How to Teach Audition Technique

How to Teach Audition Technique By: Sam Marsden

Over the years I have helped many child and teenage performers prepare for auditions including, drama school, West End shows, and high-budget Hollywood films. Many auditioned with success. Here are my top tips on how to help your students prepare for an audition.

Help your students choose the right monologue.

Choosing a monologue is a personal choice and one that the student, not the teacher should make. The most important advice you can give students for choosing a monologue is that the character should be someone they can connect with on an emotional level.  Encourage students to pick a character that they could be cast as professionally. The less imagination the audition panel have to use, the better. For example, discourage a teenager from playing someone in their 50’s.

Teach how to enter and exit an audition room.

When entering, actors should walk to the centre of the room, or stage, in silence, naturally and with confidence. Then once they are stood with their two feet hip width apart, they should introduce themselves and wait to be asked to perform. Once they have finished their monologue they should hold still for a few moments before coming out of character and thanking the audition panel for their time.

Make sure the monologue goes on a journey.

Talk with your students about the journey the character goes on throughout the monologue. It’s important that the actor finishes the piece in a different emotional state to the one they started in. To showcase the actor, they need to show a variety of emotional states throughout the monologue and preferably it should climax in the most intense state.

Encourage authenticity.

Resist over-direction. The audition panel do not want to watch the drama teacher’s interpretation of the monologue, they want to see an honest performance from the auditionee’s heart. It’s your job as the teacher to help your students connect with their character and perform the monologues from a place of truth.

 Create a safe space.

It’s always important to create a safe space whilst teaching drama, but especially when teaching audition technique. Often the most successful auditions are when the actor has the confidence to show their vulnerabilities. If your students have a safe place to play with their own vulnerabilities and those of their character, then they will be able to perform a more raw and authentic monologue. To create a safe space, encourage play, encourage mistakes, hold back criticism and emphasise your students’ strong points. 

Discourage accents and gimmicks.

So many actors think if they do a great accent or some kind of party trick this will make them stand out at an audition. It may make them stand out, but not in a good way most of the time! Audition panels are looking for an authentic performance and it’s likely that an accent or gimmick will only act as a barrier between the auditionee and the audition panel. You need to encourage students to take off their mask and nurture them into giving a raw and honest performance.

 Prepare students for sight-reading.

Auditionees may be asked to prepare a monologue, or be given a script a few days in advance, and sometimes they are asked to sight read. You should give your students practice with all three of these potential scenarios. Bring short scripts to your classes for them to sight-read.

 Prepare the student for nerves.

Tell your students that it’s normal to be nervous and that it’s a good thing, as the adrenaline will help their performance. Perhaps give students some breathing or warm-up exercises that they can to do before an audition. Tell your students that the audition panel want them to do well - knowing the audition panel is on their side may give them relief.

 Prepare the student for the unexpected.

Audition panels will often redirect a monologue and students need to be prepared for this. Panels like to check that an actor can take direction and not be thrown. You, the teacher, should prepare students for this and get them to do the monologue in many different ways. Ask your students to do crazy things, for example, ‘please can you do that monologue again for me, but this time as if you are really desperate for the toilet.’ You need to train your students to be able to do even the most random of requests without missing a beat. I was once asked to do one of my monologues as if I were standing in a lift that was filling up with skittles!

Practice in a new space.

If you can rehearse the monologue in several different rooms, then do. Try rehearsing in small rooms, big rooms, outside, in studios, in theatres… the more the students get used to performing their pieces in different spaces, the better.

 Ask the student questions.

Audition panels like to ask auditionees questions, so make sure your students are familiar with this process. Set up mock interviews. Ask your students questions about their monologue - ‘Who are you talking to in this scene?’ ‘What did your character have for lunch?’ ‘What time of day is it when your character does this monologue?’ The auditionee needs to know everything about their character, or at least come up with an answer quickly! Also ask your students personal questions as part of a mock interview - ‘Why do you want to act?’ ‘What do you think makes a good actor?’ ‘What’s your biggest insecurity as an actor?’

Do a mock audition.

Set up a desk and pretend to be the audition panel for your students. Run through the whole thing as if it were a real audition. If you have a whole class of students it’s a good learning experience for them to sit and watch others in a mock audition.

Prepare them for rejection.

Explain to your students that many people will be auditioning and that many great actors didn’t get the parts they auditioned for. Jennifer Lawrence was turned down for the part of Bella Swan in Twilight and she’s one of the greatest actors of all time. She was rejected because she wasn’t right for that part, not because she didn’t have talent. If your students get rejected for drama school explain to them that many people don’t get in until the second or third year of auditioning. Reassure the students that if they are rejected it does not mean that they are not good enough and the difference between the amateurs and the pros are those that give up and those that don’t.