Theatre - The Dos and Don'ts for the New Performer

Theatre Dos & Don’ts For The New Performer

Theater Etiquette can separate the amatures from the pros

Most blunders in Theatre Etiquette are made simply because actors are not sure what is expected of them. This article will take you from rehearsals to the closing night party and give you the dos, the don’ts and the whys.

Come prepared: Learn your lines, have your script and a pencil to write down blocking. Arrive early enough to warm up & get focused prior to call time. Cover mistakes and stay in character. Listen closely and follow directions pleasantly. Avoid walking between the Director and the stage when a rehearsal is in progress.

Tech week is called ‘Hell week’ because the Rehearsals are 12 hour days and often tedious. Hang in there while the crew fine-tunes cues and equipment! It can be exhausting, so YOU can HELP the process by paying attention, staying quiet and being ready & available to jump from scene to scene. The tech crew typically arrives before everyone else and leaves after everyone else. They work crazy-hard AND they make you look and sound great! SO, Give them your focus AND the respect they deserve while they are doing their jobs.

Never change anything about your costume. Don’t add or remove anything. Everyone in a production has a specific job and it is the costume designer’s job to put you in something that works for the show. If you have suggestions or problems with a part of your costume, politely take them to the costumer or the director.

Keep the dressing room neat and clean. This is your second home. Keep it organized and you’ll avoid the stress & panic that comes from losing a piece of your costume amid the mess, right before you go on stage. Take care of your things and the costumer will love you.

Once the house is open, stay off the stage and out of the theater, especially in costume. Avoid peeking thru the curtains. Don’t mingle with a waiting audience; it will spoil the surprise.

When you step off the stage…..vanish. Walk quietly backstage. Avoid noise in the dressing room and talking or even whispering in the wings. Once in awhile, an actor’s mic may accidentally get left on back stage, in which case, the audience hears everything you say & do. For example, we were doing a musical and one actor made his exit and ran to the bathroom. He didn’t realize that his mic was still on, SO, the audience heard: tinkle, tinkle, tinkle, flush at full volume. Always assume there is a mic on somewhere and stay very quiet.

Don’t hang out in the wings to watch the show. Backstage areas can be tight and the crew and your fellow actors have to get to where they need to be. It’s also a safety issue, as sets are being moved on and off stage. Hang out in the dressing room or green room. Pay attention to the monitors so you know what’s happening. There is no excuse for missing a cue. Never miss an entrance! If you’re not going on-stage for a while, be respectful of those who are: stay out of the way of costume changes, don’t make noise backstage that prevents the other actors from hearing their cues, and stay out of the wings. Be aware and be respectful of others and the process. When waiting in the wings for an entrance, watch your sight lines. Make sure you cannot be seen. When walking behind the cyc or back curtain, walk slowly and as far away from the curtain as possible so that it does not wiggle & create a distraction on stage. When entering and exiting, try to avoid bumping into scenery & backdrops. Things break AND all the movement is distracting for the audience.

Pay attention to the stage manager. He or she will be telling you important things to keep the show running smoothly. When the stage manager gives a call, thank them. For example: They say “10 minutes to places !” you say: “Thank you 10!”. That’s so the stage manager knows that you heard the call and are ready to go.

Respect the props, sets, costumes, theatrical equipment, electronic equipment & the belongings of others. Never touch anyone else’s prop, even if you think it’s out of place. They may have moved it there on purpose. If you think something is out of place, just mention it to the stage manager. Always check your own props before curtain. Things happen, props get bumped or moved or broken. It’s also comforting to know that everything is where you expect it to be before the show begins. Remember, props belong to the theatre, not the actors. Treat them with respect. Return props to their designated place immediately after use. If you’d like to practice with a prop at home, DON’T. Find an alternate or make arrangements with the director or stage manager to come in and rehearse at some other time. It’s just too great a risk to have props leave the building. Avoid touching anything that is not yours unless you have permission.

Return microphones & other equipment to the designated crew member backstage. Do not put them down anywhere else, even for a minute.

Unless you’re doing improv, stick to the script. The authors and playwrights wrote the lines that way for a reason. It’s the actor’s job to bring the playwright’s words and the director’s vision to life.

Consume food & drinks in the Green Room. Nothing should be taken into the theatre, backstage or in the dressing room unless it is bottled water with a top on it. Things spill and ruin costumes and props or create a trip hazard. Consult the stage manager for the particular rules of that theatre. Never put food, drinks or any object on a piano, prop table or backstage.

