How to Prepare for an Audition

Preparing for an audition is one of the more stressful things you can do as an actor. Forget opening night – by then, at least, there is the reassurance you have the job. Walking into an audition is a kind of acting ambush that you know is coming – and you know the odds are stacked against you.

Yet, when you consider it, the two situations aren’t particularly different: each sees you standing in front of a room of people, every one of them waiting to see what you can do, and any one of them potentially hostile. The main change is that on an opening night you have the props of a performance to help you along.

Auditions require precisely the same system of preparation as any performance. You need to prepare your character, analyse your motives and adjust your physicality with just the same intensity, only with auditions you have the freedom of no director.

So you find out you have an audition. First, although it shouldn’t need to be said, read the script. Read the whole script, not just the portion you have been given. After this, research any elements of the script you would normally research – the time period and place, any major issues confronted in the script, the style of the production your audition is for. Do whatever you can to be able to walk into your audition as though the world of the script is your world.

Your next move is character background work. On a piece of paper, write down your character’s age, profession, health and any other things that might be significant about their background. Note things that are mentioned in the script before you fill in any gaps. Go through and check what other characters say about yours, and what your character says about them.

After this basic groundwork, begin to prepare your script. Break it down into units (beats)* and figure out your smaller and overarching objectives throughout the scene. While you learn the lines, experiment with ways of achieving your character’s goals within the scene – this is a handy exercise for exploring the character and will give you options on how to play it.

Next, learn your lines. Everyone has their own methods for doing this, so whatever works best for you.

Working after you learn your lines is just as important as what you do before. Start to look at your character’s physicality: where is their centre of gravity? Which area of their body do they move from? Do they hold tension anywhere? How do they stand? Walk around in your character’s body (be sure to practice wearing whatever shoes you plan to wear to the audition). Decide where the scene is set, and picture the environment in your mind, ready to take with you to the audition.

Next: the day of the audition. If you can, allow yourself time to warm up at the audition venue (I know this isn’t always possible; I personally have accepted that I am always going to run late for an audition and have a taxi fund set aside for the eventuality). Make sure to at least give yourself time to breathe – at least five minutes – because there is nothing less attractive than a sweaty, stressed actor. Take a couple of minutes to collect yourself in order to enter the audition room calm, composed and confident.

Okay, the last on that particular list may not be present when you walk into an audition. However, if you have prepared and are ready to perform, every audition becomes not a job interview but yet another chance to perform, which feeds any actor’s soul regardless of the outcome.

*For anyone not familiar with the method of ‘beating’ out a script, the short explanation is to go through each scene and draw a line between any changes in mood. Each of these little sections are called beats or units, and require a new mini-objective. Sectioning the script in this way gives a scene lots of nice peaks and troughs, and provides you with a handy map of how to play it.