January is the month when most acting schools will begin their auditions for enrollment.
Historically, most schools will require students to perform three types of performances as part of their try-outs: the classical monologue, contemporary monologue and improvisational performance.
We recently caught up with the head of faculty for Artistic New Directions, Scotty Watson, and asked him what advice he has for students who will be auditioning for the first time in January.
Watson is an alumnus of The Second City Canadian National Touring Company, a founding member of Comedy on Wry and the in-house Director at Improvisation News. He has also been an actor for 25 years on the other side of the table, so he understands what is going through the minds of actors and directors.
Here are 5 practical points that Watson says every actor should embrace before any audition:
1) Find the right monologue. Every student must have three monologues ready at all times; A contemporary dramatic, a contemporary comedic and a classical monologue. Find a monologue that you find interesting with a character who is similar to you, rather than with a character you want to be. And not everyone needs to be Shakespeare; you might blow the judges away with a good translation of a comedic monologue by Molière.
2) Read the monologue leading into the scene you will perform. In order to deliver, you must know your character and its past. It’s important to be able to answer questions like “Who am I?” “Where have I just come from?” and “What do I want in this scene?”. Writers don’t create scenes that don’t have a purpose. Every scene that leads up to your monologue is important for the character, so make sure you really understand the entire play and your monologue.
3) Improvise like you are at the psychiatrist’s office. It helps to imagine yourself with the psychiatrist when you are improvising. The psychiatrist is asking, “What do you really want?” and you must improvise a completely new monologue for your character based on what you think your character wants. This approach will help you get deeper into the character, and help you better understand the relationship between improvisation and the monologue.
4) Talk about what you are and not about what you aren’t. When you’re improvising, you have to talk to talk about what you are and not what you are not. You can’t play something who you are not. When in rehearsal, look for positive things you can focus on. Positive things can be played and performed on stage, negative things can’t. Think about what you can do and develop it from there.
5) Act the monologue like it was your last scene on stage. When the director asks you to start your monologue, take a few moments to make sure you are breathing and living inside the character. If it helps, improvise what happens just before your monologue (in your head, not on stage). This will help you get deeper into the character. Your monologue must be as “intimate as the rustle of sheets” if I may quote Dorothy Parker. Now is the moment to inhabit the character, be uninhibited and go for it.
And always remember, there is no winner with acting. Great acting is an expression of the depth of your intention and feeling. It’s about how hard you tried during the audition. If you tried as hard as you could, no one can take that away from you.
All actors, both aspiring and experienced, have a chance to learn more improvisational techniques from Scotty Watson every Wednesday at their free Improvisational Workshops. The nonprofit Artistic New Directions is also organizing an intensive multi-day workshop for actors who want to rehearse with internationally renowned directors. You can learn more at artisticnewdirections.org
Written by Frida Johannes