Auditioning:  Cold Reading Tips

With a cold reading you usually come in the audition room unprepared as you’ve seen the script just minutes, or even seconds, before. On the other hand, when you audition with a monologue you generally have all the time in the world to rehearse and rehearse and rehearse until you’ve got it down pat.  Most of us would much rather take the safe and secure option of what we know, but here’s four easy tips to help make that impromptu cold reading a path to casting success for you:

1) Make BIG choices.  

Casting agents and directors expect you to be fully capable of reading the words on the page.  It’s not a literacy course.  So forget about the words!  What matters is the choices you make to support them.  Show how that character would move and speak.  Make strong emotional choices.  Those fellows behind the casting table already know the script, they want to see what you bring to the characters within it.  It’s a cold performance not a cold reading.  

2) Focus on BIG changes.  

More often than not you’ll be asked after your first reading to do it again, but differently.  A director might say, “Let me see you do it with more anger towards the end.”  When you perform it the second time around, put all your energy into focusing on this one note.  Take it as far as you can (within a reasonable boundary).  Many times the director isn’t looking to see if you get it right, but they’re trying to gauge if you have range and can take direction.  

3) Look up.  

The script can become problematic because it forces you to look down.  In an audition you’re selling yourself, so give them the goods!  Make sure to look up for as much of it as possible.  It helps to keep one hand on the script and keep your thumb sliding down as you move further along.  That way, when you look back down you know about where to find your line.  Practice this and it’ll come in handy.  
4) Don’t be afraid to ask for more time.

Making big choices matters, so give yourself as much time to make them.  Use your own judgment here, but if you need more time then there’s no harm in asking for it.  Many times a director will take that as a sign that you’re willing to put in extra effort.  And if they don’t have any extra time to give you, then show them how willing and ready you are to meet their needs and go when asked.  

These four helpful tips can help you through anything from a community theatre callback to a Disney audition on Broadway. 


Michael Edan
# Michael Edan
Wednesday, February 08, 2012 11:46 AM
A few more recommendations.

5. Choose active verbs to motivate your action in the reading. It seems basic, but many don't do this. In hearing the question from a director "What do you think the character wants here in this momnet?" they are not looking for a blank stare as a response. Working with verbs as motivators also adds dimension to 'emotion'. When that CD asks you to try it again with more anger towards the end, instead of 'acting the anger' - which can be a vague and global quality, be specific - there's a difference in defending your boundaries and vehemently protecting your boundaries. There's a difference between an intention to tease someone or to ridicule them.

6. Make your pauses and eye contact count. Whether you are reading with another or solo, where in the script are there at least three places that your character would want/need to make eye contact, to really connect. Choose them and make them count - dare to penetrate into the eyes of another [even if it's only an imaginary other].

7. Make your body language count. One of the most difficult things for an actor to do is stand still. Instead they unconsciously allow their nervousness to move their body in all sorts of ways, often distracting or annoying ways. Being present, comfortable, and still in your body can be a very powerful thing to behold - it can say much about someone's confidence. Then when you choose or spontaneoulsy make a gesture or movement it has [or at least looks as if it has] purpose, intention, and connection with the life of the character and their relationship to the other character.

8. Always remember you are unique. There is no one in the world exactly like you.
Richard Zane Ross
Sunday, February 19, 2012 4:29 AM
#9) which should really be number 1). What do you want?
Meaning the first decision you want to make is, what does my character WANT?! Each character always wants something from the other character(s). Clinically we call it, the OBJECTIVE. Why are you here, in this room, or park bench, etc., why are you talking to this person? Now, if you can't figure that out from just a couple of pages or less from a scene, and chances are you won't be able to; make something up. It doesn't mater if it makes sense to the story, or even the scene, because no one knows what you're thinking. This gives something to go for, or fight for (a better phrase). This will help you make those "big choices."

#10) Find the beats and beat changes.
Beats are what all your "choices" are about. There are 3 things that define a beat, and distinguish one beat from another: change of topic, change in situation, and change of mood or feeling. The 3rd one is arbitrary because they are feelings and not fixed thoughts, influenced by other characters responses and the feelings that arise in you.
With a pencil, make a little line, or mark to indicate where the 'beat' changes. You can make a few major choices before you actually audition, but don't try to make all of them them ahead of time for all the beats. You can come off stiff or robotic, and it tends to rob you of creative instinct. The pencil mark will serve to alert you to make a new choice. And make as many different choices you can, and as soon as you can. You can be stopped in less than a minute.

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