Originally published on
“Choose a piece that you love…Choose a piece that you relate to…Choose a piece that perhaps espouses things in which you believe…It is also smart to choose a piece spoken by a character that you could conceivably play” – Michael Shamata, Artistic Director, The Belfry Theatre (Victoria)
Most general auditions will ask for 2 contrasting monologues. I’m struck every time with the question “What does that mean?” even when it’s me putting it on the call notice.
What we are looking for is two different performance qualities. In classical theatre it’s easier – Comedy vs. Tragedy, Prose vs. Verse. In modern theatre where the lines between the two blur, think along the lines of Character Role vs. Straight Role, Dramatic vs. Comic, Naturalism vs. Stylized, Still vs. Movement (can you walk and talk at the same time). Are they thematically different? Do they help demonstrate your range?
It’s always good to get a second opinion on whether the monologues actually showcase different skill sets or sides of yourself.
From the Season or Not from the Season:
I suggest choosing monologues where a character is similar to a character in the season rather than the character itself. Most AD’s and directors will have a strong idea of their lead characters in their head that you can’t possibly live up to. The best bet is to showcase those qualities in yourself and plant the idea rather than trying to fit into a box you can’t see. Also, everybody else will be doing them. You may pull off the audition fantastically but after the 10th time the monologue has been heard the Auditoners will be tuning out. When the auditions are called for the show itself they may then ask you to read for the character.
From the Internet and Film:
In general internet and film monologues don’t fly in theatre auditions. Most AD’s have an aversion to them so best leave them alone.
Theatre for Youth Audiences:
“Books are fine as long as the piece has some dramatic action on it. Again, I’m looking for acting ability. I would also consider looking at adult plays with young characters in them, as long as the speech has some meat on the bones.” – Pablo Felices-Luna, Artistic Director, Carousel Players (St.Catharines, ON)
The biggest complaint one hears from TYA practitioners is inappropriate monologues. Take a look at the age ranges the company performs for. If it’s 3-5 year olds, ya might not want to do that David Mamet or Neil Labute monologue you’ve been dying to try out. Fit the monologue to the company.
One of the great things about Theatre for Youth Audiences is a lot of it is based on literature. One can always pull out a favorite storybook from childhood and build a monologue. TYA also tends to use a lot of wonderful theatricality – if you juggle, do acrobatics, clown work, etc this is a place to showcase it.
For a teen-based issue-company like Greenthumb Theatre in Vancouver you want a different approach. Hit their webpage and see what kinds of characters are usually brought to the company’s stage then take a look at any adult material that includes characters in the right age range.
“Even though it may be a general audition the theatre will probably be looking to cast the season they’ve announced. If there’s something the actor thinks they’re appropriate for they should attempt to do everything possible to win the role by tailoring the choice of monologue to the role they think they’re right for.” - George Pothitos, Artistic Director, Neptune Theatre
Many companies will ask for a Canadian monologue, so it’s good to have one in the bag. Doing a Canadian monologue also shows an interest in the work that most Canadian companies are doing and therefore an interest in them and support of both the Canadian and Local Theatre Scene.
Canadian Monologues are not the easiest to find, especially if you are looking for new plays. Place to look are the local reference libraries, Solo Collective Archives, organizations like Playwrights Theatre Centre, Playwrights Montreal, Manitoba Theatre Centre, Alberta Theatre Projects, Playwrights Guild of Canada and of course Biz Books.
Check out the web pages of theatres doing new work and go discover the playwrights. There are a few good monologue books out there like She Said by Judith Thompson, and He Said by David Ferry. Also the Summerworks Festival is now publishing their productions.
