Below are a few of my own very personal DOs and DON’T’s. They’re probably of no help to anyone else, but you might enjoy them.
DO take it easy if you read through the material the first time and you just get it. If you understand the character at once, no need to prepare any further. Just read the material a few times so you’re easy with it, and let your immediate connection feed your spontaneity in the audition room. Be brave and trust yourself here. The best audition is the one where your preparation allows you to surprise yourself.
DON’T practice your lines in front of a mirror – you’ll be thinking of nothing but your brilliant facial expressions in the audition room.
DO prepare thoroughly and thoughtfully if you KIND of get the material but not quite. Research. Forge a connection to the character. None of us has the luxury of a rehearsal period before an audition, and we have nothing but our visceral connections to the text, or, lacking those, our cobbled-together-through-hard-work reactions, to help us bloom in the audition room.
DON’T practice your lines on the subway on the way to the audition. Your mouth will move. You’ll look crazy. We’ve all done it, and we all looked crazy. Actors have a bad enough rep as it is.
DO hope and pray if you can’t figure out the material at all. You’ll have to wing it. Ask a couple of questions when you enter the audition room if the director seems open. For example, if you are presented with one of those supposedly hilarious Shakespeare clown speeches that you know was probably funny four hundred years ago and makes no sense now, ask the director if he has any specific setting in mind for his production. With luck, he’ll tell you that yes, in fact, he’s setting it in the subway, or maybe in 19th century Japan, in which case you can try to channel “The Taking Of Pelham 123” or try to remember any production of “The Mikado”. Good luck.
DON’T go over and over lines in the waiting area. If you haven’t prepared already, it’s too late. Relax. Think about your character. Read, quietly and without letting your lips move (remember the subway!) through the material.
DO bring a brainless magazine with you. You don’t actually have to read it. Keep it open and pretend you’re reading it, even if you’re totally freaked out. Everyone else, including the audition monitor, will think you’re an old pro brimming with confidence, and that alone will help you relax.
DON’T dress for the part like you’ve hired a costume designer. Dress like a normal New-York-City-person-on-the-sidewalk version of your character. Dressing perfectly for the part can look desperate, and can make people think you’re the kind of actor who mumbles his lines to himself on the subway. NOTE: This particular “DON’T” is, of course, void for commercial auditioning, where, if you’re supposed to be a nun, or King Kong, or the Shah of Iran, you’d better find that habit, hairy suit, or “Lawrence Of Arabia” caftan.
DO enter the audition room with relaxed confidence, even if it’s faked. Take in your surroundings. This is YOUR room for the next ten minutes. Remember, you’re brilliant. The people in this room wouldn’t want to see you if you weren’t, and they would be lucky to have you in their show. You’re going to be wonderful.