At the end of a rehearsal, director’s typically give notes. Have something easily accessible to write your notes: paper & pen, I-pad etc. Accept all notes from the director graciously and say, “Thank you.” (Nothing else) Write down your notes and come back the next day having made the adjustments that were given. The Director should never need to give you the same note twice. Never disagree with the director in front of the cast and if you don’t understand the note or disagree, discuss it with the Director privately.

Here’s a biggy!! Never, ever, ever, ever ‘direct’ your fellow cast members. This offends them and is unprofessional. Notes are given by the Director and Stage manager only. If someone does offer you notes, say “Thank you but we should take that through the director.” Imagine how confusing it would be to get conflicting directions and suggestions from several different people. All changes to the production must go through the director.

Never talk when the director is talking! Do respond and follow directions Quickly to help create a professional atmosphere.

No mobile phones, especially in the wings! The show deserves all of your attention. Put the phone away and save the texting and tweeting for after rehearsal or after the night’s show.

Whether it’s a rehearsal or production night, don’t miss a call time. There’s a very good reason that the director made a call for 6:00pm even if you don’t know what it is. And if you’re going to be late or miss a rehearsal, let the stage manager or director know as soon as possible so that they have plenty of time to make allowances. Be on time even after breaks, so that the rehearsal may resume promptly.

Always give your best! Whether it’s a 1pm matinee with an audience full of kids or an 8pm curtain in front of the critics, the audience paid to come see you become somebody else. Always give 100%! Leave your personal life challenges outside the theatre so you can focus on the job at hand…….you can always pick up your personal things again when you leave the building.

Be respectful of everyone you work with: the staff, the crew, the directors, the designers, the other actors, and yourself! Avoid gossip—unless you’re gossiping about all the great things people have done. The emotional wellbeing of the cast and crew are of utmost importance. The show will be much better if you work together as a team. SO, Your job as an actor is to make everyone look good. Support everyone. If you have any problems or concerns, go to the Director to discuss in private.

This is the time to celebrate a collaborative job well done. Focus on the positive, avoid complaints, thank everybody!

Be prepared, dedicated, dependable, positive, enthusiastic, supportive, self sufficient and always give 100% without complaint. If you do these things, you will make everyone’s job easier and more pleasant, you’ll be a stellar cast member……the Director’s Dream! AND….they will want to hire you over & over again!!


Working on Broadway: The Inside Scoop An Interview with Anthony Galde

BROADWAY! The Mecca for Theatre! If Broadway is a dream of yours, then let those dreams catapult you into ACTION so you’ll actually have a shot at it!! Broadway veteran, Anthony Galde agreed to share his words of wisdom. Tony has been performing on Broadway for the past 25 years. He started in STARLIGHT EXPRESS when he was only 17 and recently completed a 7 year run in WICKED. Tony is a wealth of information and filled with showbiz stories. Check out what he had to say about life on Broadway!

Lynn: Tell us your personal Broadway story. How did you land your first show.

Tony: I found out about a new Broadway show, STARLIGHT EXPRESS. I was a singer-dancer-actor-speed skater, so it was a perfect show for me. Since I was working in a theme park in LA at the time, I would fly to New York on Mondays, audition all week, then fly back to LA to do the show in LA on weekends. This went on for 4 weeks. It was insane. Because I was 17 and knew all things (laughs), I moved to New York. I was certain I was going to get it. I had $750 which was going to keep me going for months. Clearly. (laugh) I moved to New York and did not get the show, which shocked me and only me. So I got a job waiting on tables…….one month later, they had another position they needed to fill and called me in. At this point I was on my 15th callback. ……. The day I went in, I pulled a groin muscle in dance class, then a block away from the Schubert Theatre, I got hit by a taxi……. I hobbled into the audition and there sat Trevor Nunn, Andrew Loyd Webber, Arlene Phillips, the “A” team.
I limped through the audition and left dejected……..then my manager called and said I needed to be at the publicity office in an
hour and I start tomorrow. Insane! It’s pretty wack-a-doo. My whole career is like that.

Lynn: All journeys are different. Of course, there’s no ONE ‘right way’, to launch a Broadway career, but what advice do you have for people preparing for a Broadway career…….. to give themselves an edge?

