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Let’s All Do Away With Auditions

An actor is often at his or her worst in an audition. The monologue they have over-rehearsed to apparent perfection goes out the window. They are inevitably congested or too hot or their pants are too tight or they spilled their coffee on their shirt during the bus ride over. Even if the casting director is trying his or her hardest to be open, positive, receptive, and polite they are perceived as being overly-judgmental and  pretentious. Its an awkward situation. For everyone. Additionally, even the greatest 90 seconds of acting cannot prove an actor is fun or productive to work with in the rehearsal room. Even the greatest 90 seconds of acting cannot prove an actor can give a consistent performance.

William Ball writes in his book, A Sense of Direction, “When an actor walks into an audition, he is at his worst. He is nervous, he hopes he will land a job, he is in a strange place and you are seen as the judge, the forbidding authority… If you don’t alleviate his anxiety, you won’t get to know him at all.”

Its clear that traditional auditioning is not a reliable way to fill a role. When there is ample time in an audition for a casting director to work with the actor, play around with directions to get to know the way that actor works in a rehearsal environment, an audition can be a more valuable experience. However, the majority of preliminary auditions have time restrictions that allow for little more than a slate and short monologue.

This is why I propose that auditioning be discontinued as the default role-filling procedure.

Last week I posted about my brother’s performance in the Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theater‘s production of A Skull in Connemara. I attended the opening night performance at which I took note of the demographic of the majority of my fellow audience members. I recognized many artistic directors of local theater companies as well as many of the locally based actors. I was pleased that members of Pittsburgh theater community were supporting their fellow artists. But when my brother received a call shortly after the first weekend of shows from one of said artistic directors, requesting that he come in to read for a part in their upcoming season, I was even more pleased with opening night’s draw.


I assume my brother’s performance in the McDonough show- a well rehearsed and complete product- proved his ability to help cary a show in its entirety. He was seen giving and receiving in relation to another living, breathing actor in stead of merely addressing a spot on the wall. He was seen in his fully prepared and director approved state, instead of his brown-nosing and socially awkward auditioning state.

Artistic and casting directors should cast more of their rolls by discovering actors through their previous full works. Artistic and casting directors should go see a lot theater and save all the “Who’s Who in the Cast and Crew” sections of their programs, instead of collecting a pile of head shots and resumes printed at Kinko’s.

So if actors get hired based on the viewing of their work in productions, how do new actors break into the industry with their first role? Artistic and casting directors should look to University productions to find appropriate new actors to fill all the roles within the age range of 16-25.


Additionally, this past weekend I saw a production of Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by a Boston University Directing Professor, Clay Hopper. Its cast included a total of eight actors, six of which were BU School of Theater alums from the class of 2013. They performed the show outside on the BU “Beach.” Along with any outdoor performance comes the inevitable noisy overpassing helicopter as well as the technical difficulties that come along with battery operated, wireless, clip on mic packs. In this unique case, audience members not only got a good, compete sense of each actor’s type and talent in a role, but also his or her ability to professionally and creatively deal with unexpected distractions on stage.

Hopper, being a director at the school from which most of the cast recently graduated, was able to cast the show with actors he could trust, thereby showcasing them to the rest of the theater community.

What about the actors who didn’t graduate from a theater program? Well, as someone who is working very hard and spending a lot of time and money to earn her BFA in Theater Arts, I believe acquiring training is not really optional for an aspiring professional actor. In my opinion, attempting to make a career as an actor without advanced training is like attempting to make a career as a brain surgeon without attending medical school (pardon my hyperbole, but after spending my entire freshman year realizing I new nothing about acting, my appreciation for the training I am receiving is not to be understated).

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