Get the Part! Eight Tips for Auditioning

Ever wonder what it’s like to be on stage, acting in front of an audience? Where would you even start? Jerry McGonigle, co-artistic director of West Virginia Public Theater, shares eight tips, so you, too, can be a part of the wonder of theater.

Jerry McGonigle

Jerry McGonigle

Arts in Our Area

The Greater Morgantown area is rich with the arts, from art venues that support our local artisans (check out their work in The Art and Craft of Appalachia) to local businesses that let your creativity flow. Perhaps most impressive is Greater Morgantown’s performing arts scene. The New West Virginia Public Theatre (WVPT), now in partnership with the College of Creative Arts of West Virginia University, brings Broadway to Morgantown. The West Virginia Public Theatre’s elaborate musicals pack the house in the historic Metropolitan Theatre, offering fans a never-ending showcase of dramatic plays, musicals, comedic performances, and even children’s dance and theater. In the summer months, performances take place at the Hazel Ruby McQuain Amphitheater, an outdoor venue situated on the riverfront.

WV Public Theater Metropolitan Theater

A WV Public Theater performance in the historic Metropolitan Theater

WVPT maintains a reputation as the premiere professional theatre company in West Virginia. Productions are mounted locally from start to finish, making the theatre an important asset to the region both artistically and economically. By entertaining and inspiring audiences with quality professional programming and educational outreach experiences for all citizens, WVPT enhances the cultural environment of the state and region.

WV Public Theater Hairspray

WV Public Theater’s production of Hairspray

Tips for Auditioning

  1. In a general audition for a company or a production, dress to present yourself and who you are as an actor. Casting directors need to see you organically, without distracting hair, clothes, or makeup. This allows them to see whom you are and what they get to work with. The more you obscure whom you really are, the less likely you are to be cast.
  • You can be suggestive in your dress, but be careful about going too far. Keep in mind that at this point in the casting process, you are not auditioning for a specific part. Let the casting director use his or her own imagination for how he or she will cast you. Remember: casting hires you first and the character second.

2. Casting directors see dozens of auditions a day. Headshots act as calling cards, so yours needs to be recognizable. Your headshot should look like YOU on your best day. No headshots from 20 years ago, no headshots at a heavier/thinner weight than you currently are, none with your hair/makeup a way you would never normally wear it. Just your best you. This not only helps directors remember who they saw that day, but also who best fits which role.

3. A good audition should go like a good first date. You don’t want to talk too much about yourself, and you don’t want anyone to leave feeling uncomfortable. Be the charming, friendly, polite version of yourself that you would be if you wanted your date to agree to a second date. You have roughly 30 seconds as yourself before you take on a character. Make them count!

4. Go out of your way to be nice to everyone, not just to the casting directors. Say hello to fellow auditioners and ask names. Not only will people typically respond in a similar way, putting both your and their nerves at ease, but also, you never know what good connections you can make. Every fellow auditioner is a chance to forge a good partnership!

  1. Always have a backup monologue for what you’re about to audition for. The casting directors might ask to see something else if they like you and want to see more of what you can do.
  1. Don’t try to do too much or to portray the entire character. Clarity and simplicity are best. Do the moment the monologue requires and be total present in it. You get one and a half minutes to be that character living in that imaginary moment. You can’t show them everything, but you can let the piece really come to life. The rules of good acting are what should guide you. Don’t use an audition as a showcase of all your talents.
  1. Remember that casting directors have ideas about what they want for their production. They have a vision about whom they want to cast in their show. You might not fit into that and that is beyond your control. All you can do is do your best work and let them make their decision.
  • Casting directors have a lot of time and money invested in their project. The act of casting is a big decision both financially and artistically. You can’t fault a casting director for being picky. You are either what they want or you are not. You can’t take it personally.
  1. Don’t get discouraged if you do not get a callback. If you are really serious about pursuing an acting career, never stop looking for good audition material. The most important choice for an audition is the material that you do. Show your strengths. Don’t simply pick a monologue because you like it.

For younger actors

Make sure your younger actor is confident enough to fully showcase his or her talents! Let him or her know that an audition isn’t a life or death situation. Don’t put too much pressure on them before they enter the audition room and don’t overly build up their expectations. If they don’t get a callback, don’t show any severe disappointment. Let them know that, while they should definitely try their best, it’s not going to devastate you as a parent if they don’t get the role. Finally, let your kids shine at the audition on their own. Give them some space and encouragement (from the sidelines.)

Now break a leg!

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