Tony: Train, Train, Train.

Get training.

Get emotionally, mentally prepared Have a ‘life’ outside of show business

Build your foundation on something REAL. Honesty, Family, Friends, Integrity, Work Ethic, Relationships…. Find balance in life

Be bold Learn the business

Build a Team: Agents, Managers, Circle of friends, Teachers

Identify your ‘type’ Know who you are.

Lynn: What else do they need to prepare before moving to New York? You mentioned moving to New York with $750.

Tony: (laughs) You need money, you need a LOT of money. You have to be ready to eat the Ramen Noodles. NYC is an expensive place to live. It costs money to walk down the street. People have a tendancy to go there and try to live the same life-style they had when they lived with mom and dad or when they lived in wherever. They want the same quality of life. New York City is a very different thing. What constitutes a bedroom in New York City is really like if you can physically turn your body
around. It’s tight. Those things you’re not used to.

Lynn: Once you land a job, what can you expect?

Tony: Theatre jobs are crazy from the word ‘go’. You start right into costume fittings and all of that sort of thing before you even go into rehearsals. Then you rehearse 10 to 6, six days a week for maybe 5 or 6 weeks, then you go into tech which is 10 hrs out of 12 hours every day until previews. That may be a week or two, but if it’s a technical show it could be much more. We were in tech for 35 days in a row with STARLIGHT EXPRESS. So for 12 hours a day, we kept our skates on because, if we took
them off for our dinner break, our feet would swell and we couldn’t get our skates back on. After you go through the tech time, you go into previews. You rehearse during the day to make changes and then do the show at night. Some changes may take 3 or 4 days to complete, so you rehearse the changes all day and then do the old stuff at night.

Lynn: (smiling) So it’s really easy to be on Broadway?

Tony: (smiling) Yeah, it’s really nothing. (ha)

Lynn: You have to love this.

Tony: (Sincerely) You do. And the process is heaven. That’s when you feel it. And then you start your run and do 8 shows a week, plus your rehearsal on Thursdays and Fridays.

Lynn: What is life like for the dance captains and swings?

Tony: Dance captain means you have to know what everybody does and you teach every new person in the show. Dance captains live at the theatre. A swing covers the ensemble. Like in WICKED, I covered 6 of the ensemble tracks. You have to be
ready to go on at a moments notice…….middle of the show, and switch roles. We do what are called split tracks, which means
you come in and they’re like 4 guys out. So they say ‘this is what you’re gonna do; opening number you’re gonna do half of this
track then you switch to do this line, then go to this track to sing one line, back to the other track.” So you write it down on
a paper towel and check it during every costume change. It’s crazy.

Lynn: Do you get an adrenaline rush doing that?

Tony: Yes! I love it. I’ve always loved it. I love that “Don’t worry, I’ll save you.” thing. I love that. It’s awesome! But it takes a tremendous amount of homework to learn everything. Being a principal is much easier because you just lock into a character and there is an obvious through line. So that stuff was easier. In WICKED I played 3 of the 4 principal male roles and that was a piece of cake.

Lynn: What is your favorite part about a career on Broadway?

Tony: The camaraderie. That community is so special and you feel it when things happen. It’s beautiful to see everybody come together. That’s the biggest part of it. And it’s kinda groovy to say “I worked on Broadway for 25 years. At the end of the day when you walk out of the stage door…’s pretty neat.

Lynn: Thank you, Tony, for sharing your words of wisdom.


Theatre with Purpose

Performers have power. In the Entertainment Industry, you have an audience. People are listening… you. What you do with that power is up to you. There is great value in simply entertaining your audience…..transporting them from daily stress into an imaginary world. There are also great opportunities to use your art to inspire, to make people see things from another perspective, to offer possibilities and open minds. Actors make a positive impact in a number of

  1. By drawing attention to important causes & raising funds.
  2. By using improv & roll-playing techniques to work on conflict resolution.
  3. By creating performance pieces that deliver important messages.

Celebrities like Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Julianne Moore, Don Cheadle and Cameron Diaz draw attention to important causes and charities that range from the Arthritis Society to H20 Africa to The Red Cross. Compassonate Celebrities use their visibility to make a positive impact and the affects are clear. The cool news is that you don’t have to be a celebrity to be heard. You can use your skills as a performing artist to start programs that teach character education through rollplaying or produce work that delivers a positive message.

