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Audition Suggestions

Parents of AUDITIONING students, click above for further information about the audition process.

Thinking about auditioning? Great! There are no “set in stone” rules for auditioning for a director, a set of directors and/or producers for a production. Common sense and courtesy are  your best guidelines. That said, here are many of the lessons that I and others have learned over many years that may help you in your quest for the role you’re looking for. If there’s something here that you don’t understand, ask Mr. Henderson! Remember, these are only guidelines, suggestions -- but they are time-tested.

Here is something you should very much be aware of: We are looking for TEAM PLAYERS. You can enlarge and feed your ego in many other venues. Don’t do it on our time.

The best advise is to simply show up to the auditions and have fun! People who don’t audition don’t get cast -- that’s the one thing I *can* guarantee.



Choose material (a monologue) that you are comfortable with. Choose something that will allow you to create a character on stage that comes alive for those few minutes you have on stage. Libraries, including the one at Madison, are packed with plays on the shelves that can provide you with monologues. Don’t choose a monologue from the play you are auditioning for. If you find a section of the play’s text that doesn’t seem *quite* long enough (say, 1 to 2 minutes), then consider simply cutting out the interrupting dialogue of the other character(s) and see if it still works and remains logical and playable. Ready for some work? Read the ENTIRE play. Sounds like work? It’s not. Take the time for yourself to read it. Many full-length plays can be read in about an hour and a half at one sitting. Reading good plays is an amazing experience. It’s really the only way to truly understand the character you are playing and how he/she fits into the world of the play.

You know what we’re talking about. That stuff that comes up when you Google “monologues for men” or “monologues for women.” You may use a “generic” monologue or one that you have located via the internet or one that you have written yourself. However, it is usually recommended that you locate a monologue from an actual published play. Many, many “internet” monologues end up sounding like “stand up” routines that a comic might use. That may be fine, but it NEVER shows off your ability to create an actual character with emotions, thoughts and dreams. Unless you’re shooting for the character of “stand up comic” or “generic person” avoid generic “internet” monologues.

If you have them, bring them. If not, that’s ok. You can always develop this material as you go. If you don’t know what a “headshot” is, don’t sweat it.

Avoid, at all costs, monologues that are filled with vulgarity or reckless hate. It’s perfectly fine if a monologue is *dramatic* but not at the expense of you and your character appearing bigoted, violent or sexually inappropriate. Such monologues work in the *context* of the plays in which they appear and are legitimate in that framework, but they are distracting and useless in attempting to audition for a production.

If you are auditioning for a comedy or a musical, find something upbeat or clever. You don’t have to try to be hysterically funny, but find something light and breezy you can work with. If auditioning for a drama, feel free to choose something that allows you to explore a range of dramatic emotions.

MAD Drama monologues are 1 to 2 minutes in length.

Avoid any monologue that would require you to use a lot of props. One or two simple things might be ok, such as a handkerchief or something your character is expected to handle or use while speaking. However, avoid props if you can. You won’t have the time to set up an entire scene or deal with a lot of props. You will be provided with an optional chair if your character is going to sit during any part of or all of your monologue. You can certainly sit on the floor if your characterization requires it. Be careful of lying down fully, however; it’s very hard to project your voice while lying down without some practice and, of course, your face is hard to see. Lying down isn’t against any “rule” but be certain that your characterization really, really requires it before you try it.

Don’t bring it on stage. *Become* the character by having your monologue fully memorized days, weeks or months in advance. If you *must* bring your script on stage out of fear of forgetting, then do so, but avoid doing so to the best of your ability.

Don’t try to “look” like the character in your monologue or one from the play you are auditioning from. Be yourself. However, some tips are:

*   don’t wear clothing with writing on it; it’s distracting; clothes that don’t distract from *you* are the best.

*   don’t wear ripped, torn, or overly sloppy clothing. It just makes you look careless and sloppy.
*   wear something comfortable, something you can move in without any issues.

*   girls: keep the jewelry to almost zero.

*   girls: wear low heels.

If you want to look like a real pro, “slate” yourself. It works like this. Just before you start your monologue, say:

“Good morning/afternoon/evening.
My name is...
I will be performing the role of ‘Tom’ from ‘The Glass Menagerie’ by Tennessee Williams.”

I will assume you will be aware of whether it’s morning, afternoon or evening and that you will know your own name. If you don’t know the name of your character, the name of the play and the name of the author, then perhaps you haven’t done enough (any?) research on the monologue you are about to perform.



Choose a song that shows off the strongest and most secure parts of your vocal range, not one that stretches your voice to its limits.

