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Audition tips: What can you do with 30 seconds?

As part of the Playworks Program  at the International Thespian festival, students have the opportunity to audition and rehearse one of the plays being workshopped. The audition day was very intense. We sat through auditions from 9:00 am straight through to 12:45 and then we have half an hour to cast the roles between five plays. Students were put in groups and performed in scenes from the individual plays with monologues, duets or trios. Over the course of the morning, we say 185 students and that doesn’t count the students we saw twice who were called back. By 11 am we were starting to feel the time crunch. Call backs were discouraged, repeat reads had to be culled down, we had to see the groups and move on if we were ever going to make sure every students got their moment.

To that end, there were some students who got maybe 30 seconds to showcase themselves and their abilities. That’s it. 30 seconds. And you may say, that’s not fair. That’s not long enough. How can we make decisions based on 30 seconds of work. Well, the truth of the matter is directors really only need 10 seconds. 10 seconds is all it takes to see if:

  • An actor speaks with clear diction.
  • An actor makes a bold physical choice.
  • An actor knows how to stand out.
  • An actor has read the script or is bumbling through.
  • An actor can make a connection with their scene partner.

And in a workshop situation, that’s what a director needs to know. Can you speak clearly? Do you make a decision with the piece or are you just reading? Are you trying to connect? And the bit about standing out? That’s how you make yourself memorable. When a director has to sit through hours and hours of auditions, it’s hard for them to keep all the faces straight. But if you do something memorable, you make the director’s job easier. And that is why 30 seconds is more than enough time to get picked out of the crowd.

So the next time you audition for a play, think about how you are spending that first 30 seconds. What choices do you make? How do you stand out? Be clear, be bold, be memorable. And if a director cuts you off, never beg to say more. If you’re being cut off, more often than not it’s a time thing. Not a personal attack on your acting. The director has seen what they need to see, and rarely will seeing more change their mind.

What can you do with 30 seconds?

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