Shakespeare and Classical:
You will need one speech in verse and one in prose. You also want to skip the “Purple speeches”(DPG). The Hamlets, Richard the Third and Lady Ann, Henry the Fifths, Rosalind, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth, Romeo and Juliets, etc. Basically, if it’s famous – avoid it. Firstly you can’t measure up to the Artistic Director’s version in their head and, like above, everybody is doing them. Give yourself the opportunity to stand out – read the lesser done plays and other playwrights of the time period such as Christopher Marlow, Thomas Middleton, John Ford and Lope De Vega (I just finished Joost Van Den Vondel’s Lucifer and Life is a Dream by Calderon de la Barca – both chock full of great monologues). There are some great speeches out there.
This does make life a little difficult for women. Unfortunately when you remove the famous women from Shakespeare you are left with very little unless, of course, you go outside the box. Spanish and French playwrights are a good source (as they actually wrote for female actors) such as Moliere, De Vega, etc. Greek and Roman texts will also do the job – they’ve got some great verse and the ancients also told a mean fart joke. There is also the opportunity to do a male speech that you have always wanted to try (see quote below).
“…it is refreshing to see actresses and actors choosing speeches from the less popular plays. I am always impressed that they have been inspired by or taken the time to sit down and read the lesser known plays and prepare a speech I don’t see often. It shows me that they have a sense of curiosity and risk taking. I also don’t mind if actresses choose to do a monologue written for a male, providing they have the passion for it. For me the key to a successful monologue is to have read the entire play, and to know what motivates the character, be it male or female.To know what the events are that lead up to the moment that they are compelled to speak the thoughts they are about to utter.” – Marianne Copithorne, Artistic Director, Freewill Shakespeare Festival
For the Modern Classical (Shaw, Tennessee Williams, etc) the same rules apply. Try looking outside of England and America (F. Garcia Lorca, Jean Anouilh, Nikolai Gogol, etc). If the company is doing an Irish play find an Irish monologue. Allow yourself to come in with something different that they may not have heard before.
Eye Contact and Targets:
Most Artistic Directors would prefer that you did not use them as a target or focal point. This is not always the rule, but is most often the case. It is always alright to ask if they would prefer to be used or not. The reason for this is they are gathering information and want to be able to break contact from you to do what they need to do with their note pad or laptop. Also not all AD’s or directors are actors and are comfortable being scene partners.
Place your targets just to the left and right of the auditioners shoulders. This will allow you to be open and connected with your audience member without invading their space.
There will always be a chair available for you. It is there for you. You don’t need permission.
Tell us what you are doing. If you tell both monologues then you can continue your pieces uninterrupted. Here is the information we need: Play, Character, Scene, Playwright
Between Monologues or Mind the Gap:
This is often a tricky moment for actors. You’ve finished your 1st monologue then what? You don’t need to wait for us – we in fact are waiting for you. Think of the two monologues as 2 separate parts of one show and this moment joins them. Give yourself a breath, find your given circumstances and your targets and go when ready.
In Case of Emergency or Stopping:
If you have to stop then stop. Roll back to the top – take your time and when you are ready, dive back in. Remember a lot of Artistic Directors have been in your place and know where you are coming from. There is no need to apologize or beat yourself up.
I find it very useful to think of an audition as a 4 minute solo production with two monologues on a four by four foot stage. Rarely are AD’s and directors interested in process at auditions. They are trying to glean from 5-10minutes if you can handle a full on production and what you may be like in the rehearsal hall. Anything you wouldn’t do on stage in a production (sip your tea, chug your water, jump and down releasing sound) – don’t do here. Process is for the rehearsal hall, this is about performance.
Get coaching. The difference between a monologue that has be run in the shower, mumbled on the subway or done to an empty room and a monologue that has been done out loud with an audience is enormous. If you don’t have a coach, get a friend or someone whose opinion you value to run it with you. Try the monologues as many different ways as you can individually then run them one after another with the between space. A third eye will also help fill in the gaps that you may be missing and give you a real person to connect with.
When coaching, I will actually run the entire audition from the hallway to the pieces to the interview.
