the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area

mostly the day to day of a professional actor in the San Francisco Bay Area, but also the home of the Counting Actors Project

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Auditioning related epiphanies

Early in my career, I had this one - I came in to do two monologues at an audition.  The director asked me to do another one "Do you have something where the character is less confident?" Oh crap, I thought - I'm doing this wrong.  So I did my monologue of the less confident character.  Then the director asked for something else, and I did another monologue - all the time thinking I was being asked for more because my original monologues were no good, and I'd made bad choices in material.  Later I realized that being asked for more, for different emotional colors is a good thing.  Auditors often spend less time w/people they're less interested in and more time with those they're more interested in. 

Here's a more recent one.  You're in the audition, and read the scene and then are given an adjustment.  "can you show less of her vulnerability, more of her elegance, flirt more but as if you never learned how, etc."  The adjustment isn't about being right or wrong.  It's about your creative instrument responding to the direction.  The auditor isn't looking for yes or no, true or false.  They're looking for how you respond.  They want to know what you would think and do in response to what they say.  It's not about doing what they want (and thinking that what they want is located in a finite answer).  It's about showing them what is possible and letting them learn what it would be like to work with you.

The adjustment is like a mini-rehearsal, I've realized.  Rehearsal is full of making adjustments - taking suggestions/guidance from a director and then making shifts in the performance of the character.  Going through the adjustment is letting the director know what it's going to be like in rehearsal with you.

So, moving forward, I'm going to be letting go of trying to show them what I think they want to see, or getting the 'right answer'  Instead, I'll be using the adjustment moment to show what I'm like to work with and how I take notes, let them inspire me, and inspire changes my performance of the character. 

In a nutshell my shift in thinking about the adjustment - it's not a question of  'are you a good actor?' but rather 'what kind of good actor are you?'


  1. So all of my blog posts link to fb, and Bay Area director Evren Odcikin made this comment there:
    Hey Valerie - this is totally spot-on and I'm so glad you're putting it out there. I know that the audition room is a stressful and vulnerable space for actors, but it's always frustrating for those of us on the other side of that darn table when you give an actor a note in an audition and feel them deflate like you told them they sucked. I can't speak for other directors, but for me, the adjustment is never about right or wrong. My favorite thing that can happen in an audition (just like in a rehearsal) is when an actor surprises me. I'm not looking for someone to do "what I ask them," but someone who listens to what I am saying, synthesizes it and then comes up with a change that is authentic and unique to them. One should look at it this way... if the director asked for a change, they must have seen something in your work and they want to explore it further. If you were "wrong", they would have said "thank you" and asked to see the next person in line.

  2. Erin Merritt here. You're absolutely right on this, Val, and I second everything Evren wrote. I will also add that a lot of times the adjustment I give to an actor is not actually appropriate for that monologue, but would be appropriate for a certain character in the play, or would show me some trait of the actor's that I suspect is there, either in terms of the "flavor" of her acting or of her actual character. So don't be alarmed if the director asks you to do something "wrong" for the character. Also remember, the first audition doesn't get you the role—it only gets you to callbacks (or not), so you don't need to show us everything there—what we are trying to see in that first audition are: 1) does this person have the level of acting ability that we need, 2) is there a role that might fit this person and 3) does this person seem sane and capable of taking direction. You have little control over those first two in that audition moment, but you have all the control in the world over the last one, so once you're in that room, forget about whether you made the right choice of audition or outfit, and just try to show us who you are.