Conquering the Dreaded Cold Read

For an actor, “cold reading” is the scariest phrase one could ever hear. Cold reading is when an actor is asked to read from the script at an audition, with no practice, rehearsal, acting is reactingor study in advance. Usually, the actor is asked to read for a particular character, and has never even seen the script before. It is very easy to mispronounce words, or loose your place, and it is difficult to develop a character right on the spot like that. Hopefully, if you are asked to cold read, you have done your homework and researched the play and the characters. That way, you at least know what is generally happening in the scene or the lines you are reading.

Despite the extreme stress that cold reading causes actors, being asked to participate in a cold read is actually a very good sign because it means that the director is seriously considering that actor for the character. It is an excellent sign if you are asked to cold read multiple times. Usually, if that happens, you can at least expect a callback if not the script 2role, though I cannot speak for all directors, since everyone runs their auditions a little differently.

Follow these helpful tips that will make you a master at cold reading:

  1. Research the play and the characters you are auditioning for before the audition. Use “StageAgent” to help you. Just type in the play you are auditioning for, using the search bar.
  2. Listen more than you think! Especially if you are reading with another actor. It is more important to react to what the other character is saying than to get caught up in acting like your own character. After all, acting is reacting! Acting is just the reproduction of human behavior. So, think about how you would react in the situation. Then you will find a more natural way to relate to your character during the cold read.
  3. When another character is speaking, follow along the page with your thumb, so that you do not loose your place when it is your time to speak again.
  4. If you do not know how to pronounce a word, skip over it, or give it a go, and the director may correct you, which is okay. Do NOT break character and stop to ask the director how to pronounce the word.

Eric Jones studied theatre in college at the University of Maryland College Park, and still works in the professional theatre world at the Maryland Ensemble Theatre and the Old Script 1Opera House Theatre Company. He has participated in many professional community theatre productions, and has played lead roles in both musicals and straight plays. He has been acting for a while, and is an expert on cold reading and auditioning at this point.

“I love cold reads because they give you a chance to explore the material and play with the energy of it without bias or preconceptions. You let the text speak to you, and you get to showcase your instincts for interpretation. I vastly prefer cold reads to prepared monologues,” Jones said.

In a cold read it is easy to loose your place, or mispronounce words. Jones says that when you mess up in a cold read, you cannot break character.

“Stay in character and go with it. Everything you do should be a conscious decision, and your ability to power through a mistake can sometimes mean the difference between getting cast and not,” Jones said.

Jones talks about everything that helps him nail a cold read.

Script 4“Depending on how many times you get to read the same side, make bold and varied choices. Think about how you see the character and their desires, then use that to make the role yours. If there’s a particular line or moment that you notice everyone doing the same way, make a different choice with it. See if you can find something in it that no one else seems to be able to find. You don’t want to be just another person reading lines off a page. Do your best not to hide behind the side. Make eye contact with your scene partner and deliver as many lines as you can without looking at the script,” Jones said

When Jones auditioned for the role of Ian in “Rooms: A Rock Romance,” he was competing with two other guys who were great singers and actors.

“We had to improvise a Glaswegian accent and cold sing some rather difficult music. For the cold read, we all had to read a short monologue in which Ian is on the phone with his mom. I remember making a conscious choice to pause and react to the mom’s “lines” so that it would sound like a real conversation as opposed to a monologue. The director later told me that the reading was what stood out and won me the role,” Jones said.

 

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How to Audition for a Musical

