About this series:
These entries are taken from my article “Don’t Call Us — We’ll Call You.” It is a tongue-in-cheek survey of actors’ silly mistakes that should never have been made. Your comments are welcome, but PLEASE don’t comment “that’s dumb” or “everybody knows that” because I have personally seen these mistakes cost actors (sometimes even professional actors) roles.
YOUR AUDITION PIECE WAS NOT APPROPRIATE. If you are only 16-years old, why did you use a monologue written for a 45-year old? There are lots of appropriate audition pieces out there, you just have to take the time to find them. Using an inappropriate piece tells me that you didn’t think this audition was important enough to prepare for, or that you’re just not a very conscientious actor.
I’ve seen this a lot in my work with children’s theatre. Kids can’t wait to grow up, to be considered an adult, a grown-up. Boys fantasize about defeating Ninja assassins, driving cars, and going on dates with pretty girls. Girls fantasize… boy, being the Dad of two daughters, let’s just say that girls fantasize about everything!
Combine that with the social shift that took place around the 80s-90s where language that was once considered “rough” or “adult” has become mainstream. Plays and musicals now contain language and situations that border on PG-17 to be sure. At the risk of coming off as a fuddy-duddy, just take a look at today’s TV fare marketed to “Tweens” and Teens: drugs, sex, violence, and other adult situations are depicted on channels toting “family viewing.” High Schools regularly present “Rent” and “Grease.” (Arghgh! More on THAT phenomenon later) Kids think: what better way to show that s/he is a grown-up than to portray a scene or monologue from a piece written in a grown-up language or setting?
Now, I can understand this if the play they’re auditioning for has that language, but I’ve attended auditions for “Oklahoma!” where a 14 year-old brought in a piece that contained “damn” and “sh–”. Then all the kids huddled to find out where the actor got that piece so they can use it themselves….
First of all: audition with a piece that reflects the MPAA rating of the show you’re auditioning for. If you’re auditioning for Cinderella, make sure that 5 year-olds are comfortable with whatever you bring in. If you’re auditioning for the male lead in “Equus” make sure you convince them that you’re comfortable reaching those emotions and performing with limited clothing.
There is so much material out there for monologues– scripts, novels, blogs, historical journals, etc. There’s no reason NOT to have plenty of available pieces in all styles. I used to scour public libraries for obscure plays that contained material for monologues. I kept a notebook full of ‘em. If I needed a dramatic monologue from 1900– I was set. If I needed an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical piece– I was ready.
Do your homework. That tells as much about you and your work ethic than almost anything else. Remember, they’re looking for actors they can trust to learn their lines, be on time, and work with a team. If you come in unprepared– that says a lot!