Nov 052013

Continuing my efforts to widen the scope of this blog. Previously, I touched on another of my main hobbies, home brewing. The other hobby that demands much of my time is community theatre. I write, I act, and I direct… in addition to “smaller” design work (set, sound, logos). I’ve often heard from people that they like the way I run auditions, so I though I’d touch on my basic process here.

Of primary importance, as you might imagine, is preparation. Know your script. At this stage, concentrate on knowing the characters. Who are they, and what key traits must be present in the actors playing them? If there are similar characters, what differentiates them?

From there, I go through the script and mark sections that might work well as sides for cold reads. I used to think it was important to get “key moments” from the script, but over the years, it’s become clear to me that what needed is “moments” for the characters… which tend to be a lot more abundant. In other words, it’s not so important what you pick, as long as all the characters are represented.

Personally, I like to retype these sides. This allows me to put them in whatever order I’d like (i.e., actors don’t think “this is from the end of the script, so I should approach it differently than the one from the middle”), number them for my own use, clearly list all the characters in the side, and make the text a bit larger for ease of reading.

Once the sides are prepared, I sometimes make a character list to hand out at auditions, in addition to the requisite audition form. I always have a calendar on the back of the form for people to mark conflicts, make it clear they should mark all conflicts, and I tend to get about a 50% return on that.

Next comes the magic. Two pages of charts that I make for myself for every audition, which ensure I run things as fairly as possible.

The first has a wide column down the left to list the auditioners’ names, followed by a narrow column for each role I need to fill. When an audition form is returned to me, I write the actor’s name on the left, then I highlight any boxes corresponding to roles for which they’re auditioning. So, that form ends up looking something like this:

Role One Role Two Role Three
Actor One
Actor Two
Actor Three


As each actor reads for a given role, I put a tick mark in the appropriate column. This way, I can tell at a glance how many times they’ve read for each role, ensure they’ve read for every role they’re interested in, and make sure I’ve seen them enough.

My other page has a chart corresponding to each side I’m using for that audition, numbered the same as the sides. Down the left-hand column, I list all the actors in the side. Across the top, I have 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th, which corresponds to each reading of the particular side. These charts get filled in with actor names as I figure out who’s reading for what. These charts look something like this:

(1) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Role One Actor One Actor Two Actor One
Role Two Actor Two Actor Four Actor Four


(2) 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Role One Actor One Actor Five Actor Two
Role Two Actor Two Actor Four Actor Four
Role Three Actor Three Actor Six Actor Three


With these charts, I can make sure I switch out actors, so I’m not reading someone for the same role four times in a row. It also enables me to plan ahead without trying to remember what side I gave to whom. I’ve occasionally needed more than five readings of a particular scene, but I either have more copies of that sheet of charts, or I squeeze things in wherever I can.

So… that’s pretty much my secret to running successful auditions. There are other little things, like I prefer actors not reading to wait in another room so they don’t see each other’s performances, and how I take notes on readings and such, but I feel those elements aren’t as key as what I’ve listed above.

And obviously, there is no right way to run these things. I feel my method works well for me, and as I said, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on how I run things, so I must be doing something right. Generally, if I’m just a wee bit harried and the actors seem to be having fun, then I feel it’s a success.

That’s auditioning, of course. Casting is something else!

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