Auditioning for a musical  requires more preparation than auditioning for a straight play, or non musical. This is simply because there are more factors to consider when auditioning for a musical. When auditioning for a straight play, all you have to prepare islalala your acting. Make sure your acting is good, and you’re fine. With a musical, you need to prepare to act, but you also need to prepare a song, and be ready for a potential dance call.
          Susan Thornton is an expert on musical theatre auditions. She herself is a casting director, and owns her own theatre company and dance studio. Thornton runs “Other Voices Theatre” and “Dance Unlimited.” She also helps with local high school musicals, teaches acting classes, and directs many community musicals in the Frederick, MD area.
figaro “A musical theater audition requires a vocal audition, and acting or reading audition, and if necessary, a dance audition,” Thornton said.
 Thornton says that for an actor, a successful musical theatre audition means “nailing the song and reading, and being asked to read multiple times.” What she means, is that if an actor is asked to read the lines of a specific character at an audition more than once, it means that the director is seriously considering that actor for the role.
Here are some ways you can prepare before auditioning for a musical:
1) Do vocal warmups right before the audition so that your singing is as clear as possible.
2) Stretch beforehand if there is a dance call, and bring appropriate dance shoes.
3) Read the script and character descriptions, and research the musical that you are auditioning for.
4) Properly mark your sheet music so that the accompanist can best assist you.
5) Choose an outfit that is similar to the character you are auditioning for.
         The director will be seeing singer after singer and actor after actor, so you will want to find a way to make yourself stand out. Make your audition unique, so that the director remembers you. Thornton says that as a director, the actors she remembers most are the ones who dress like the character they are auditioning for, not a full costume, but they wear something similar.
         “If it’s a delicate girl, wear a dress. If it’s a floozy, wear something sexy. If the guy character wears a suit the whole show, come in a suit,” Thornton said.
         Be prepared for a cold read, and always have a second song ready to go incase the director wants to hear you sing more. If you mess up your song by forgetting the words, singing the wrong pitch, or singing a different tempo than the accompanist, then you should keep going! If you mess up during a show you would have to keep going and improvise the best so can, so that is what directors would want to see you do. However, you should do everything in your power to memorize your song beforehand so that you do not mess up.
         If you are not prepared, it is better not to audition at all because you cannot take back a first impression. The theatre world is a very small place, and directors talk. So if you show up unprepared, or are messing up a lot, it appears unprofessional. You do not want to get a bad reputation. That being said, show up to your audition at least 30 minutes early so you have time to breathe, relax, and prepare mentally so that you will not mess up.
         If you have done the work, there is nothing to be nervous about. Doing the work means researching the show and the characters you are auditioning for. You also need to have your monologue and songs memorized at least two weeks in advance.
         During the dance call it is important to stay in character, and try to act like the character you are going for, especially if dance is not your strong suit. If the moves are hard for you, choreographers are looking for potential more than perfection, especially if you are auditioning for an educational program instead of a particular show.
         Dance tends to be weighed with the least importance in the world of musical theatre. It is still important, but typically if you are an outstanding singer and actor, then the dance does not matter. Adam Jacobs is the actor who played the original Aladdin on Broadway when the musical “Aladdin” was first released. It was required for the character Aladdin to tap dance. Jacobs did not know how to tap dance, but he was such an amazing actor and singer, which made him perfect for the part. The production team paid for Jacobs to take tap lessons so that he could play the lead character in their show. So, stay in character, keep up the energy, and keep going, even if you trip and fall.
         Act confident, smile, and be polite and courteous. Make sure you say thank you the the directors and accompanist before you leave the room.
         Actors are not safe until you get in your car and leave. Even when you are in the lobby before and after your audition, everything you do is being watched. So make sure that you are acting professionally during the whole process, not just when you are in the audition room.
         “My big tip to actors is – know the show and characters  that you are auditioning for. The director will appreciate someone who has done their homework,” Thornton said.

How to Properly Prepare Music for an Audition

Going to a musical theatre audition is a very different experience than auditioning for a Wondrinstraight play, also known as a non-musical. Not only will you have to worry about memorizing a monologue and conquering cold reads, but you will also have to worry about a song and possible dance call.

This is why preparing music is a vital part of a musical theatre audition. Especially because actors only get 16-32 bars of singing to prove themselves in the audition room. An actor will rarely be asked to sing a whole song. Sixteen bars of singing goes by quickly, which does not give you much of a chance to show off, so it needs to be the best sounding 16 bars you have ever sung.

