Within Chattanooga’s diverse theatre community, there is ample opportunity to begin being part of productions throughout the Scenic City. The first step to being an actor is auditioning. Auditioning is itself a skill. If your goal is to be an actor, then auditioning is something you should be doing constantly regardless of your level of acting experience. The more you audition for various productions, the easier it gets, the more comfortable you are and know what to expect. As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Auditioning is that first step. The key to success is proper planning and preparation. This is a main principle in theatre, in fact. Productions don’t typically come together in a short period of time. It takes development and planning for it to come to fruition. This is true about anything you want to achieve, including auditioning. The better prepared you are, the more confident you will be. The more confident you are, the more confident people will be in you. Planning is imperative. Do your research. To properly plan for auditioning, learn as much as you can about the production company for whom you are auditioning. This includes both the theatre company and the director of the show you are auditioning for. Browse through a history of their previous shows, find out what kind of productions they produce. This can be helpful in eliminating any surprises, especially if that sweet and innocent production of Alice in Wonderland you were interested in turns out to be an avant garde and experimental exploration of Nazi Germany (happened to one of my friends.)  Most theatres have a mission statement that clearly outlines what their goals are. For example, some theatres have a goal of producing socially conscious plays that enlighten the audience and raise aware of  social issues. Some are driven with a purpose of enriching the community by bringing people together for fun and entertainment. Knowing the mission and goal of the theatre can help you find your place that fits your own goals best. Research the play you are going to audition for. Is it a comedy or a drama? What time period is it set? Where does the story take place? Script analysis is a skill that you will develop over time (and a topic we will go into further and in more depth in a future article.) Before you audition for a play, it is vital that you learn about the play. Many theatres will have lender copies of the script to read and review before you audition. You may also be able to find a copy in the library or online. If you have the opportunity to read the script, then do so.  Once you have read the script and are familiar with the play, do not be afraid to reach out to the director and ask them questions about the script. Are there any variations or style choices the director is going to make? Showing that you have an active interest in the production can be extremely useful in helping them make a decision about your involvement in the play. The more you know about the production the better prepared you will be. Once you have researched the play and production company for whom you are going to be auditioning, then you are prepared to start planning your audition. Find out what the audition is going to consist of. Will you be reading from the script or will you be required to deliver a prepared monologue?  If it is a musical, will you be singing from the show or will you be expected to perform a piece that you have prepared? If you will be singing a piece of your choosing, will it be acapella or will there be piano accompaniment? How long will you be given to deliver your audition piece? Once you know this, you will then be able to look for pieces that fit these minimum qualifications. Most of these questions will be explained on the audition notice. Contact the theatre or director to ask them these questions if they have not posted them on the audition notice.
Choosing Your Audition Piece
Choosing your audition piece is an extremely important part of preparing for an audition. However you should not choose your piece until you have thoroughly done your research as outlined above. Once you are familiar with the director, the theatre, the show you are auditioning for, and the auditioning requirements, it will be easier for you to find an audition piece that is more effective and can better highlight why you are a good fit for a role in the production. If you are auditioning for a musical and are required to prepare your own musical selection, DO NOT sing a song from the show unless they have specifically asked you to. I don’t care if you sound like the original broadway cast of the show. Do not do it. The musical director may have a different idea for how the piece is to be performed and may not want someone who is locked into a delivery of the song.  This is one of the biggest mistakes amateurs make. Instead chose a musical piece that is similar in style and theme. 99% of the time you will not be given enough time to sing a full song. Prepare for this by choosing a portion of the piece that best highlights your talents and abilities.  If there is piano accompaniment, be able to communicate this clearly with them. It is extremely important that you and the pianist are on the same page (literally.) The same holds true about performing a monologue for an audition. Find a monologue from a different play or a film that is similar in style and theme and is from a character that is similar to the role you are auditioning for. Choose a piece that compliments the production and the direction for the play. Once you have found a monologue or musical number that can quickly highlight your skills and demonstrate your ability to play the role you are auditioning for, prepare and rehearse your audition. The best advice I can give you in regard to rehearsing your monologue is focus on characterization, delivery, and being in the moment. Showing that you can develop a character is an important aspect of the auditioning process. Your movement and delivery should demonstrate characterization; who they are, how they think, what they feel. What are they going through that has made them say what it is they are saying. Delivering a monologue isn’t just reciting lines that have been written on a page.  It is presenting a moment in time about a person who is saying something that is important to them. Be in that moment. This is true about singing during an audition as well. You are not just showing that you have vocal talent, but that you are able to sing a piece as the character you are performing. My final advice on choosing an audition piece, is be creative. Casting directors may get tired of hearing the same rendition of “On My Own” ad nauseum. Be willing to make bold decisions that help you stand out while still demonstrating your ability to perform the style of the show. Often times the more obscure your audition piece is, the better it will be received. There are many great resources online for finding monologues from plays and movies such as www.MonologueSearch.com.
The Audition
Be courteous and respectful at all times. Be positive while interacting with everyone, stay upbeat and happy. Build a pleasant report with those you are auditioning with. It’s not a competition, don’t think of it as such. Theatre is a collaborative art form. Demonstrate your ability to get along with those you are working with, and work well with those around you. Respect the time of the casting director and others auditioning. Most importantly, be confident. When you are called to audition, walk swiftly and with purpose. Show them you are prepared and ready, know what you are doing, and are excited to be there (even if your nerves have you feeling differently.) And while confidence is vital and important, don’t be overly cocky or a diva. Auditioning is not about being better than anyone. It is about being a right fit for a role. Be mindful of your nervous ticks and work on eliminating them. If you incorporate blocking (movement) in your audition piece, make it purpose driven, meaningful and deliberate. Don’t pace nervously. Always make conscious decisions. And lastly, dress appropriately, comfortably, and professionally. If you know there is going to be a dance portion of the audition, don’t wear boots, high heels, or other restrictive footwear. And if you do, bring a pair of appropriate shoes to change into. It’s not necessarily a bad idea to wear an article of clothing or jewelry that accentuates the character you are auditioning for or that highlights the character of the monologue you are delivering.  It may even help you with characterization. If you do, don’t go over board. Your style is not what is being auditioned. Your clothing should not distract from your audition. A standard go-to is typical business attire, be well groomed, and avoid negative, offensive, or abrasive slogans and saying.  
Handle rejection well and don’t take it personally
You won’t always be the right fit for a role, and that’s ok. This should never discourage you. Keep trying out for other productions. Being rejected for a role can also be an opportunity for you to prove yourself, that you’re able to take it in stride and that you respect the production process and that you still support the success of the production. Even if you don’t get cast, there are other ways that you may be part of the production and this is always a good idea. Many theatres accept volunteers to be part of the running crew as well as the production crew in building sets, costumes, and lighting or other aspects of the production. If theatre is important to you, it would be wise to become actively part of the entire process as you develop your craft. It also helps the production company become familiar with you. So if you don’t get cast, it’s not the end of the world. Keep trying. If you follow the advice of this article you will eventually succeed. Have any advice that has worked for you or insight as what you are looking for as a casting director? Post them and any questions you may have in the comments section below!