Theater Info for the Washington DC region

Research The Show Before Auditioning

By • Apr 20th, 2011 • Category: An Actor's Advice

In an ideal world, you should already know everything about the show you are auditioning for before you actually audition. Either you will have seen it, or found a way to obtain a copy of the script to read before you try out. (Some theatres will allow you to borrow a copy before you show up, so call and ask about this policy.) But practically speaking, we often try out for a play with only a cursory knowledge of its plot. Just enough to determine if we would be interested in telling that sort of story. In some cases we try out for something simply because we at long last have some free time, and that is the show being offered, no other reason. (Not the best reason to audition, but not uncommon either.)

So if you do not know about all the details of the play for which you are planning to audition, it is important that you mention either during the audition, or on your audition sheet, any particular things that you may be unwilling to do in a production. Nothing can be more awkward than getting a part, and then being directed during rehearsals to do something with which you are uncomfortable, and something of which you were unaware until the very day it comes up.

Common examples of acts that more than a few community actors are unwilling to do are kissing or other simulated sexual acts, appearing nude or scantily clad, uttering profanity, or any other acts to which the actor has an objection outside of the play.

Now, in order to be the best actor you can be, you should be willing to fully commit to any and all of these acts while in the play. If a scene demands it, and there is nothing other than your personal difficulty that prevents it from occurring, it really should happen, in the interest of the show and its overall quality. Dodging such things lessens both the show and your performance. But if you insist on trying out for a play about which you know nothing, then please, in the interest of fairness to everyone involved in the production, make your boundaries clear from the start.

If you are not willing to kiss anyone to which you are not married, say that up front. Yes, it may in fact mean you do not get the part. But if the alternative is to hide this fact, get the part, and then hold up rehearsals because of your hard and fast rule, you don’t deserve the role. A director and the rest of the cast deserve to work with people who are at least willing to commit fully to the play as written. Have enough respect for all the time, energy and talent that goes into a stage production to remove yourself from contention if you can’t do all that you are called upon to do.

In a perfect theatre, the director would list on the audition sheet any and all possibly questionable acts that each character will be called upon to perform. But in the real world, they do not always think to do this, and besides that they may be unaware of something you find objectionable.

There are many roles for many different types of actors. And with a little research into the show your local playhouse is producing it can easily be determined if you are the type of actor that can be in such a show. It all comes down to remembering that it isn’t all about you, and getting the role, but about being a part of something larger than yourself; about contributing your talents to a large work of art that belongs to everyone. If you keep that in mind and respect it, you’ll see why the discretion I advocate is prudent.

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is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs (for theatre related thoughts) and (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.

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