These are the steps that you, as a musical theatre actor, should follow when preparing music:

  1. Select a song in a style similar to the show you are auditioning for.
  2. Choose which 16-32 bars of your song you will sing.
  3. Properly mark your music for the piano accompanist, and make sure that the copy you share with them is clear.
  4. Make sure you do vocal warm ups before the audition, and that your song is memorized.
  5. Enter the audition room confidently, sing your heart out, and if you make a mistake, own it!
  6. Thank the accompanist and casting directors before you leave.

It is crucial that you select a song in the style of the musical you are auditioning for. This means that if you are auditioning for a pop, rock n’ roll, or juke box musical like “All Shook Up,” you should not sing a song from a classical or operatic musical like “Les Miserables.” If you are auditioning for “All Shook Up,” you might want to sing a song IntoWoodsfrom “Jersey Boys,” which is also a musical with a pop and juke box sound. If you are auditioning for “Les Miserables,” you may want to sing a song from another musical with a classical sound, such as “Carousel” or “Into the Woods.”

After you’ve selected a song, you’ll need to cut your music, and choose your 16-32 bars. Choose a section that shows off both your singing and acting abilities. Sixteen bars of music is the same as 16 measures. You have to count them out on your sheet music. Make sure you mark your 16-32 bars clearly, so that the piano start2accompanist knows where to start and end. Also be sure to highlight or mark any important dynamics and breath marks, to make it as easy as possible for the pianist to follow you. Breath marks are the places in your song where you stop singing to take a breath.

Ka Nyoung Yoo is a professional pianist who earned a Master of Music degree and Graduate Performance Diploma in Ensemble Arts and Vocal Accompanying from The Johns Hopkins University Peabody Institute. Yoo currently works for the Towson University Voice Department as a vocal accompanist for voice students and faculty. She has seen numerous auditions, heard many singers, and knows what makes a good or bad musical audition.End

“I love playing piano. It is my favorite instrument and I think piano is the only instrument that can describe orchestra sounds. I’ve played piano since I was 6 and did lots of solos,” Yoo said.

In college, Yoo had the opportunity to do some ensemble performing, which led to her becoming an accompanist for vocalists.

“I really enjoyed working with other people, and sharing opinions with a different musical interpreter. From that time, I pursued my passion to do accompanying and ensemble arts. It gave me more chances to perform,” Yoo said.

The accompanist has the power to make or break your audition. If you are rude, inconsiderate, and they do not like you they can play badly on purpose to make you sound bad. The accompanist can also complain about you to the casting directors after you leave the audition room. So make sure you do not make your music stressful for them to read.

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Yoo shares some tips about how to impress the accompanist at your musical theatre audition.

“Please do not take a music score photo and print them out from your phone. It is really bad and blurry. And do not cut the piano part at the bottom of the music,” Yoo said.

What Yoo means is that you need to make sure you print out a clear copy of sheet music, and do not cut off the base line at the bottom of the music. To prevent cutting off the base line, make sure that no musical notes are cut off of your page, even if you do not sing them.

redIt is also important to acknowledge the accompanist when you walk into the audition room, and to thank them when you leave.

“If the singer gives an appreciation then that’s enough,” Yoo said.

Yoo also says that singers should “Give the music and mark all the breath spots, fermatas, and other signs clearly. It’s very easy to manage.”

This means that you need to mark all the dynamics and the bars you will be singing.

“At the audition, sometimes the singer writes in the metronome mark, which is great for rehearsal, but for auditions, pianists can’t use it, so it will be better to sing your first phrase,” Yoo said.

Yoo also advises singers auditioning for a musical to put their music in a three ringed binder. That way the pages are easy to turn and the music will not get lost.

Yoo has seen and heard a lot in the audition rooms, so from her experience, singersYoo says that confidence and a smile is what makes singers stand out most in an audition.

“I know auditions make all the musicians terrified, but you need to pretend, and act, like you have everything prepared, and can do what they want,” Yoo said.

The last step in preparing for a musical audition is to warm up your voice before the audition. Click here for some musical theatre vocal warmup ideas.

