Auditioning 101

For anxious actors, auditions are miserable. But for thrill-seekers and attention seeker (as most thespians are), auditions are an exhilarating experience. If you know your stuff, you’ve come prepared, and you’re properly energized-caffeinated-manically under-slept, a good audition may be your favorite step until opening night.

The Monologue

Nearly every stage audition requires a two-minute monologue, memorized and avidly rehearsed. This is your rare opportunity to direct yourself, although you will likely seek the help of peers to polish your presentation.

Unless the theatre requires otherwise, your monologue should be contemporary, it should be self-contained, and it should make sense. The less you “interact” with invisible others, the better. There shouldn’t be much physicality – the more pantomime, the sillier you’ll look (unless you’re really good at pantomime). Most monologues should be light on expletives and really funky accents.

Actors sometimes write their own monologues, but this is usually considered tacky. And note that some monologues have been done to death. If a producer hears yet another nice young woman recite Emily’s monologue from Our Town, he’ll probably hurl his clipboard at the stage. As an actor, you benefit from reading a wide variety of plays in your spare time. Use ‘em.

The Headshot

Obviously you’ll need a headshot. There are industry standards, and most headshots look exactly alike. If you’re looking for a photographer, ask actors your trust for references.

Here’s some insider advice: If you don’t have the $350 to take a headshot, then you’re living in the right era. A digital camera and a plain background can go a long way, and you’ve got a strong sense of aesthetics, you can print out a handful of poor-man’s headshots at Kinko’s for a fraction of the price. Once you’ve got the cash, though, you should definitely consult a professional.


In competitive markets like New York and L.A., actors use all kinds of strategic voodoo to “stand out.” They don bright colors. They wear unusual items, like ascots or eccentric jewelry. Auditioning is psychological warfare, but err on the conservative side. If you don’t feel absolutely confident wearing a cow-pattern dress with fuzzy red mittens, for God’s sake just put on something nice.

The Audition

Nearly every audition is the same: You’re called onstage, or into a rehearsal room. The production team sits at a table or in the audience. You introduce yourself with your name, and then you cite your monologue. It should sound something like this:

    ACTOR: Good morning.
    PRODUCER: Good morning. (Pause). Whenever you’re ready.
    ACTOR: My name is John Smith, and this is Gabe’s monologue from Dinner with Friends, by Donald Margulies…

When you’re finished with your monologue, take two seconds and then say “thank you.” Then walk off and treat yourself to an ice-cream. Or scotch.

Keep in mind that this is your audition. For two minutes, you have the complete and undivided attention of a production team. Own it.

Robert Isenberg


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