Directing auditions

When it comes to directing, auditions are when things really get started. You’ll be working closely with the actors you choose from now until the very final performance. So how do you make sure you get it right? Here are 8 things you need to look for…

Do they respond to your direction?

When you’re deep into rehearsals, you’ll be asking your cast to respond to a wide range of different notes. You may ask them to try something one way, and then another. For both actors and directors, this can be a very trying process as you work out the best route to go down. As this will be a central part of your work with your cast, why don’t you check how actors respond to notes in auditions?

Once your actor has performed what they have prepared, ask them to try something a different way. You could ask them to read it with a different emotion or moving in a different manner. By giving actors notes when you’re directing auditions, you can see how they respond to you. Then you’ll have a better idea if you can form a working relationship with them.

Do your personalities work well together?

It’s always tempting to think of your performances going down a storm, but when you’re directing auditions you should keep in mind those long weeks of rehearsals ahead. To find out more about an actor’s personality, have a quick chat in the audition to find out more about them. Try to get a flavour of their personality. Would you have a good working relationship, or would you be at each other’s throats by the end of the first month?

Do they believe in your vision?

While this may sound pretentious, this can be very important. An actor who believes they are doing something great is going to be more motivated for rehearsals than one just doing it to get on stage. Talk with your auditionees about your approach to the play. Find out how much they know already, and let them know what they should expect from both the performance and the rehearsal process. Ask them what their motivation is and why they came. Try to work out whether they really want to be in your play or not.

Do they have the special skills you need?

When you read through the script before auditions, you should make a note of any special skills that an actor would need to play the character. Do they speak with an accent? Do they dance? Do they sing? Do they play a musical instrument? These are skills that the actor playing them will need to have.

Make a checklist of what you need for each character, and ensure actors are aware of these requirements before they enter the room. This will stop an actor from auditioning for parts they couldn’t possibly play: something that will save time and effort for you both.

Once the actor is in the room with you, ask for a demonstration of any skills that are necessary for the character. This will help you make up your own mind whether they have the skills you need.

Do they have the acting range to do the part justice?

You may think you’ve found the perfect actor for the role, but what if they’re actually just good at preparing one monologue? Check their versatility by asking them to perform at least two pieces, highlighting different emotions. You could even ask them to perform as different characters to see how many different sides they have.

Will they be available when you need them?

You may have found the perfect actor, but what if they’re going to miss the week before the performances? What if they have a prior commitment before each rehearsal that means they show up tired every time? Provide every auditionee with a schedule for the production and ask if this would cause any problems for them. It is better to find out about their holiday now than with a week to go before opening night!

What kind of acting experience do they have?

Being aware of someone’s past acting experiences can be very helpful, as it can help you adapt your approach in rehearsals as necessary. For all you know, this could even be someone’s first ever audition! It is not a bad thing if someone has little or no acting experience, but you should be ready to tailor your direction to their needs.

Do they have chemistry with the other actors?

At a callback audition, you should try out different combinations of actors together. An actor can be great when they’re on their own, but how do they work alongside others? You need to see how people interact together and what they can bring out of each other. A great team who work well together can spark into something brilliant.

There we have it, 8 key things to look for when directing auditions, if you fancy yourself a director then be sure to check out our entire How To Direct section of our site.
Nathan Evans

Nathan is an actor, director and writer based on The Wirral. Since getting involved with the world of theatre, he has directed a show at the Edinburgh Fringe and he is now looking to develop his writing further.