An Actor’s Guide to Dealing With Rejection

If you are serious about becoming a professional actor, you must get used to rejection. Rejection is an incredibly large part of acting, and requires tough skin. The ways in which we, as actors, handle rejection, can have serious affects on our mental health, and artistic careers.

Taylor Rieland is a recent college graduate and expert, now working as a professional musical theatre actor in the Washington D.C. and 2 HippoBaltimore area. Working as a professional musical theatre actor, Rieland has a great deal of experience with rejection.

“I would say right now I am feeling a sense of self-rejection. From season to season of going into auditions and not receiving certain roles or callbacks, it can make you second guess yourself. Is it you being not the best for the part, or is that you are not a good or sufficient actor at all? There are questions that I keep asking myself that have pushed me away from wEverymanhat my heart is telling me to do. I’ve found that once I bought into the thought that I am not good enough to make it in the theatre world, a huge disconnection in myself has formed in my art. The rejection from yourself seems much more powerful to me then any other casting director or director that tells you ‘no’. The more I remember why I love to act, the more I remember how enough I actually am in the ownership of my art,” Rieland said.

It is important to remember the passion behind why it is that you act. Becoming an actor is a calling, and if you loose sight of the reasons why you love it so much, rejection can easily crush you. It helps to acknowledge your feelings of defeat, and then cope with your negative emotions in a healthy way. Click here to learn five healthy ways to remain strong, and face rejection.

Here are some things you can try to help you cope with the negative emotions rejection triggers:

  • Color a picture
  • Write down how you feel in a journal
  • Get some physical exercise
  • Cook your favorite meal
  • Look for other audition opportunities and make a list.
  • Do something else productive that makes you feel successful, such as homework, or filling out job applications.

To cope, Rieland writes in a journal. For me, I look at the situation in a positive light to cope. When I get rejected, I try to look at what I can learn from the Auberactor who got the role, rather than hating them for getting the part I wanted.

“Rejection seems the same after a while. There have been many roles that I’ve wanted more than anything. But what helps me when I am in the throws of rejection, and in the state of feeling debilitated, is that there were so many variables that go into that casting. Whoever is right for the role gets the role. If I sit in the emotion of feeling rejected for too long, I’ll start to forget why I am doing theatre in the first place. I give myself 24 hours to sit in the emotion. I then write down my emotions, close the journal, and move on. There are far too many pieces of theatre and too many roles out there to allow one to shift your entire grounding. I remember that if there is a part I am yearning for, hopefully the moment will come back Phantomwhere I get that chance. A piece of advice I was given in the past week was; after a while, the rejection stops having the power over you. The art keeps us moving and we realize that this is simply a part of being an actor. You have to fall down and get back up,” Rieland said.

Jake Schwartz is an acting major at Towson University, has been in many plays and musicals, and has been acting since he was in grade school. Schwartz has his own take on rejection.

“Rejection is tough. But every no is a step closer to a yes. And you use the ‘no’ to motivate you to work that much harder,” Schwartz said.

WaitressSchwartz shares a story about when he auditioned for a musical in high school. The director told him that he was not cut out to be in a musical, and that he was the only boy who auditioned that wasn’t cast. A few years later, Schwartz auditioned for the same director, but this time she cast him as her lead! She did not even recognize him or remember who he was, and to this day Schwartz has not told her.

“I was pissed. I wanted to prove to her that I could be in a musical. So I did some work with outside theatre companies. I was upset for a while, but then used it as motivation. But rejection is a part of acting,” Swartz said.

Click here to learn some helpful strategies that can help you cope with the fear of being told no at an audtion.

Ally Ibach is also an acting major at Towson University, and is working as a professional actress in the industry.

Ibach says that in all her years of performing, she has grown very accustomed to rejection, as one should, as an actor. Ibach shares a story about the worst rejection she has felt, and talks about what she’s learned from it.

