Behind the Curtain: Auditioning for Theatre

Killian Altayeb, Novi sophomore, looks at a theatre script. Having never auditioned for a college production, Altayeb wasn't sure how to go through the process (Photo illustration by Killian Altayeb).

Auditioning for a theatre production can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, whether it’s your first attempt or you’re a seasoned performer. Nothing beats firsthand experience when it comes to learning, so I stepped on stage to audition for the theatre department’s upcoming performance: Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”

However, my experience with Albion College’s theatre department is limited to this audition; some students have been involved for years.

From Veteran Voices

Coldwater junior and theatre major Alison Harvey has been acting since middle school and said that theatre simply feels right to her.

“It’s what I’m supposed to be doing. That is what I’ve been called to do,” Harvey said. “(The theatre is) really where I’ve found my place. That’s my little niche.”

Marquette junior Ian Addison, who has been in four theatre productions during his time at Albion, said auditions are “the one point where you actually feel like you’re being judged on how you do.”

However, beyond the scrutiny lies the potential to step into the shoes of anybody, ranging from weathered sea captains to scorned heiresses. An opportunity like this can test not only your creative limits but your ability to work in a team.

Dallas sophomore and theatre minor Alexander Christian said that auditioning for college theatre is a good way to get into acting without real-world pressure.

“Once you’re in life, you have to audition for your own. Nothing’s really guaranteed, that you get the opportunity to work, to even audition, to even try, in the industry or real world,” Christian said. “This is a good starting point for you if you want to at least try to act.”

If you’re ready to embark on this journey and want guidance from someone who’s always watching from the audience rather than onstage, then look no further – this guide is tailored to you.

Find Your Next Role 

If you’re not a fan of checking the Albion Today for the latest theatre updates, then make sure to join the “Theatre Production” Course Webs page. The page can be accessed by clicking the arrow tab under your profile picture and navigating to the drama mask icon in “Student Resources.” Once you’re a part of the course, sign up for an audition slot and download audition scenes and instructions.

The signup page itself holds key instructions for auditioning. It’s important to be familiar with the play for which you’re auditioning. Once you choose a character, the page instructs auditionees to “be familiar with all scenes featuring your selected character, but be aware that you may not be asked to read all scenes in the first audition.”

Christian advises those new to the auditioning process to “read the character signs and prepare any adjacent characters that you might see yourself playing because you might get a callback for somebody else.”

I’m one of many who hates the sound of their own voice and thought I would be alright practicing in my head. It is regrettable to admit that Shakespearean language bested me during the audition, resulting in my skipping an entire chunk of dialogue. However, I still managed to follow the website’s instructions for printing out my scenes.

Proper theatre etiquette also stresses not bringing your phone on stage. While that threw me into a spiral, having someone reading the other lines in the scene lessened the worry.

Learn Your Lines 

Stage Milk Scene Club advises those who’ve picked a character to audition for to begin learning lines next.

“More importantly, have a very clear idea of your character’s relationships with the other characters, your point of view towards them and most importantly your characters’ objective in this scene and in the wider play.”

If you’re somebody who can barely memorize their own birthday, the New York Film Academy advises running lines with someone, quizzing yourself and taking a break when you start to get too into it.

Ortonville sophomore and theatre major Seph Cartier said they try to read the play a few times before learning their lines.

“I read it once, maybe twice, however much I need to get a good grasp on it,” Cartier said. “I read with friends or just people uninvolved in general. We help each other out.”

Find the Courage to Show Up 

After learning your lines comes the next hill – showing up to your audition. Spotlight, a platform dedicated to helping actors find their next role, states that the first step to take is to change your view of the process.

According to Spotlight, it may be nerve-wracking auditioning in front of theatre professionals, “which is why (it’s encouraged) to start changing your mindset to think of it as a peer-to-peer relationship. From the casting team’s point of view, it’s a search for a solution to their casting problem, and that solution might be you.”

Knowing that you’re the solution to a problem can allow you to feel confident, or at least get through it with minimal anxiety. Approaching the audition without over-analyzing could work, as it allows you to trick your mind into perceiving it as a relaxed, casual event.

Or, just gaslight yourself into thinking you belong anywhere near a stage–that’s what I did!

Arrive at the Audition

Being punctual and prepared come audition day is essential. Aim to arrive at least 10 minutes before you’re set to go on stage to complete any required paperwork, including writing down any scheduling conflicts you may have during the rehearsal period. Albion College’s theatre department rehearsal schedule typically runs from Monday to Friday evenings, 6-10 p.m., complemented by an all-day technical rehearsal near the show date.

Altayeb holds one of the forms necessary for auditioning. The form has questions about name, scheduling conflicts and the character you’re reading for (Photo by Killian Altayeb).

Once you’ve completed all the forms, settle into the green room and engage with fellow auditionees. Despite the nerves that may accompany waiting, remember that everyone is in the same boat.

Marysville first-year Brady Zalac said that they “didn’t really know what was going on” when they first auditioned.

“One of the things I learned was printing out ‘sides.’ New people don’t really have specifics on how to audition on our page,” Zalac said.

People new to the process, like me, might not know what ‘sides’ are, but Spotlight defines it as “a small section of the script actors are given before an audition for either a play, film or television show.”

If you’ve forgotten to print out the aforementioned sides and are panicking about looking unprofessional or are nervous in general, Backstage, a talent recruiting agency, recommends practicing deep breathing exercises.

“With every inhale, repeat ‘relax’ to yourself in your mind,” the agency said. “When you exhale, imagine all the stress leaving your body.”

That didn’t work for me; what did work, however, was talking to those auditioning with the intent to get cast and realizing that it’s important to have fun, even if you’re terrified.

Take the Stage

When called to the stage by Associate Theatre Professor Zach Fischer, get ready to perform. While it says on the Course Web that “you do not need to memorize your scenes,” you should still make whatever character you’re reading for your own.

“Throughout your audition, there will be a reader onstage to read other characters’ lines and react to your character’s lines,” the webpage says.

During your audition, you may be prompted to repeat a line, skip a few scenes or even read for another character; although, such changes are more likely during callback auditions. If you accidentally skip a few lines and confuse your poor reader, take it in stride and hope it doesn’t happen again.

Both Christian and Addison find it important to be confident in what you’re reading and demonstrate your commitment to the role.

Harvey advises potential cast members to “dress up nicely,” adding that casting directors “really like when you dress up nicely because it shows them how serious you are.”

Maintain Perspective

If memorizing your lines proves to be too difficult, what’s easy to remember is thanking the panel for their time and attention after your audition.

Make sure to pay close attention to any additional information regarding callbacks or suggestions for future auditions. If you’re not selected for a callback, Patio Playhouse, a youth theatre organization, says to “take some time to take stock of what you can change so you can rock your audition in the future.”

Above all, have an open mind throughout the audition process. Understand that each audition, whether successful or not, is part of a broader journey in pursuing a passion for theater.

Zalac advises auditionees to “be bold” and “really get into it. You’re gonna fail so many times. It’s going to happen. But the more you fail, the more you learn.”

It’s also important to remember that acting isn’t easy.

“A lot of people see people on stage and think, ‘I could do that. I can go up there, get deep into a character’s memorized lines, work with other people, be there every night,’” Cartier said. “You can’t; it’s a lot.”

If you received a callback and ultimately became part of the next play, please inform me – I’m always looking to tell people I know a famous actor.

About Killian Altayeb 24 Articles
Killian Altayeb is from Novi, Michigan and is a second-year student at Albion College. They are a Biochemistry Major with a journalistic interest in all things public health. Contact Killian via email at NA12@albion.edu.

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