“I will throw a “Spaniard in the works”, by asking them to repeat the piece but do it as…” – Erskine Smith, Artistic Director, Victoria Playhouse
When working your monologues, try them in many different ways from silly to serious. There is a strong possibility that a director may ask you to try something differently. This is done to see if the actor can take direction and quite often the direction will be nonsensicle, in order to see how willing the performer is to go with them. If you need time to look it over then ask for it. Be prepared to be flexible and try out new things.
Given Circumstances and Targets:
The common complaints from Artistic Directors tends to be basic acting. It is easy in the audition stress to leave out or not be secure in the simple things. In fact I did this a few weeks ago week
Read the play and know the scene the monologue is from in depth. We can tell if you haven’t and the possibility of you missing important points is enormous. Show us that you know what you are doing.
Who, what, when, where and why are just as important here as they are on stage. A monologue does not take place in a vacuum and we have to create the the monologues life before, during and after the text. Take the time to go back of the basics. Why am I saying these words? Where am I? etc. And then own them.
Who are you talking to?
This is a big one. Unfortunately most actors end up talking at a curtain or a wall. Every monologue is actually a dialogue wither it be with yourself, another character or the audience.. Who are you speaking to and why? Take the time to fully create the person or target you are interacting with and the tension between the two.
I’m repeating myself from the first blog here but most importantly, this is your opportunity. It is your chance to do a four minute play of material you want to do. Do it for you, enjoy the process and allow yourself to shine. Trust that the right gigs will come at the right time.
“Remember you are a business and you are the only one that will make the phone ring – so persevere, practice, act whenever you can, wherever you can. You will become better by just doing it more and more.”- Christopher Gaze, Artistic Director, Bard on the Beach
Special Thanks to the following AD’s and directors who took the time out of their busy schedules to lend their advice and support to this blog:
Philip Akin (Artistic Director, Obsidian Theatre Company), Marianne Copithorne, Artistic Director, Freewill Shakespeare Festival), Christopher Gaze (Artistic Director, Bard on the Beach), Dean Paul Gibson (Director), Pablo Felices-Luna (Artistic Director, Carousel Players), Robert Metcalfe (Artistic Director, Prairie Theatre Exchange), Mieko Ouchi (Co-Artistic Director, Concrete Theatre), George Pothitos (Artistic Director, Neptune Theatre), Erskine Smith (Artistic Director, Victoria Playhouse), Michael Shamata (Artistic Director, The Belfry), Del Surjik (Artistic Director, Persephone Theatre), John Wright (Artistic Director, Blackbird Theatre)
Originally published on
“Generally, I just really enjoy it when actors come in with a positive attitude and are excited to share their work with us. That makes it a pleasure to audition them and a good experience for us as well…if actors are relaxed and are able to share who they are with us, the chances of us using them is much better. “ Mieko Ouchi, Artistic Director, Concrete Theatre (Edmonton)
An audition is a job interview that happens to a have a 4 minute solo show on a 4 foot by 4 foot stage in the middle of it. It took me years to come to this realization, in fact I faintly remember somebody in theatre school saying this and being outraged by it, but after many many mistakes, experiencing both sides of the table for large and small companies and doing everything from invited auditions to New York cattle calls, it suddenly seems simple – We want to meet you in your best light. Easy to say but not necessarily easy to do.
So – how can we help you shine?
The more comfortable you are with all the little things around the performance portion the better your chance to enjoy the audition and then the interview process. For that reason I’m focusing on the interview aspect. This is something we often overlook in our panic to find the right monologue and be the best actor we can be (and god, how we realy realy want the job), however it is just as important and sometimes more so. I have yet to meet a director or Artistic Director who believes that the monologue is the best way to cast a show. Most of us behind the table have been in your position, and are well aware of the difficulties involved for the performer.
We try as hard as we can in theatre to make it seem as less job interviewy as possible, but the truth remains that that is indeed what it is. All things important to a regular job interview are just as important in an audition. Who is this person and can we work with this individual? This begins the minute you enter the room. We try not to judge but human beings are human beings.