Try to find a song from a Broadway musical. Go for an upbeat, up tempo (Broadway) number for a comedic musical, perhaps try a more moody (Broadway) ballad for a musical with darker dramatic tones. Don’t choose a song from the musical you are auditioning for.

Avoid pop songs. Reasons? Where do we start? Some include: pop songs are poor for “acting out” or playing a character as you sing. Pop songs almost always have a different sound and purpose from Broadway songs. The sound of the recording artist is as locked into the head of the casting director as it is for you, so it’s hard to out-sing the pop star who made it famous, etc. You might end up sounding like a poor cover band singer.

So many actors focus so much on their singing during a vocal audition that they forget that a song from a musical is very much a sung monologue. Almost every character singing a Broadway song is *expressing* something. Show that expression in your body, face and voice. Avoid standing frozen and glassy-eyed while you try to perfect your notes. It’s more interesting to see a performer really expressing the song with some minor vocal imperfections than to hear a perfect voice sing an emotionless tune.

Choose material that matches the age range that you can comfortably play. Since we are in high school, you may be shooting for an older or younger character that won’t be filled by actors in those ranges. In that case, it’s ok to try something with a different age from yourself but don’t try to specialize too much or you might limit yourself.

Find material that is positive in nature rather than offensive or cynical. Keep away from hate songs, suicide songs, sexual-orientation songs, and parodies, because you may never know who you may insult (or frighten). Choose a song that you really love singing and that shows off a positive aspect of your personality.

16-bars, or about 60 seconds (whichever comes first) is pretty standard. Try to stay away from complex “narrative story” songs that would be hard to summarize in 16 bars; you might end up with a joke with no punchline or a punchline with no joke. Often, you won’t go the full 16-bars nor 60 seconds but have it prepared in all cases.

Avoid songs with repetitious melody lines. It might be a waste of your time to demonstrate the same 3 or 4 notes over and over in your 16-bar cut!

This is similar to the problem with pop tunes. Think twice about songs that are too connected to a specific star performer.  The song “People,” for example, is forever associated  with Barbara Streisand. It’s going to be hard to “out compete” a star performer in the mind of a director listening to you.

Don’t try to “look” like anything other than yourself. However, some tips are:
don’t wear clothing with writing on it; it’s distracting; clothes that don’t distract from *you* are the best.
don’t wear ripped, torn, or overly sloppy clothing. It just makes you look careless and sloppy.
wear something comfortable, something you can breathe in without any issues.

Click below to download a great article on singing auditions published in Dramatics Magazine.

The Singing Audition.pdf



You don’t have to show up knowing anything. For dance auditions, we simply need to see how you move and how quickly you can pick up some steps and/or some moves as they are being taught to you. We’re also observing how well you listen and take instruction. If you pay respectful attention to and try out the steps the choreographer is giving to you, you will likely do well in a dance audition.

Take advantage of any workshops that MAD Drama may offer *before* the dance auditions. They will help you get that little edge before you go into the real thing.

Avoid clothing with large writing on it as always. Comfort is the key here. Sweats, t-shirts, and very comfortable shoes are what you want. Avoid jewelry. If you bring a spare set of clothes you may not have to go home or spend the rest of the day in sweaty dance clothes.

Post-Audition: This is probably the toughest part of the audition, even more so than monologue hunting. This is the time when you feel most helpless - your fate, at least for this one role - is now out of your hands. Before you leave, make sure you know where the call back list will be posted. Once home, don't stress about the audition. Most times, actors post-audition will psyche themselves out by analyzing each and every part of the audition, then agonizing until they see the cast list. One word: DON'T. Sometimes there will be a day or two in between auditions and final casting.

If you are called back, then be prepared to work with other actors in scenes from the play, and possibly even read for characters you don't want the roles for. But whatever you do before the cast list goes up, don't stress out. It's out of your control, and if you don't get cast, it's not because you are a bad actor.  MAD Drama is filled with talented performers like yourself and roles are very, very hard to come by. If you were not cast, don't get upset with anyone. It’s perfectly fine and even expected for you to feel sad and extremely disappointed but do not succumb to the emotional sensation of *rejection*. Casting is based on “acceptance” and is never based on a “rejection.” Think about that for a minute. Therefore, if you are not cast, this is no time to start blaming anyone for anything, including yourself. Remember, you will likely spend hours preparing, auditioning and going through a grueling call back process and still not get cast. That is the very nature of theatre and this process. Don’t let it throw you into an emotional ditch. Proudly work on the production in any of the other thousands of ways you can contribute and get ready for next time.

Cast or not cast, after the cast list is posted, it's perfectly fine to arrange a time to speak to Mr. Henderson about your audition. If you are cast in the show, congratulations! Be considerate of others who might not have been cast for a particular production. Find the time to sincerely congratulate those who were cast.

