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Saturday, October 16, 2021

“I got the part!”

Whether it’s for television, movies or the stage, the first step to making it big is getting through the grueling task of auditioning. To many the mere thought of having to stand in front of a group of people who not-so-subtly judge your every move is enough to shatter dreams of stardom.

Luckily, Davis student theater groups and faculty have tips and warnings for those about to go through these trials.

“The first 20 seconds can really make it or break it,” said sophomore linguistics and French double major Mitchell Vanlandingham. Vanlandingham is currently directing Spring Awakening with Studio 301. “This doesn’t mean that the rest of it can be thrown away, but first impressions are actually extremely important.”

Remember that you are being looked at from the second that you walk in. Make sure to always have a headshot and an updated resume. Coming in with a good attitude and being professional as you are walking on the stage and introducing yourself tells directors and casting crews a lot about the type of person you are.

“One things that you should never do when you walk into a room is to apologize for yourself,” said Bella Merlin, professor of acting and acting program chair. “Also don’t apologize for not knowing about the production.”

Directors don’t want to feel the need to nurture an actor they don’t know, so apologizing for shortcomings will only deter them from making a decision in the actor’s favor.

Upon hearing about an audition, a performer should first research the director, theater company and role. It will not only increase the sense of relaxation, it will also make the situation more familiar.

“Be polite. Don’t ask too many questions, and don’t try too hard to impress,” said Alison Stevenson, publicity designer for Studio 301 and senior film studies major. “No corny things like bringing a director a fruit basket or anything like that.”

Experienced actors know how to combat stress effectively. By learning to calm yourself down, you stand to gain a great deal.

“You will get really nervous almost every time,” said junior theater and music double major Jenny Adler, president of UC Davis Dead Arts Society. “But once the adrenalin starts rushing, you have to channel that into being more outgoing.”

Other actors may have calming rituals that they perform the day of the audition. They may do a physical and vocal warm up, or even arrive hours before the actual audition to see if the script is available.

“I prefer to not talk to anyone before an audition,” Merlin said. “That way you get to keep the calm space you created for yourself.”

Choosing what to perform can be another tricky and delicate task.

First, an actor or actress needs to pick something appropriate for the audition. Depending on the situation they may either perform a monologue or a song or, if directions state, they might need to display both acting and singing abilities.

“Pick something you know you can do well, that best fits your acting style,” Stevenson said. “If you’re auditioning for a modern play, try to pick a monologue that is a similar style. Beware of performing a monologue from the play you are auditioning for. That’s always a sticky situation.”

The piece chosen not only needs to showcase the actor’s talent, but also show the dramatic personae that they are a good fit with the rest of the cast and that they have a distinct acting persona.

“Monologues from Othello are my go-to,” said Gillian Heitman, junior dramatic arts major and vice president of Dead Arts Society. “But Desdemona’s monologues are limited. I end up just cutting and pasting her lines until they become personal.”

Always keep things fresh. You may find that the monologue that scored you so many points last year no longer fits.

“You have to remember that there is no right or wrong way to audition,” Merlin said. “And rejection isn’t ever personal.”

When a director sees over 50 people a night an actor’s main objective is to be memorable. Sometimes that just comes down to being able to handle whatever the director may throw at you.

“I’ve had to perform a monologue and was then asked to perform it again as if I were under water,” Stevenson said, “then again as if I was a tree.”

Directors may also double check that everything in your acting portfolio is true. So make sure that you are ready to scarf juggle, or sing classical opera or even perform an obscure song from an old musical.

“Always expect the unexpected,” Merlin said. “Never say you don’t know how to do something. Always give it a shot.”

Always keep in mind that the people sitting in front of you – the director, the casting agent, the producer and the writer – want you to be the one.

“If you go in thinking that you’re not going to be cast, it’s unlikely that you will succeed.” Heitman said. “[The director is] looking for you and they do want you.”

ANASTASIA ZHURAVLEVA can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.

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