My company, The Atlanta Workshop Players, produces original musicals that deliver life-lessons to students. To give you an example of the power of the industry, AWP was doing a performance about bullying, called “Masquerade”. During the Q & A after the show, a 13 year old boy stood up out of the audience and took the mic. He said to the entire student body “I am the bully you saw up on that stage and it’s wrong and that’s ending right now.” The audience erupted in
applause….there were tears & goosebumps. It was such a privilege to witness a pivotal moment in this young boy’s life. He was inspired by the story he saw unfold on stage. It changed his life. Pretty cool!

You’ve got the power……Now, have fun changing the world!

Tips for Theatre and Acting: 7 Reasons Why You Won’t Get the Job

#7 – You Aren’t Right for the Role

Dear actors, as you probably know, this is the main reason you didn’t get the job. It is perhaps obvious, but it’s important to be compassionate towards your self in a business where rejection is the rule and getting the job is the exception. There is so much that you cannot control in the casting process. The competition is so fierce and the casting process is so subjective! At my company, the Creede Repertory Theatre, I generally only add one to four new company members a season and I generally audition over 1000 people for those several spots. In addition, I might receive an additional 1000 to 1500 unsolicited resumes via mail or email from actors. I’m looking for very specific types to fill those few spots. If you aren’t that type it’s unlikely you will even be considered. Zelda Fichandler wrote an intriguing article about non-traditional casting in American Theatre Magazine several years ago – but most producers aren’t there yet. Be kind to yourself, especially if you gave a really good audition. But also do your homework about what a theatre company or producer is looking for in its casting call. The following six items are things over which you do have control.

#6 – Your Headshot Doesn’t Look Like You

Old headshots from ten years ago or glamour shots that represent you as significantly altered compared to your everyday professional look don’t help make a good impression. As a personal preference, I’m partial to headshots that are friendly, open, professional, and straightforward: headshots that communicate more about you as a person than what role you might like to play as an actor. Glaring, pouty, or menacing might be good for print work, but I’m going to be spending a lot of time with you and I want to work with an easy, friendly professional.

#5 – You have Insufficient Training or Experience

Training matters! Actors that have been steeped in the rigors of a really good actor training program have a significant advantage over those actors that haven’t. They have developed their skills in speech and voice that are critical for stage work. Speech and voice are one of the three things I evaluate in a general or cattle call audition. I need actors than can be heard and understood at a minimum, but they also must be able to endure an extremely demanding performance and rehearsal schedule that requires good vocal technique or they risk damaging their instrument for both the short and long term.

Many undergraduate actor training and even a few graduate acting programs seemingly neglect the most fundamental acting technique. Do some homework about the programs you are considering. Get recommendations from working professionals as to the best programs. Four years in a program that isn’t teaching you good actor skills is a waste of time and money, if acting professionally is your goal.

#4 – Your Cover Letter Says “To Whom It May Concern”

If your cover letter says “To Whom It May Concern”, you can be certain that’s as far as it’s going to be read. The letter, and everything else you might have sent, is destined for the recycling bin and wasn’t worth the effort or the postage for sending it. Addressing it to the appropriate person means you are serious about your request, and some additional comment about the season or play or role for which you would like to be considered means you’ve done a bit of homework. This is meaningful on the receiving end of your letter and provides a bit of an advantage over your competitors.

#3 – Your Audition Material is Inconsistent With Your Age and Type

It’s generally not helpful to show your enormous range as an actor with a monologue from a character in a play in which you would never be cast. Choose material that reflects some of your own natural characteristics. Get help from actor friends and peers in selecting this material. It’s difficult for most of us to know how we are perceived by others, but good alignment with the material you choose – shows off the sweet-spot of your own nature and can help you get cast.

#2You’re Not Sufficiently Prepared

This is perhaps obvious, but auditions are a nerve-wracking affair. If you just learned a piece in the last day or two, nerves are likely to get the best of you: doing your monologue in front of a friend or two can help. One of the reasons plays are rehearsed for several weeks is so that actors can develop the muscle memory for moving through situations when nerves are high or unusual things happen on stage or when an audience is disruptive or when your brain isn’t firing at its best. Spending lots of time working on your audition pieces allows your muscle memory to take over when your nerves are an obstacle to playing your character’s intention fully.

