, a chair or pillow to sit on, food and water, a book or other item to keep yourself amused while waiting. When conducting open casting calls, the casting director can state that the audition will have a time frame, such as from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but they usually go much longer that the stated time frame.
Most established actors, especially those with agents, set their sights on attending casting auditions. A casting audition occurs when a casting director releases the news that a certain role is being cast for, that requires an approximate age range and appearance, such as a certain ethnicity, height, build or look. This information is normally filtered to agents through particular channels such as Breakdown Services, Ltd., The Link, Theatrical Index, and other information sources, and your agent (if you have one) sets up the casting auditions.
When agents receive word of a casting audition, they immediately send out all the actors they represent who fit the type, and whom they think have a good shot at winning the role. Normally showing up for auditions like these means having to see many actors with your likeness or resemblance, somewhat of the opposite of the open casting calls.
Of course in all cases, an actor should always act assertively in pursuing new opportunities to further a career. And so, if you hear of a casting audition that leaks out through the trade publications or word of mouth, send the casting director your head shot and resume. If the casting director is impressed with your looks and credentials, he or she may invite you to the casting audition. If you have an agent, contact your agent the moment that you hear of casting audition and ask your agent to get you into the casting audition.
In an audition for a musical, actors can be asked to sing and perform movement. For auditions that encompass the breadth of an entire season the actor is asked to prepare a contemporary monologue and a classic monologue, or a dramatic and comic one. After you have secured an audition appointment through either the efforts of an agent, or simply by checking the many resources for finding work for actors, here are some things to keep in mind:
As a rule of thumb, what most directors will look for in an audition are:
- An element in the actor’s person that suggests the character.
- Voice and ability to project.
- Physical appearance relating to the role.
- Ability to focus and take direction if offered.
- Stage presence and poise.
- The actor’s understanding of the theatrical requirements of the role.
Learning more of what a director is searching for in an audition session can be found in the section of Knowing the Type You Can Best Portray. Also, view a compilation of theatre companies, clubs, production companies and independent producers that frequently post casting notices leading to audition opportunities, Casting Leads That Can Turn Into Audition Opportunities, that once resided on this page but has now moved to the link above.
Description of Equity Agreements and Codes
When viewing casting notices in a tabloid like Backstage, you may often see a reference to a particular contract or arrangement with AEA. These are Actors Equity Agreement and code terms, and it wouldn’t hurt to be familiar with them.
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