As an actor, you are in the business of story-telling and communication. Your number one priority is to reach people with the playwright's ideas, invite them into the world of the piece and engage with them emotionally and intellectually. Audition speeches are a bit of an oddity; they place the actor in a situation that would rarely be asked of them in an actual performance. There are no other characters to spar with and you are playing to an audience of three or four people in a room with no atmosphere. For those reasons, audition speeches have fallen out of fashion a little for professional acting auditions. However, they are still required for drama school entry and are requested on occasion for professional theatre work, so it is worth having a repertoire of monologues and being prepared to present them in an audition situation.
Of course, a lot of work goes into getting to this point; it is essential to choose the right material to showcase your talents and then work on the monologue in depth prior to the day of the audition. Once you reach the audition venue, you'll need to focus on a few key points to get the most out of the experience and present yourself in the best possible light.
1, Clarity and Inclusion
In your preparation, you will have discovered how you relate to the character you have chosen to play. You will know the speech inside out and be knowledgable about what is going on in the speech and the character's intention. Your job now is communicate this clearly to the audience (in this case, an audition panel). Keep this in mind during your rehearsal time. Make sure that you are clear and precise vocally and physically, and use your knowledge of stagecraft to be audible and visible. Although you may feel the emotions of the speech very deeply, always keep an eye on this; it should never spill over into self-indulgence. In other words, make the audience feel like part of the experience, include them and tell the story to them. After all they are the ones you are doing the audition speech for in the first place.
2, Stand and deliver
Your position in the space as you deliver your speech is important. Gauge how far from the panel you feel is a natural place to stand. They may give you guidance and ask you to move further away or closer. But remember that if you are too near it can be off-putting and intimidating for you and them, and if you are too far away, you are making your job that much more difficult in terms of clear and subtle communication. The right place to stand is entirely dependent on the space in which you are auditioning; if you are on a stage, choose a spot just forward of the centre point, in a large room, twelve to fifteen feet away is a good marker, and in a tiny room, stand as far back as you can (always allowing room for any moves you want to make upstage).
3, First impressions
As soon as you enter the room, you are being auditioned. Make sure you are presentable and tidy, but also use deep breathing to control your nerves before going in. Announcing the speech can be harder than it sounds; be clear and composed. It is normally a good idea to rehearse the introduction as you would do with the audition speech itself.
4, Leave your baggage
Leave both actual and emotional baggage at the door. It does not look good for you to lumber in with an array of coats, bags and suitcases in tow. By the same token, if you have had an argument with your partner or your cat is ill, this is not the concern of total strangers; don't let it take over.
Take a few seconds to focus yourself before launching into your audition speech. Establish for yourself who you are talking to, where they are and your physical and emotional relationship to them. However, don't take too long. It's a fine balance between making sure you are engaged and ready to go, and keeping the panel waiting.
Don't be thrown if the director or someone else on the panel stops you halfway through the speech and starts to give you notes. This is usually a sign that they like you and are interested in working with you.
7, At the end of your audition
When you have finished your speech, smile at the panel, say thank you and prepare to leave. Normally you will have had an introductory chat beforehand and they will be kind enough to let you know what to do at the end of your speech. However, it's much better to expect that the end of your speech is the end of the audition, rather than hanging around like a bad smell awaiting instruction.
8, What to do if you dry
If, during your performance of the monologue you dry (forget your lines), it can be a traumatic experience. Try your best to handle the situation in a calm and rational way. Don't panic, apologise or ask what you should do. Simply remain in character, look down, and take your time to re-focus by breathing deeply. The pause may feel eternal to you, but is probably no more than a few seconds. The majority of the time, the line or word will come to you after a short time. If you still can't remember, you have a choice to make; either ad-lib for a while until you get back on track (not a great idea in a Shakespearean soliloquy) or stop, apologise and ask to start again. If the panel are particularly hard-hearted and refuse, all need not be lost. If you can now pick it up convincingly from where you left off, you can still make an impression. Remember, it is your acting they should be judging not your ability to remember audition speeches.
The greatest gift any actor can have is confidence, and it can sometimes elude you on the day of an audition. I like to keep in mind that;
- I ENJOY acting; an audition is giving me a chance to do what I love, albeit for just a few minutes.
- I may not be right for the particular role they are casting or what they have in mind for it, but this is not a judgement on my over-all talent or ability.
- The audition panel are mere mortals like you or me. They are not Demigods and should not be built up in your mind to be so.