#1 – You Don’t Know How to Play an Objective

This is the number one skill I evaluate when auditioning actors, and yet, more than half the actors that audition for me each year seem to be unaware of this fundamental actor skill. Actors must be versed in knowing how to play an objective. “I want” is the basic building block for all story. He wants this and she wants that – conflict is created and narrative interest is built – will the girl get what she wants?

The most clear and concise writing about objectives is in William Ball’s book A Sense of Direction. Check out his chapter called the Golden Key. It says it all. This is a very simple practice for actors, but it takes a significant commitment of time to develop this skill and even veteran actors will attempt shortcuts to “I want.” Why? Because as Bill Ball suggests in his book, committing 100% to a character’s wants will cause the actor to suffer and no one really gets to excited about suffering.

Many actors want to entertain me as the casting director. I appreciate the desire. I’m happy to be entertained in an audition, but I won’t consider you for the job if I perceive that you aren’t playing your character’s intention in your audition piece.

Master Talent Teachers Two Veteran Theatre Directors Share What They Value Most in Theatre Actors

Lynn Stallings

Theatre and Puppetry Workshop: Try It All, Part 1

Try Everything!

Actors don’t need to know everything about anything BUT they DO need to know something about everything.

The more you know, the more interesting a human being you are. Interesting people get hired more often. So, knowledge REALLY is power.

Education is obtained in a variety of ways:

  • Formal education
  • courses in the private sector
  • internships
  • on-the-job-training
  • reading and studying on the internet-like you are doing right now on The Master Talent Teacher’s website

A combination of all of these is ideal!

It is exciting and productive to stretch yourself and explore a variety of Theatre Art Forms. Theatre is all about story telling and there are many ways to tell a great story. Plays, Musicals, Poetry, Dance, Film, Mime, Puppetry….they all bring a unique flavor to the story-telling process. So, ‘seize the day’ and try everything. Take a dance and movement class, stage combat, fencing, hosting, mime, puppetry………

You will become a more well-rounded performer and may even discover a new path for your focus.

Let your creativity explode.

Theatre and Acting Workshop: Preparing a Scene, Part 1

Preparing A Scene Part 1
“The Moment Before”
by: Lynn Stallings

Magic happens when your character has a full and engaging life. Have that life begin before your scene and you’ll engage the audience instantly. Have you ever watched a performance and felt like it took the actor a while to get into character? To warm up? I think most of us have. That often happens when the actor begins a scene cold….begins a scene without creating a “moment before”. In reality, our lives are ongoing. We are always coming from someplace, from some activity or event. We have thoughts or conflicts or physical conditions that affect the way we behave. If you choose a clear moment before your scene begins, then you start the scene filled with energy and momentum. You won’t need ‘warm-up’ time because that has already happened off-stage.

Sometimes the script TELLS you what your character is doing the moment before the scene begins. In this case, it’s your job to take ALL the information the script provides and add the details. Bring it to life as you prepare off stage. Then you’ll enter with purpose and meaning.

Sometimes the script DOESN’T provide a moment before. Especially in audition situations. You may only have a page or two of the scene and not much information. This is a grand opportunity for you to exercise your creativity. You get to invent those strong, clear choices and each choice will color and shape your scene. For example, a person coming in drenched from a blinding thunderstorm will enter very differently than a person who enters while texting her boyfriend.

The “moment before” is critical. It determines how you approach the scene. It affects everything your character does. Developing a moment before also has a nice fringe benefit. It can reduce stage fright. See, when your time backstage is spent focusing on what your character experiences prior to coming onstage, then you won’t have time to get nervous. So enjoy developing a full life for your character.

Stage Parents – The Good, The Bad And The Downright Scary

There is nothing more powerful or important than finding what you love to do and then actually doing it. Your child may have found that passion in the performing arts. As the parent of a “show-biz kid”, you’re embarking on an exciting and daunting adventure!

This article is a guide to spectacular stage parenting. Parents are a tremendous element in a child’s career. They may even ‘make’ or ‘break’ that career. More importantly, they affect a child’s well-being. After all, parents are the most important people in a child’s life, so their influences are powerful. A child’s sense of self worth and perspective will be shaped significantly by the parent’s attitudes and approach. I truly believe that most parents have the best of intentions. Most will make terrific stage parents when they have a clear understanding of how the business works.

Let’s take a look at what’s scary and what’s awesome?

