Pro Tips For Theatre Auditions

I just spent the whole weekend watching auditions for the autumn production of my play Chagrin Falls. Most actors were very professional, but it made me think about all the spoken and unspoken etiquette of auditions. Here are some tips. Feel free to suggest others.
  1. Handshakes Are Not Always Appropriate
    You can shake hands with the director/casting director/playwright/audition reader if they initiate, and it may be natural if you're handing off a resume, but don't go around the room and shake everyone's hand if no one's initiating. A hello and a friendly wave is fine. Take a cue from the folks in the room.
  2. Keep Your Distance
    Being right on top of the audition crew while you do your monologue or read your scene is uncomfortable and it makes it hard to see the actor. Also don't touch the person reading the scene with you without asking first. And if it's merely an audition reader (someone only there to give you the lines in the scene that aren't yours as opposed to a potential castmate) try to do the audition without touching them at all.
  3. Be Heard
    If you're in a small room, don't act like it's the Winter Garden, but don't start camera acting or mumbling either. Make it known that you can speak loud enough to be heard in a theatre and be intelligible.
  4. Dress Appropriately
    This can mean a couple of things. Actors sometimes show up in clothes that they think the character would wear. This really only works for modern dress and doesn't include work uniforms. You don't want to go overboard and look weird, you just want to have the essence if a character. If you think the character dresses like a slob, still wear clean, presentable clothes. Maybe don't tuck in your shirt. Don't ever look like you pick your clothes up off the floor. An audition is an interview.
  5. Be polite to the monitors
    If you are nice to the director/casting director, but an asshole to the audition monitor, the people with the casting power will hear about it.
  6. Don't improvise unless asked
    And for fuck's sake, if the playwright is in the room, don't start improvising added lines. It's one thing to paraphrase a line or two if you're trying to keep your face out of the page, but don't go rogue with the text. Also, everyone will think you're a fucking nut.
  7. Keep your sides in your hands
    Memorization is lovely but no one is expecting it for an audition and you don't actually get extra points for memorizing a scene. Nerves are very powerful and it's easy to go up and get confused, and if you're not holding your sides, you're kinda fucked. Even if you don't think you need it, keep the sides in your hand.
  8. Read the Whole Play
    If the script is available (it usually is, just ask), read it. Even read the parts that the character you're auditioning for is not in. Because a) it's good to understand the context, b) if you decide you hate the play or it offends you someone else can have your slot, and c) sometimes we want to see you read for a different role last minute and then you're not clueless.
  9. Ask Questions if you Have Them
    No one will think you're an idiot if you ask to clarify something. Don't ask questions that make it clear you haven't done any homework for the audition though. Best to do your homework or fake your way through it and hope for the best.
  10. Don't Wing It
    Rehearse. Read the sides with someone. Try it a few different ways.
  11. If there's a chair in the middle of the room, move it.
    It's a little trick in claiming the space. You don't have to move the chair far, or even use it (unless they ask you to). But reset it. It resets the room for everyone and psychically gets rid of the last guy.
  12. Remember to breathe and remember that this is your five minutes, not anyone else's.
    The people auditioning you want you to be good and want you to succeed. Take this opportunity to show them what you can do and try to enjoy it.