Audition Basics

by Joshua Siegel

Street sign pointing to Auditions

Here's how the audition process generally works and a few tips for actors.


Auditions are a nerve-wracking and difficult experience for most actors, but they are an essential part of the job. Here's how the audition process generally works and a few tips on how to perform your best in front of the casting director or producer.

Getting the Audition
For most roles, you (or your agent) must submit a photo and resume to whoever is casting the production. Occasionally, you may hear about an "open call" where anyone may come to audition. These types of auditions are often called "cattle calls" because hundreds of people show up and are quickly herded through. However, most auditions are invitation only.

If you are called for an audition, you will often receive "sides", which are simply a few pages of the script that you will be expected to read. In theater, you may also or instead be expected to have a monologue and/or musical number prepared. In either case, once you have a script in hand it's time to get down to business.

Preparing for the Part
Read the script. Study it. Find every single detail about the character you will be auditioning for. Lines aren't important yet... just focus on who the character is. How old is she? Where is she from? How does she feel about the other characters in the story?

After you know everything there is to know about the character, then it's time to learn your lines. Use whatever technique works best for you. Although you shouldn't be expected to know all your lines at the audition, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Before the Audition
When dressing for an audition, it's best to dress according to the type of character you're trying out for. For example, if auditioning for the role of a cowboy, you wouldn't want to wear a business suit or old shorts and a sweatshirt. On the other hand, you don't have to go out and rent chaps and spurs. Just dress to imply the part, perhaps in casual jeans and boots.

You should warm up for an audition just as an athlete warms up for competition. Do a few stretches and vocal exercises, and take one more chance to go over your lines. Then relax. It's very easy to get overly nervous before an audition, and that nervousness will show.

After you arrive at the audition and sign in, you'll probably have time to wait for a few minutes until it is your turn to read. There will be other actors waiting with you, but it's best to avoid the temptation to talk and gossip with them. Stay focused... you can always socialize later.

Reading for the Casting Director
The Casting Director is the person who you will most likely be auditioning for. Depending on how busy he or she is, the CD may take a few minutes to talk with you or may just say "hello" and ask you to begin.

Now's your chance to shine. Forget that it's an audition and do the scene as you would in the actual production. Keep your energy up and make it clear that you are this character. And remember that the Casting Director is not your enemy. They want you to be the best person for the role because it means that their job is done.

Here are a few things to avoid when performing for or speaking with the Casting Director.

  • Don't suck up. CDs appreciate compliments as much as anyone, but they'll know when you're just kissing butt and will probably be very annoyed by it.
  • Never touch the Casting Director. Aside from a friendly handshake, it's best to avoid physical contact. If the scene calls for you to kiss or hit someone, just mime it.
  • Don't wreck the office. As stupid as it sounds, some overzealous actors will throw or break things during a scene. If you do this, the CD will remember your performance, but not in a good way.
After you finish your reading, the Casting Director will thank you and maybe give a couple comments. Then it's time to move on. Don't waste time worrying or criticizing your own performance. Just look forward to the next one...

Callbacks
If the Casting Director likes your performance, you will be given another audition, a "callback". at this audition, there will be fewer actors trying for the role. There will also probably be more people there to see your performance, usually the Director of the production and possibly Producers, Writers, or studio executives.

You should wear the same clothing to the callback as you did to the first audition. Also, you should try to do the exact same performance as you did the first time. Whatever you did, the CD liked it. Don't blow your chances by second guessing yourself and trying something completely different.

However, even if everyone loves your reading, they may ask you to "try it another way". This doesn't mean that they didn't like your performance. They just need to see how well you can take direction.

Treat a callback like any other audition. Do your best, then go home and forget about it. Either you'll get the job, you'll get another callback, or they will go with someone else.

Keep Records
Whether or not you get the part, or even a callback, keep a record of when and where you went to the audition, the Casting Director's name, what you wore, and any other information that may be important.
Joshua Siegel is an actor and short subject director.
Copyright © Joshua Siegel. All rights reserved. Used with permission of the author. Not to be reproduced or distributed.
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Reader Comments

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Posted by Real (2014-02-07) 6645

hey, im a teen upcoming artcess, and i was asking where this sites is from cause i live outside the states but i can send in acting tapes i've made, and if you wanna see if i'm good enough for you guys you can ask me to play a wished acting script that i can record and send it. I Have a Acting Resume Where do i send that in?

Posted by Nathaniel (2013-04-01) 6455

Thanks! These tips should help me when I got to audition for an acting school. It seems extremely tough to get into because they also send actors to NIDA!

Posted by Kassidy Lamey (2011-12-28) 5319

Hello! I'm 14 years old and have just gotten a major part in my school's drama club production, and I think I owe a lot of it to this article. I was so nervous, but reading this helped me know what to expect and calmed me down considerably. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Posted by Kyo (2010-09-30) 2721

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Posted by kahlyia (2009-11-23) 2200

WOW! these tips are very helpful, i'm a aspiring teen actress and i feel that the tips that were given will take my career to the next level.Thxz so much.......

Posted by kyla k scott (2009-08-12) 1946

Hello. I'm a 14-year-old girl in New Jersey, and I find these tips very helpful for my auditioning. I recently tried out for a (rather competitive) community version of Rent, and being one of over fifty people who tried out, I thank you for these helpful tips!

Posted by EC (2009-06-10) 1566

Hi, my name is Chanler. I live in Texas and I am exactly 5 feet. I am in the 7th gade and make really good grades. I am in a theatre class in my middle school and I am making a 100 in it. I really think that acting is something that I would be really good at. I have wanted to be an actor ever sence I was 7 years old but my mom didn't ever know how to get me started in it. She really thinks that I would be good at acting. I REALLY want to be in a TV show! I think that it is so fun but I also know that it is hard work but I am willing to give all I've got to show that I have what it takes to be an actor. It has always been a dream of mine to be on a cool and fun show like Wizards of Waverly Place or Hannah Montana. I am a really cool and funny person that can get along with everyone! I can be serious too. Please help me find a way to help me get in the acting buisness! :D

Posted by Chanler (2009-04-14) 1303

hi my name is regine and i've dreamed of being a actress sence I was 4 years old and a still do I will use this advice forever because it is very good and helpful to enyone that needs it.

Posted by regine (2008-08-20) 258

Hi my name is kaylah and im 13 years of age and this information was very helpful, and i will continue using these steps and other thing on this website.

Posted by kaylah (2008-08-12) 208

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