First and most important! PREPARE
From the former President of WLOS, David Rust.
Hello and welcome to my Ten Commandments on acting.
I have been associated with the theatre for many years both as a professional, amateur, singer/actor and critic and who unfortunately is no longer suitable as a juvenile lead (ha ha) but I am still in great demand locally.
One thing that has always been a concern of mine is the way people approach auditions. So I have selected what I call the ten commandments necessary to start off in the craft.
The main aim in acting, reading aloud, the recitation of poetry, is to get a verbal message across. This can only be done by clear and audible diction.
There are also other factors which should be taken into consideration to make the work presented entertaining and believable.
1. BREATH CONTROL. Learn to cover sentences in one breath where possible.
2. PACE. Don't talk too fast, as words get lost. But on the other hand, not too slow as to make it become boring.
3. VOLUME. Vary the volume from time to time as the text demands (possible from a whisper to a shout).
4. UNDERSTAND. Fully understand what you are about to read or say. If you are not sure of its meaning or pronunciation, consult a dictionary or advisor.
5. PAUSES. Use commas or full stops in the text for places to pause and take a breath. This can heighten the tension and the expectation. On comedy lines, wait for laughter to cease so that your audience is always with you.
6. EMPHASIS. A most important part of speech. Make sure you are emphasising the right words.
7. POISE. Stand up straight unless you are characterising the dialogue. Don't fidget or move feet or hands unless absolutely necessary.
8. ACCENTS. (Foreign to the local ear) Pace and diction are most important when using any accent, and particularly if you yourself are copying an accent in your speech. (Americanisms in particular).
9. ENDINGS OF SENTENCES. Do not lower the volume of your voice when coming to the end of a sentence unless the text demands it. Very often the punch line to the comedy or the important details in the dialogue is at the end of a sentence.
10. FACIAL EXPRESSION. Use your face generally to express certain areas of dialogue. Your eyes in particular can make all the difference in achieving a good performance.
And now some advice on how to audition!
Having sat on many audition panels over the years I have seen many tears from entrants after having been told that they have not won the part.
In general, producers and musical directors have really no set ideas as to how a character should be played so it is up to the person who is auditioning to make up the minds of the panel that your character is the right one and that you are the right one for the part.
How is this done? Well first of all you need to study not just the pieces selected for the part to be used in the auditions, but the entire show.
The libretto and the music should be gone through several times. Then you need to look at the character itself. Ask yourself:-
Am I the right age for the part?
Is the music in my vocal range?
Is it a comedy or a straight part? Am I better in comedy or straight parts?
And above all, do I really want the part?
If you have answered yourself truthfully and you still want the part then GO FOR IT...
Don't just read the audition pieces once or twice and hope for the best as many people do. Learn them by heart or at least know where you should be in the music or libretto at any time during you audition. Above all make up your mind how you are going to play the part and stick to it.
Practice your audition pieces out loud and preferably in front of someone, or in front of a mirror where you can watch your facial expressions and any unnecessary movement of hands. Being in front of a mirror you will not be wandering around as many of you do at present during auditions. Practice this as often as you can before the dreaded day.
If it is necessary to use personal props during the audition make sure you practice with them and know how to handle them. Some times items of costume etc. may help you get into the character. If so use them.
Come the day make sure you arrive on time and that you have everything you need to successful. When you are called in to perform remember that THIS IS A PERFORMANCE. It has to be your best one in order to convince the panel that you are the one they are looking for.
Take up a suitable position and poise opposite the people you are auditioning with (if there are any), and begin when asked.
Stand still. Don't wander about unless it is necessary. Don't wave your arms around. Nothing is more distracting to the panel or in fact to the audience.
Speak up, don't mumble. If you are reading, don't have the book or sheet of paper in front of your face. If you use spectacles, don't keep taking them on and off.
If you use idiot cards don't fiddle around with them.
Don't keep looking at the panel as if you are querying something, or at the ceiling. Instead, have as much eye contact as possible with the other people you are auditioning with.
If something goes wrong, don't panic. Just say "Can I start again please" or "Prompt please" if you forget your lines. And above all ACT, ACT, ACT.
If you do not get the part don't be downhearted. It is not necessarily that you are not any good. Many other factors have to be taken into consideration by the panel. The matching of characters has to take place so that the right mix is obtained.
If a part is not cast then further auditions may be held. This means that any one can try for the part again if they think they can do better than before. Bear in mind that fresh auditionees may have been invited.
I hope this will in some way aid future contestants at auditions to gain the parts they desire.
Many have the talent, but ruin their auditions by not following the simple but necessary rules and disciplines of stage craft.