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How to Try Out for Acting Roles

by Aurelio Locsin

The fact that you studied drama at Yale or appeared in dozens of theatrical plays has very little to do with whether you get an acting job. In most cases, unless you are a well-known star, you get roles by trying out for them through auditions in front of the director and producer.

Study the audition notice carefully to make sure that you meet minimum requirements for the part. If the producers are looking for a tall black women who speaks French, you’re only wasting everyone's time by auditioning if you’re a short white man who speaks only English.

Read the script, if it’s available, or the entire play, if it’s from a known work. This will tell you about the character’s motives, what his function is in the drama and how he relates to other characters, who may be auditioning with you at the same time. If you are asked to prepare a monologue, look for one related to but not from the production. You want to show the casting director you can handle the material but not interfere with his impression of how it can be acted.

Practice the script or memorize the monologue thoroughly. This will give you a feel for the writing and the part. Try different ways of reading the dialogue, in case the directors ask for a different interpretation during the audition.

Prepare a headshot, which shows a picture of your face in the front, and a list of your acting credentials in the back. This headshot may be the only way that directors remember who you are, if they are looking at dozens of actors in an audition. So have it professionally produced. You want it to jog the memories of the decision-makers, not make them laugh at its amateur appearance.

Dress the part exactly for movie and TV roles, so producers see you in the production. For example, if the role calls for a policeman, wear a police uniform. For theatrical roles, only suggest the part with your clothing because directors want to see the person, not the clothes. For example, wear a skirt and collared blouse if you’re going for a Shakespearean heroine. When in doubt for theatrical auditions, wear a black top, black pants and black shoes.

Allow enough time to drive to the audition venue, find parking, locate the audition space and prepare for the audition by practicing the script with other auditioners. The producers may be on tight schedules and not have any time to move you to another audition slot, especially if they’re looking at dozens of actors during that time.

Be nice to everyone you meet from the receptionist checking you in to the production assistant who walks you to the stage. Producers and directors may ask other employees what they think about you just to get a sense of how you get along with other people and how likable you will be for an audience.

Fill out any required forms and submit your headshot to the production assistant, who will forward it to the producers and directors. Bring several copies of your headshot in case other members of the production request it.

Greet everyone in the audition room and ask the director to whom you should direct your performance. Some directors want you to speak directly to them as a member of the audience. Many prefer that you don’t focus on them at all so they can watch you more objectively.

Make one bold choice when auditioning, so the directors remember your creativity. If the director asks you to make an adjustment by auditioning differently, don’t assume that you did anything wrong. He may just be testing how easy you are to direct and whether you have a range of acting choices available.

Ask either the director or the audition manager what the next step is in the process. If you’re allowed to leave, do so promptly and forget about the audition. If they want you for the part, they’ll make every effort to contact you as soon as possible. Remember that the odds are against you. Out of the dozens of actors trying out for a part, only one will get it. You’re best bet is to start preparing for your next audition.

About the Author

Aurelio Locsin has been writing professionally since 1982. He published his first book in 1996 and is a frequent contributor to many online publications, specializing in consumer, business and technical topics. Locsin holds a Bachelor of Arts in scientific and technical communications from the University of Washington.

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