Raising professional, child actors is complex. Misguided parents can inadvertently jeopardize their child’s career or crush their self esteem. Here are a few examples:

Story #1

A 7 year old was backstage preparing for a live performance when she lost a tooth. The cast & crew were all excited and congratulated her on this step toward growing up. They talked about the tooth fairy and then were interrupted by the girl’s mother who blurted out an obscenity toward her daughter, yelling “Now, you won’t be able to do print work for 2 months.” The child burst into tears and was robbed of a precious childhood moment.
* Protect their ‘childhood’. They only get one.

Story #2

A director was trying to get the emotions of disappointment and sadness out of a child for the performance of a serious song. He said, “Imagine what it would be like if you auditioned for a part that you wanted badly and didn’t get cast. Imagine being so disappointed that you fell on your bed in tears”. The child responded by saying…..”Oh, no, if I didn’t get the part, it would be my mom crying on the bed, not me.”

* When a parent is upset over the child not getting cast, the message to the child is “Y ou failed and broke my heart”. Ouch.

Story #3

One stage dad, was a brilliant, interesting man and would have been a delight to chat with at a party. But on the set, he had no understanding of protocol for the rehearsal and performance process. Time is very tight. Everyone was busy with their job, yet this man insisted on engaging in small talk and would not take the hints such as “W e’re on a dead line, so we’ve got to get back to work.” His response would be, “Okay, just one more thing…” It was a huge problem and we found ourselves ducking out of sight whenever he came to drop off his daughter. His child was not cast in the next project, which cost her $5,000.00.

* Be aware of interrupting work. Time is expensive.

Story #4

One well intentioned mom brought her daughter to an audition for a musical. The mom entered the room saying she was going to help her daughter set up. The casting team was so stunned by what happened next, that we allowed it to continue just to see how far it would go. She brought in a park bench; a hat rack with several hats; a coat & feather boa; a sound system and proceeded to brush her daughter’s hair and argue with her right in front of the team of casting directors. The child was frazzled and her set-up took 20 minutes, for a 2 minute audition. Amazing. Although the girl was highly talented, we would not cast her.

* Keep it simple. Y our child is enough.

The bottom line is to be polite. Respect the process and realize that the production team is at work. Any distraction will cost them time and money. Keep priorities straight. Performing should be fun for kids, so avoid putting undue pressure on them. Pressure & tension are caused by complaints; too much importance placed on getting cast; comparing number of lines your child has with other performers; gossip; negative energy; rushing; constant corrections; demands for special treatment…….

One of the greatest joys of theatre is that the cast and crew typically develop a strong bond as they work toward a common goal. They are a team….an ‘extended family’. If the cast and their parents treat everyone with respect and kindness…….the show is better, everyone feels good and they all want to work with you again! Everybody wins!

Definition of A SUPER SHOWBIZ PARENT : The supportive parent of a child actor. An organized, Industry savvy, punctual, kind, thoughtful, child advocate who maintains a respectfully, low-profile and allows their child to ‘shine.’ A Super Showbiz Parent is simply a good parent. One who puts the child’s best interest first. So make sure your child is active , has a balanced diet and free time. Allow them to become more self sufficient human beings by giving them family chores and responsibilities. Give them opportunities to learn to manage money by giving them a typical, child’s allowance even if they are making a great deal of money. Put a good deal of their income in savings. Support them by providing training, headshots and transportation. Reduce stress and have fun. Y ou’ll be glad you did! Super Showbiz Parents are appreciated as important, respected members of the production. They become the ‘insiders’. Enjoy the adventure!

Master T alent T eacher, Lynn Stallings

Atlanta Workshop Players

Observations On Monologues For The Theatre and Acting

My first observation about monologues is that they suck! Monologues are a defective tool casting directors and producers use in the audition process that are only partially useful in determining whether actors are capable in their craft. I’ve known actors who were quite skilled in the delivery of monologues, but were only marginally skilled actors, and, vice versa, wonderful actors that were rather inept with delivering a convincing audition monologue.

So the question becomes: why do we use this tool if it’s such an inaccurate measure of actor’s abilities? Well, because there is some significant information that is learned through the monologue that is helpful in casting, and, of course, it isn’t usually the only casting tool that’s used. Nevertheless, it is often the first tool that’s used and a good actor can find herself out of the running early because of her lack of prowess in this unique skill set.

What are the some the things being evaluated in a monologue?