As a new actor this is a chance to make a strong first impression or as someone who has been around for a bit it’s a chance to reconnect and put yourself out there in a fresh light.
- Information to know:
More you know about the company and their season the better. This will help not only in your monologue choice but also offer you something to talk about during the interview. Take the hour or two to google the company; be familiar with the company’s season and mandate (if that information isn’t readily available check out their previous season). Is there a play, playwright or author there that you really enjoy? What about the mandate excites you?
It’s not enough to simply want to pay the rent by practicing your craft – we all want that. Those of us behind the table are passionate about our work, we wouldn’t be doing it otherwise, and are looking for people who share in that passion.
Read the plays if you can; A lot of companies will have the scripts available at the local reference library. Get down there and read ‘em. Again same question – what excites you about them?
- Your Resume:
Give your resume a scan – look at the last few gigs. Think of some positive experienced you had on those projects. Many directors will use questions about previous shows in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere and get to know you. How did you like working with insert name or company? These will usually be pulled from the last few credits on the resume. If you are fresh out of school, think of a few positive things about the program to talk about.
- Special Skills:
if you have any special skills – singing, dancing or musical instruments, etc – be prepared to showcase them. Have something in the bag ready to go. There is a strong chance you will be asked to demonstrate even if it was not put on the posting. Artistic Directors and Directors are always on the lookout for extra skills.
I once watched a Theatre for Young Audience AD in Vancouver grin from ear to ear as an auditionee made her an animal balloon (after two days in the hall, it was a treat). Another auditionee in Montreal worked street dancing into his monologue and received cheers for his effort. They made a mark.
- Things to bring:
Always bring a couple extra headshot and resumes. Have them out of your bag and ready to be passed out. Make sure they are stapled (one in the top corner will do), paper clipped or double side taped. The amount of paper flowing over the table is sometimes overwhelming. Have pity on us and make it easy. We don’t want to loose your stuff in the maelstrom.
“Choose a monologue you really, really know and can inhabit with complete ease. Know what kind of play the company is likely to be doing and perhaps try to choose something that will interest them…you are not auditioning for a role, but for the chance to audition for a role.” – John Wright, Artistic Director, Blackbird Theatre
- What to wear?
Some people won’t care about this, however those that do will quite strongly. Clothing is our first experience of you. Better to take the time to for a positive first impression than a negative.
Dress nicely. Put a little effort in to it. Wear something comfortable that makes you feel good and is suitable for the pieces you are doing (there is nothing worse than getting flashed during a monologue. You may have been brilliant but that’s all we remember). Save the track pants and T shirts for rehearsal.
- Warm up
Take the time to stretch and do a vocal warm up before heading out. Just like going on stage, you are entering a stressful situation and want to be as relaxed, available and on your voice as possible.
- Show up!
As actors, we will find all kinds of reasons not to show up. I certainly did it early in my career. The thing is – it will be remembered. The theatre community is also small enough that is may be remembered for a long time. Time and effort has been put into who received audition slots, and the people preparing the auditions are giving you an opportunity – other people did not get a slot. A no show will also affect the entire days scheduling. If there is a real emergency or a valid reason not to be there, then call.
- Arrival and Signing in
Show up early and sign in. Make sure you give yourself enough time to deal with traffic, transit etc. If you come rushing into the audition in a panic – you are not going to be at your best during the performance. By showing up early you have time to put on your game face and find a positive place to be in before entering the room. Different people have different ways for this. I know an actor who plays a character at auditions – the character happens to be an awful lot like himself in a good mood. Some people meditate, some people work their stuff and others just hang out and talk. Find what is right for you and respect other people’s processes.
It’s alright to be nervous, most of us our on both sides of the table are, be ok with where you are at.
If you are asked to go during earlier slot and are not ready yet, it’s perfectly normal to ask to wait for your time.
