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Read the play! Itís important that you have an initial understanding of the story and the characters. This assists you in an audition and sends a positive message to the director - I respect the story, Iím committed to working diligently. Do not prepare by viewing a video version of the play. Imitating another actorís performance is not acting. Moreover, you will have trouble getting the other performance out of your head and this will hamper you if the director actually provides direction during the audition.
There are essentially three sorts of auditions you will encounter (and combinations of these three). 1. The director requires a prepared piece, usually a classical monologue or soliloquy. 2. The director will ask you to do a "cold reading" from the script. 3. The director will ask you to participate in a variety of warm-ups, exercises, and activities. If you are performing a prepared piece, be certain you memorize it thoroughly and observe the time constraints requested (usually two or three minutes in duration). If you are doing a "cold reading" (performing with the script in your hand) be brave. Make bold choices. If your acting partner seems unresponsive, donít assign blame or be resentful. If the director provides suggestions, incorporate them, even if they seem silly. If you are participating in a variety of activities, put your heart into them and be generous toward others. The director wants actors who are fun to work with.
Although we tend to divide the theater repertoire into the "contemporary" and the "classical" ( and sometimes "modern classics") Shakespeare is not some alien breed of playwright who requires some specialized "style" of acting. Whatever your present experience, training, or aptitude - what you already know about acting will serve you well with Shakespeare. You donít require an English accent. You donít need special gestures or a particular posture. You do need to know the meaning of the words you are speaking. You do need to choose a compelling "action" and know what you want and what youíre doing in a scene. You do need to speak clearly and with appropriate vocal energy. Shakespeare does make exceptional demands on the voice. His sometimes complex syntax and exceptional sentence lengths definitely require a great deal of attention to oneís breathing. But for student actors, know what youíre saying, say it with conviction, and be emotionally truthful in the imaginary circumstances of the play.†
Louis Fantasiaís book Instant Shakespeare is an excellent resource for the acting student. Fantasia modestly begins his book: "When it comes to Shakespeare, there are no experts. Not even me!" Predictably, I wonít commend every idea Fantasia advances. But his suggestions to actors will "instantly" give you tools to improve your audition and your performance. As well, actors with a long term commitment to the craft will discover an enduring companion to their endeavours.†
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Copyright © 2002 Dana Spradley, Publisher, for shakespeare.com