Gentleman's“I have actually started viewing rejection as a gift. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and that if you work diligently and passionately at every audition, there is no reason to be upset at rejection- as it will inevitably lead to acceptance! Of Little Womencourse, I haven’t always had this enlightened view of rejection, because after all- actors are also human beings, with fragile egos, like the rest of the world. When I was in high school, I couldn’t fathom rejection. If I try my best, that means I deserved the part, right? Nope. When I was 15, I auditioned for my high school’s production of “Alice in Wonderland” and I convinced myself that I was Alice. I had a well prepared audition and thought I nailed the role! I had to wait the entire weekend to see the cast list, and for Legally Blondesome reason I firmly believed in good karma. So from the audition on Friday, to the inevitable cast list posting on Monday- I was an angel. I helped my mom around the house, and went the extra mile to be kind to everyone because then I would really deserve the role. To preface, I now understand the moral grey area I was in. So here I am Monday, I gave a great audition and I have been incredibly kind to the people around me. I look at the cast list and I am on the very bottom as a god damn West Sideflower. I mean, anyone can stand in a pot and be a flower. Did I do all my family’s dishes all weekend to be a flower? I was enraged and cried like my heart had been broken. I’m not going to lie to you, I was bitter throughout the entire production. I later realized my bitterness didn’t solve anything. I didn’t have any fun doing what I loved because I was so caught up in thinking I was “robbed” of a role that was never mine. From that point on I decided that karma had nothing to do with casting, but I should still go the extra mile to be kind regardless! It was thrilling to have a good, well prepared audition. So at every audition, I will prepare as fully as possible and do my best. And if I get cast as a flower, then I’ll fully accept and perform that role to its greatest capacity! Now, I’m a B.F.A. Acting major, with so many amazing performance opportunities and am working professionally in the industry! I would never be where I am today if I didn’t learn how to accept rejection, so I encourage any performer I know that there is great power in failure, but most importantly- there is great power in getting back up again,” Ibach said.

Rieland urges actors to accept the fact that they will be rejected.

“I would tell young actors that the truth is, you will be rejected. The rejection is not a reflection of your worth. You are not less than, just because you did not receive a part in Eliota play that will have a beginning and an end. Life will move on. One great acting teacher of mine once told me that as an actor, we bake many cakes. Cakes being our monologues, our productions, and our art. And when we walk into auditions, we hand the ‘cake’ to the director and casting director. And the directors then have the option to eat the cake, or throw the cake away. What they decide to do is not in our power. All we have power over is whether or not we pour our hearts and passions into the cake or art. You have to remember what power you already possess in yourself,” Rieland said.

Rieland admits that he struggles to remember that sometimes, and that he has to remind himself.

WICKED“I think we learn how to manage the stress, tune in to ourselves, and work through the rejection, but in any stage, we will still have challenges as actors. If you “must” be an actor, you will learn how to move through the obstacles,” Rieland said.

How to Act Shakespeare! From the Cast of “Othello.”

As actors, sometimes performing Shakespeare can be intimidating, as it is incredibly difficult to translate the language, much less present the text to a contemporary audience in a way that they can understand. There are so many differences between the way that Shakespeare wrote his plays and the way that contemporary plays are written. It is almost like speaking a different language, and therefore, requires different acting techniques, and a different approach in how to tackle a character.

Othello 4

Currently, the department of theatre arts at Towson University is presenting a production of Shakespeare’s “Othello,” a dramatic tragedy with a light sense of playfulness, making the show quite charming at times, despite it’s unsettling plot. An explaination of the plot and overall story of “Othello” can be found here.

The characters in the show are played phenomenally by the actors, who presented the text in such a way that made it easy to understand each character’s objective, what was happening in the story, and how each character was feeling. If you get the chance, this production of “Othello” would be an amazing play to go see, in an effort to advance your acting skills. I learned a lot from the actors in the show by paying attention to their changing dynamics and rhythms, exaggerated large gestures, and facial expressions. Deeper exaggeration is important in acting Shakespeare because it takes more effort to get the message across to contemporary audiences using Shakespeare’s text.

Actors from the cast of “Othello,” and their director, Peter Wray, have some tips and advice to share on how to act Shakespeare. Wray is a Shakespeare and acting expert, having directed multiple Shakespeare productions, and is an acting professor at Towson University. Wray also teaches the Shakespeare performance course for the BFA in acting majors at Towson.