When signing in, be polite to the staff. They maybe anyone from family members of the AD, Board Member’s volunteering or the company General Manager and, guaranteed, they will be having a beer with the AD afterwards. They are working hard to for the help make the auditions run smoothly and may have a lot on their plate.
There are a lot of people to be seen and despite all the best efforts on everybody’s side auditions often fall behind. Please be patient with us. We are doing the best we can. If you are booking time off work, it’s best to add an hour after your time slot. You don’t need the extra stress and hey, if the time ends being free, treat yourself to a cappuccino.
“The people you’re auditioning for want you to succeed. They are hoping that you’ll be great. They are on your side, and many of them have been through what you’re going through… After your audition, go for coffee and forget it. ” - Robert Metcalfe, Artistic Director of Prairie Theatre Exchange (Winnipeg)
So you’ve done your monologues. Your heart is pounding. Your brain is going “oh my god I hope they didn’t notice that or this or I hope they liked it and everything in you is crying in you to flee the room and somebody says “pull up a chair, tell a little about yourself.”
Take a breath.
Remember we are here for you. This is an opportunity for you to hang out with people in the same craft as you. It’s a chance for you to get to know them as well as them to know you. It actually can be quite fun.
- Questions to be ready for:
Tell us a little about yourself…
This question is heard a lot. This is not meant to be personal question, but a way into conversation. Think of something light that you enjoyed and are open to talking about (Have you been on a trip lately?) – if you can think of anything see the next question.
Are you doing anything at the moment?
If you are doing a show, then this is a great moment to share some positive things that are going on the production. If you’re not, what classes are you taking? Side projects? or plays that you are reading that excite you? What have you seen recently that excite you?
No matter where you are in life you are always doing something that supports your craft. A reply can start something like “I been taking the time to see a lot of plays lately and..” or “I’ve been concentrating on reading scripts…”.
Do you have any questions for us?
This is a chance for you to start a segment of the conversation. Truth be told, it rarely works as the actor usually just want to get the hell out of there. If you feel up to it, try and ask something about them that interests you artistically. This is about supporting them or showing an interest in their product. It is not about sucking up.
The Big Don’t!
I hate to say it but I’ve done it, people have done it in my hall and I’ve had it done about me. For whatever reason it’s done, be it passion, fear, vulnerability, or simply being opinionated and speaking your mind, avoid saying anything negative about somebody. It is a small community and things get misunderstood – word will get around. We want to you in your best light. Save the horror stories about the last show and the passionate discussions about theory and methods for the bar after rehearsal. This is not the place.
A smile, a handshake and go reward yourself.
Be confident, trust in yourself and enjoy the process.
As I was working on this blog I did my 3rd audition in 3 years. Wow! Did I ever bite! Everything went wrong performance wise. I blanked, my dyslexia kick up a storm on the reading portion and my nerves were having a field day. The interview however was fantastic. I reconnected with 2 directors who I had met previously who also share a passion for Shakespeare and a playwright I haven’t seen in years. I left with 2 cards in my pocket and had a wonderful time.
Originally published on
I recently had the unique opportunity to attend the General Auditions organized by the Quebec Drama Federation. The room was a combination of Montreal and Quebec’s Artistic Directors from both the Regonal Theatres (including Roy Surette (The Centaur Theatre), Bryna Wasserman (The Segal Center), Andrew Johnston (Hudson Village Theatre) and other local companies Emma Tibaldo (Playwright’s Workshop Montreal), Clare Schapiro (Imago Theatre)), a mix ranging from of Theatre for Young Audiences (Dean Fleming (Geordie Productions)) to the indie Fringe scene (Jeremy Hechtman (MainLine Theatre))and several freelance directors.