As soon as an actor walks in the room, he is being evaluated on whether he would be believable in the role for which he is being considered. It is very unlikely, (although not impossible), that an actor will be considered, even before opening his mouth, if there is not some proximity of type the actor has to the character. Therefore, the monologue should also be an approximate match of the character he is auditioning for as well. When this doesn’t occur, it raises red flags for the auditor about the judgment of the actor. First auditions are not the time to show your range beyond that of the character. In a general audition, when you don’t know what part you might be auditioning for, it is perhaps even more important for the monologue to be in alignment with your type as a person. Don’t play a person distressed about his third marriage if you’ve just graduated from college.

#2 Intention & Tactics & Listening
The first thing I’m evaluating through the lens of a monologue is whether an actor is playing an intention. Does she want something? Assuming the actor is playing an intention through the monologue, I’m also determining if she is using different tactics to get what she wants.

One skill that is quite difficult to assess through a monologue is whether the actor is a good listener. Listening creates the context for the living moment between actors where good theatre resides. (William Carden talks extensively about this in my most recent article and video.) However, a trick or two can at least let the casting director know that you are aware of this perplexing conundrum. In the monologue, you must be specific about the tactics you are using to achieve your objective and equally specific about how effective those tactics are on the character you are imagining. For instance, if your tactic is to amuse, you need to invent a specific response to that tactic. This is easiest to imagine as a specific physical response to your tactic i.e., perhaps your partner turns away, or leans forward or raises an eyebrow. This imagined response must be registered by you so we know why you then use a different tactic to achieve your objective. Changes of tactics make monologues compelling and specific and are an antidote to the earnest, but boring monologues we frequently see. If I can imagine the response of the other person in a monologue the actor is probably having some success in the audition.

#3 Actor Technique
Of course, basic skill sets like good speech, breath support, vocal range and one’s comfort in his own skin will likely also be assessed, as well as the quality of one’s preparation. Nerves can make you go up, but more often it’s a sign of inexperience or lack of preparation.

Other things to consider:

Use Active Monologues
Frequently monologues that are easy to see in a script, because they are long paragraphs of text by one character, aren’t the ones you want because they are monologues in the past tense. They are often a story of something that happened in the past and create pitfalls for actors who then get caught up in trying to connect to the emotional life of the character, but lose sight of the first thing most casting directors are trying to evaluate. They are often reflective or contemplative and don’t easily translate into active pieces. These monologues should usually be avoided in auditions.

No Stand-up
I often see monologues in general auditions that are funny, but are closer to stand-up than to acting. They are addressed generally to everybody in the room, and, therefore, miss the most basic thing I’m attempting to evaluate – does the actor know how to play an objective or intention through his acting partner?

Using Less Familiar Material
Finally, in large cattle call type auditions, using a piece we’ve just heard 10 times that day isn’t going to help your cause. The monologues less travelled are a big help to you because the casting director’s ear is more alert to the new and is going to be immediately skeptical of the overused. Unfamiliarity is your friend. Casting directors and producers are starving for the unique and original.

Rehearsal Technique for Audition: Bringing Your Work To Life, Part 2

“It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak, and another to hear.” - Henry David Thoreau

Pam Berlin and Billy Carden work with and direct some of the greatest theatre actors of our generation. They share many insightful observations about the rehearsal process in the accompanying video to this text. In Part 2, several compelling ideas were discussed.

As a theatre director, I find it necessary to be obsessed with a character’s intention during the rehearsal process. “I want” is the fundamental building block of story. It creates conflict and dramatic interest. When actors are not specific about what they want, when they don’t play ‘I want’ with urgency and high stakes, the work is dull and vague.

However, intention isn’t played in a vacuum. Actors that play tactics to get what they want, but are oblivious to how the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of their tactics are received are missing the vital connecting point that allows live theatre to be a powerfully transformative art form. It is in the exchange between actors – acting and reacting, speaking and listening, that the living connection to the present is forged. Uta Hagen said, “the work you do is directly proportional to the quality of your listening.”

The wonderful meditation, mystery, conundrum, and perhaps rarely achievable goal of the actor is to fully occupy both doing and being; acting and listening. Having the discipline to return to the touchstone of given circumstances and being very specific about place can create a grounding in action that makes the “I want” inevitable. This attentiveness to given circumstances and place can create a fertile place for the dance between doing and being to flourish. It is the hallmark of great acting and truly live theatre.