Louis E. Catron
A Primer for Actors--Audition techniques for actors, singers, and dancers.

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        "A Primer for Actors" offers you information about helpful books, constructing your résumé, getting appropriate headshots, making your own website, and preparing for auditions.  You'll also find tips that are designed to help you become more effective.  Throughout there are websites you'll want to visit for additional insights.  I hope you'll find at least some of this information useful. 

      Here we talk about auditions.

Links to the parts of 
A Primer for Actors:

Books for Actors
Your Actor's Resume
Creating Your Personal Actor's Website




“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
~~Mark Twain.


        In the early stages of her career, when Barbra Streisand was an unknown and hadn’t yet become a world-famous actress, singer, songwriter, producer, and director, she went to an audition very visibly chewing a large wad of gum.  Called to the stage, she chomped on the gum, started to sing a few notes, then stopped and with an abashed and very charming smile she took the chunk of gum out of her mouth and stuck it under a stool seat.  Then she sang her songs. 

        Later, after all auditions were completed and performers had left, a curious director went to the stool and looked at the underside. 

        No chewing gum.  Streisand had faked the business. 

        Why?  “The girl who was chewing gum” surfaced from all the others.  When her trick was discovered, she became a distinct individual:  “The girl who faked chewing gum.”  You have to smile and shake your head at that...and remember her forever thereafter.

        That may or may not be a true story (you, like me, may wonder what prompted the director to look for that wad of gum under the stool seat), but it is told to illustrate the way auditions involve many things, including mind games and cunning strategy.  No, they won’t replace careful preparation and talent—which Streisand had in abundance—but in the highly competitive world of auditioning, one seeks whatever advantages one can devise.

        Here we discuss how the audition process generally works and give you some tips about how to perform your best in front of the director.


        Develop a positive attitude.  Actors mutter about auditions being an angst-filled experience, but you’ll do better if you avoid focus on the negatives.  Think of the benefits:  an audition gives you the opportunity to display your talents, where your abilities will be recognized, where you will get The Role that will skyrocket your career. 

        Psych yourself up to enjoy auditioning.  This has two immediate advantages.  First, and obvious, you’ll do a better audition if you approach it eagerly.  Secondly, and more subtly, through the magical psychology process called “empathy,” your enjoyment will cause the audience enjoy your work. 

        Remember this: the director wants you to audition well, is as eager for you to do a good job as you are, is on your side.  After all, the director has a show to cast, is constantly hoping The Perfect Person for this or that role will explode forth at auditions. 


        1.  Check the play’s rehearsal and production schedule.  Be quite certain you are available throughout.  If you get cast and then tell the director you have scheduling conflicts, you’ll damage the production and--don't ignore this!--give yourself a rotten reputation.  Remember that theatre is a small town:  a reputation you earn in one theatre will be known elsewhere.

         2.  Read the play.  Read the play.  Read the play.  Understand its genre (comedy, tragedy).  Try your best to avoid looking for “your role” or casting yourself.  Instead keep yourself open for any role.  Examine characters carefully.  Look for their objectives, their emotions, their relationships. 

        3.  If the audition process asks you to prepare a reading from the play, select one that has more than one note—that is, a selection where the character is dynamic, changing.  The director wants to see your range.  Find ways to show variations.  Avoid the "monos."  Of course you know that a monotone is deadly, but many actors somehow haven't learned that equally deadly are mono-rate, mono-pitch, mono-volume, mono-emotion, mono-attitude, mono-gesture, mono-physical pose.  What if the selection doesn't seem to have those changes?  Invent them.    We'll talk more about preparing selections. 

        4.  Make choices.  All art consists of making choices.  The director wants to see that you have an interpretation, that you've made choices about the character.  Don't waste time trying to second-guess the director's interp.  Most directors don't expect you to echo their decisions about the character and care more that you have made decisions.  (Okay, okay.  Don't get carried away here.  If you decide to bounce off the walls with a cockamanie interp, you're likely losing.  You'll be remembered, yes.  But not necessarily the way you'd like to be.  Any interp that makes fun of the play or the character is a poor choice.)

 (More to come)

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