What made this event so distinctive for me was that I was both a Auditor in my role as Artist in Residence at the Centaur Theatre and an Auditioner as my recent experiences at the Shaw Festival’s Director’s Project had inspired me to hit the boards again. It had been over three years since I done an audition and although I have sat on Directors side of the table many times and often coached for Auditions, all the old questions, concerns and terrors returned. This was an opportunity to observe the AD’s at work as well as the actors and get up there myself. My goal over the next few blogs is share what I’ve learned through that process.
Part 1 will address General Auditions and what ithey are. Part 2 will be about Preparation and Part Three will be about the Monologues themselves. A tremendouse thank you to all the Artistic Directors, directors and actors who shared their insights for this blog.
What is a General Audition?
Canadian Actor’s Equity Association (CAEA)and the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres Producers (PACT) have agreed that PACT members will hold at least one General Audition a year in order to review available talent. These auditions will be attended by the Artistic Director or another senior representative of the theatre who works in a casting capacity. Each year, each professional company does just that. Companies doing over a show a season are required to do hold 2 days for CAEA Member and Apprentice auditions; they also will do 1 day of non equity auditions. You should never have to pay for an audition.
How do I get one?
Notices are posted on the CAEA Email for Equity calls. Non Equity Notices tend to be posted on through local Arts organizations such as The Alliance for Arts and Culture in Vancouver, QDF in Montreal or Toronto Alliance for the Performing Arts in Toronto.
Submit a headshot, resume and cover letter. The cover letter doesn’t have to be long. It can be a short paragraph or two on why you want to work for the organization. Make it about them and why you would be a good fit for them (Why are passionate about their material, season or mandate?). Some organization will accept email, while others will expect mailed packages.
Why Should I do It or To General or Not To General?
Yes! Do it! There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Remember that Artistic Directors and directors are human and as much as we may wish to be omnipotent, we’re not and in fact have very minimal brain space. Even if you and I have been friends for years and worked together on many shows, I just might not have thought of you for a part. Any opportunity to remind us of you, showcase yourself or demonstrate a side to you we may not have thought of should be taken advantage of. If you are new to the scene – get out there and make yourself known.
Generals are an opportunity for AD’s and Directors to be reminded of the current talent and introduced to new talent. Many companies will already have their leads cast for the season and may only be casting the smaller roles, however that is not always the case (one company I have worked for actually makes a point of casting roles from the generals). Think of the audition is a long term investment: you may not get a part now, but this opens the door for down the road.
That being said…be prepared and rock our socks off!
What happens if I don’t get a Slot or To Crash or Not to Crash?
Some people are to going to hate me for this but again – Yes! Do it! There is nothing to lose and everything to gain! Most companies will have a waiting list – get on it. Shows up early, early slots are unfortunately quite often missed and there may be a chance to slip in. Also you have to be twice as prepared. You may not have been called because the AD knows your work and is trying to see as many new people in a limited time or because they don’t feel you are right for their season or projects (this is never a reflection on your talent or skills, simply the mindset of the individuals doing the casting – do not take it personally – it isn’t). The people organizing the Auditions have been running around for weeks trying to sort everything out so be prepared to wait and go by their schedule, you may be there a while (I always bring a novel). They may turn you away – again this isn’t personal. If you get in, and most companies will try and get you in, show us the passion that made you take the risk to come down in the first place despite not being booked.
Behind the table:
The people behind the table are not the enemy. They want you to do well. They have been sitting there sometimes for days in uncomfortable chairs, drinking too much coffee and ignoring the fires that are going off at their offices. They are here for you and want you to do succeed. Depending on your call time they may have trouble showing it, but no one wants you to do badly. As shocking as it may seem, we are your friends and equals.
Most importantly, this is your opportunity. It is your chance to do a four minute play of material you want to do. Do it for yourself and allow yourself to shine.
“I never expect anyone to be brilliant in an audition. It is almost an impossibility. Was anyone ever brilliant while acting with a chair? What I do hope to find someone who seems capable and someone with whom I might want to spend four weeks in a rehearsal hall” Michael Shamata, Artistic Director of The Belfry Theatre, Victoria, BC