Q. Who can audition?
A. Any James Madison high school student can audition.

Q. Are any roles “pre-cast”?
A. Never. All roles are wide open at the time of the auditions to be filled by any actor who best suits the role. Also, upcoming shows and seasons are never chosen based on "who's in the department."

Q. Does it help to be a Senior?
A. Nope. But Seniors have been at it for four years and have often acquired a lot of skills that allow them to audition very smoothly and impressively. If you are an underclassman, you simply need to figure out how to out-shine them. If an upperclassman is a reliable performer, they will also have built up a lot of “street cred” which is a reflection of their work ethic. This can also work against upperclassmen, of course, if they have been less than reliable in the past. Regardless, no one is cast based on what grade they are in: they are cast entirely on the strength of their audition, what roles the script calls for, and who seems best suited to play them.

Q: I was being called back for a "big role" but I wasn't cast at all. What happened?

A. This can be tough, admittedly. What can happen is that you might be in a group of say, five actors being considered for one role. If the role goes to another actor that doesn't mean that you "slide" over to another role since each of those roles likely *already* have 5 or 6 people being considered and only one of them can occupy *that* role. So the situation can occur where you are being called back for a "lead" part but not be cast in the final list.

Q. Do you have to be in Mr. Henderson's Drama class or the International Thespian Honor Society?
A. No. However, we don't have a lot of time to teach you the things you need to know "on the fly" if you aren't in a a class. Acting skills, how to take direction,  audition techniques and much more are taught in these classes and you can join the International Thespian Society only by being in or working on afterschool shows.  Also, if two students both fit  a role equally, the role will go to the Madison drama student. Also, if two students both fit a role equally, the role will go to the more senior student. If you are a non-drama student cast in a large role, consider taking a Madison drama class at your next opportunity since the offer of a large role will likely not come around again.

Q. This sounds cool. How do I sign up to audition?
A. Sign up for an audition time online. Instructions will be posted outside the Black Box Theatre. FILL THE EARLIEST SLOTS FIRST.

Q. What happens when I come to the audition?
A. You will be asked to fill out an audition sheet. Give it to the Stage Manager (the one taking all the sheets). You will also need to know all of your "conflict" dates -- days when you know ahead of time that you cannot attend rehearsal or a portion of a rehearsal. HAVING CONFLICTS DOESN'T MEAN YOU WON'T BE CAST. When it's time for you, you will be called.  Go to the stage, introduce yourself clearly, and do your prepared piece or ask for instructions.

Q. What are you looking for at the audition?
A. A general impression of YOU, particularly how your voice carries, how comfortable you look on stage, and a range of movement and emotion.  I want to see what you look like, what you sound like, and how well you come across to the audience. Generally a monologue will allow you to demonstrate a) emotion, b) voice, c) memorization, d) motivated movement and e) the illusion of the "now."

Q. Ok, what are you REALLY looking for?
A. Who seems to fit the roles available in the script.  Also, who seems to fit well with the other people who seem to fit the roles available in the script (role matching).

Q. What should I remember while auditioning?
A. ENJOY YOURSELF! Show us you like performing on the stage!  Move with clarity and confidence, with purpose. Speak up! Every word must be clear to the very last row.  SLOW DOWN!  Keep your character alive. STAY in character no matter WHAT happens.  Forgetting a line is no tragedy; stay calm and pick it up somewhere, but don't drop out of character.

Q. I get stage fright. What can I do?
A. Use it! Everyone gets stage fright -- even the people who look like they don't, and the people who say they don't.  Simply turn that nervous energy into intensity, a more motivated, driven kind of energy that MAKES the character do whatever s/he needs to do.

Q. What's the next step?
A. Call Backs.  These can go VERY late (9:30? Later?), so bring homework, food (eaten in the hallways only) and lots of patience!

Q. What exactly are Call Backs?

A. A second audition to help the Director decide which actors fit which particular roles.  Usually you will be reading from the show script during Call Backs.

Q. What if I can't come to the Call Backs?
A. Contact Mr. Henderson IMMEDIATELY (once the Call Back list is up). Not being at Call Backs will endanger your ability to be effectively cast. If you must leave Call Backs early, tell the Stage Manager. We may be able to work around this.  Your best bet is to plan for a ride home whenever we're finished.  Other potential cast members are usually very good about helping.

Q. How will I know if I got a part?
A. There will be a list posted on this web site.  There will also be one posted on the call board outside of the Black Box. INITIAL next to your name. This confirms that you are accepting the role.

Q. If I didn't get an acting part, can I still be a part of the show?
A. YES! Sign up for any of the tech crews.

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