Friday, October 17, 2014
Auditioning for The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project
Auditions are stressful on both sides of the table. Actors want to do well and to be what the director wants, and the directors want the actors to do well and to be what we want. Both sides want the same thing. Unfortunately, nerves about the unknown can get to most people. Actors stress over whether or not they’re “good” enough and directors stress over whether the “good” actors will be easy to work with. We’ve found that the best way to help actors stress less during the audition process is to just tell them exactly what we want and to…wait for it…talk WITH them.
When we post audition notices, we state that we’re looking for “actors experienced with heightened language, the ability to play multiple characters, the ability to take direction well, lots of energy and awesome attitude.” That’s all. As actors, having a clear set of expectations for an audition is very important to us. It helps us determine if we’re right for the show and tells us a bit about the people we’ll be auditioning for. As directors, we are letting actors know what’s expected from them before they even sign up for an audition slot. The Unrehearsed Cue Script Technique is not for the lazy actor. It is not for the shy, timid actor. It is also not for the Divas. We are trying to put together a troupe of players that work together well, are giving, dynamic, and have wonderful personalities that shine through even during difficult moments on stage. We want to give our audiences a unique experience where they can enjoy themselves as much as the actors. The first step is proper casting.
We don’t like prepared monologues for our Unrehearsed auditions. We want to see what you can do with a bit of Shakespeare that you may not know perfectly, which is why we do cold readings for our auditions. When the actors show up, they are given a short selection of monologues from which they choose to do for their 10 minute audition slot. Yes, we use the whole 10 minutes, but more on that later. So, the actor who shows up early for their audition gets some time to work on the monologue a bit, and then comes in to perform it for us. This first part is very important because it shows us their comfort level with the language, how they approach a monologue on their own, and their choice of monologue also tells us how they type themselves. Then we explain who we are and what we do. One of us gets up from the table and goes to stand by the actor and talk with them. We talk about our process, talk with them about something interesting we’ve seen on their resume, and ask them if they have any questions. We try to ease them and to let them know more about us. Then we give them directions and have them do the monologue again. Depending on the actor and how we are casting the show, we may have the actor do another cold monologue. The important part of this process is to determine whether or not the actor truly fits all the criteria we are looking for:
1. Experience with heightened language (their first go at the monologue tells us this straight away)
2. Ability to play multiple characters (leads also play character parts, so can this actor do both?)
3. Ability to take direction well (how does this actor take direction from us during their brief time here?)
4. Lots of energy (do they use the stage? Do they use us as the audience? Are they not afraid to move?)
5. Awesome attitude (the discussion we have with the actor shows us this)
Throughout all this, we look for another vital element: a sense of humor. Can they have fun with the monologue and can they be funny? This isn’t something we can teach them. It’s something that every actor either has or doesn’t have, and with this technique the ability to find humor and to use it well is imperative.
This is also the time for the actor to decide whether or not they want to work with us. We may not be right for every actor, and it is better for everyone to find this out in the audition rather than after the process has started.
If, during that 10 minute audition, an actor shows us that they can bring to the table everything we’ve asked for, then why call them back to confirm it? If, on the other hand, we’re unsure about an actor who maybe gets 50% of what we’re asking for, then we just review our notes from the audition and decide if we think they’ll get the rest with a bit more Unrehearsed training. Of course, if an actor comes in with a bad attitude or doesn’t seem to get what we’re asking for at all, then we are not the right company for them.
We tried doing callbacks once for this technique a couple of years ago, which didn’t work. They were wonderful actors to begin with, and we knew we would like to work with them, but sometimes it just comes down to “type” or “look”. If we already have two actors with similar looks or types in the cast, then we’ll hold on to this third actor’s info for our next show. Aside from building a troupe of players, we also want individuality and eclectic-ness.
That 10 minute initial audition has always told us exactly what we need to know about an actor – especially when we combine it with the other elements that happen during or before an audition. A callback is just one more audition that they might stress over, or have to take time off of their ‘pay the bills’ job to arrange. If we, as the director and producer, use our time with the actor to talk with them and put them through some Unrehearsed technique paces, then why call them back to do it again?
Luckily, we have been spoiled for choice at our auditions with the amount of talented actors with awesome personalities who have shown up. Yes, we want that to continue. We want actors to give us difficult choices because they’re all amazing. Maybe they’re not right for this show, but they may be perfect for our next show. Not doing a callback for USP is also our way of saying not only do we trust our cast, but we hope they trust our decisions.
-Elizabeth Ruelas & Andy Kirtland
The Unrehearsed Shakespeare Project