Shakespeare 2

One big piece of advice that Wray gives about acting Shakespeare, is that we have to remember that the characters are really not that different from ourselves, and that even though the play was written hundreds of years ago, we can still relate to the characters.

“From my point of view, the relationships between Shakespeare’s characters are really no different than the relationships we have now. We still wanna learn about love, sometimes we learn the hard way by being betrayed or hurt, people leave us. People do kill for love, though we like to think we’re more civilized than that. We’re human so we have passions, Shakespeare’s characters have tremendous passions,” Wray said.

Wray says that a major difference in acting contemporary from acting Shakespeare is that Shakespeare’s characters lack subtext, whereas contemporary characters are all about subtext.

“Shakespeare writes in such a way that his characters all speak what’s actually on their minds. They speak what their thoughts are, so they’re actually speaking the truth from their perspective. Contemporary plays and writers tend to write using language or the way we talk. Shakespeare’s characters do not use subtext, they actually speak the truth of their minds,” Wray said.

Shakespeare 3

Wray also discusses an interesting outlook on how to think about Shakespeare characters.

“One of the great directors of the twentieth century coined the idea that Shakespeare’s characters are “living thought,” so it’s actually thought come to life, right there out front,” Wray said.

Wray says that contemporary acting should really emphasize subtext, whereas Shakespeare’s characters just say everything they are thinking out loud already. Contemporary plays are written using quick dialogue between multiple characters, and many of Shakespeare’s plays are written with 15 minute long soliloquies, when the same character will be speaking for 15 minutes straight.

“It makes sense in the way that in the past, in Shakespeare’s time, the audience used to hear a play, whereas we actually go see a play. We actually use our senses differently now than they did back then,” Wray said.

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Wray makes a point that Shakespeare is a playwright, whom we should respect, but not completely idealize. According to him, only when we kick Shakespeare off his pedestal are we able to play his characters with truth, and really tackle the roles. Wray compares Shakespeare to modern playwrights,

“Shakespeare was a playwright, just like Arthur Miller was a playwright of the twentieth century, and they both write good plays. So, a play is a play. Now, over the course of 400 or so years because Shakespeare was such a terrific playwright, one of the most well known and done around the world in all languages, we tend to hold him up on a pedestal. Truth be told, he was an actor and a playwright in a theatre company, and they were trying to make a living.”

Wray tells actors to see that what Shakespeare’s characters are going through are also things they can relate to in their own lives.

“What I try to do in terms of the work, is knock him off the pedestal so people see that the kinds of stuff he talks about, are the very kinds of things that we still go through in our own lives. And so, we still go to be entertained by the work, whether it’s a comedy or tragedy, or we go to learn something about our human nature,” Wray said. “Shakespeare was really wonderful about illuminating human nature, and bringing to life what we think about in the dark.”

othello 6

Wray’s most valuable tip he gives to actors trying to tackle a Shakespeare role, is to just let the character speak the truth.

“If we can remove the sense of holding Shakespeare up on a pedestal, and just let the characters speak the truth, an audience will begin to understand what they’re saying as their ears get in tune with the language.”

The actors in the production of “Othello,” also offer some pretty good tips about how to act Shakespeare, and talk about what they did in order to tackle their roles.

Actor Tim Neil, who played the role of Cassio in the production, says that No Fear Shakespeare is a great tool for breaking down the text, finding the meaning of it, and putting it into contemporary context. More information about the No Fear Shakespeare tool can be found on the website.

“The biggest thing to remember is that these people are just people, and they’re talking like people. So you need to make sure that you include that element into what you’re doing. This is just people talking about the same kind of things people always talk about, like anger, jealousy, and everyday things,” Neil said.

Othello 7

The actors were making very large gestures and exaggerating everything during the play because it takes so much extra effort to get Shakespeare’s meaning across to a modern audience. Actor Isaiah Harvey, who played the role of Iago in the production, provides his take on this.

“It’s actually a lot more of a physical workout than a lot of contemporary stuff,” Harvey said.