What are some tips for auditioning for a Shakespeare play?

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Answered by: Katie, An Expert in the Acting Basics Category
Well, you've finally mustered up the courage to audition for a play. You've gargled your salt water, done your voice exercises and thrown up your nerves. But there is oh so much more you need to do to prepare! Here are some tips for auditioning for a Shakespeare play:

First and foremost, READ THE PLAY. This may sound like an obvious one, but it's remarkable how many actors stroll into auditions without knowing even a basic summary of the play and its characters. If you don't have access to the play, read the summary on Sparknotes.com or some other study guide website. But nothing, and I mean nothing, replaces actually reading the play. And if we're dealing with Shakespeare, there's really no excuse not to read the play; they're all online. Keep in mind that you're auditioning to embody Hamlet for the length of the rehearsal and performance process, don't you want to show the director how much you know? It's important to know as much as possible about the play and especially the character you're auditioning for because you never know when a director is going to ask you to go off-book. This usually happens during callbacks. I can say from personal experience that ability to improvise as a character will get you the role every time.

When choosing a monologue for your audition, there are two basic rules. One, unless asked to do otherwise, don't choose a monologue from the play you're auditioning for. It's tacky and shows that you were too lazy to read another play. But make sure that your monologue is from one of Shakespeare's works. Two, choose a monologue from a relatively obscure Shakespeare play. As good as they are, "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "Hamlet", "Othello", "Romeo and Juliet", and "The Twelfth Night" are the most overdone plays in Shakespeare's canon. You're better off doing something from "Cymbeline", "Troilus and Cressida", "Coriolanus", or any of the histories besides "Richard III." And make sure that the tone of your monologue matches the tone of the play you're auditioning for! Again, READ THE PLAY, not just the scene you're auditioning with. You want to portray this character with the utmost accuracy.

One of the most valuable tips for auditioning I can give is dress appropriately. Again, this seems like an obvious one, but I've seen others make mistakes and I've even made a few myself. Remember that you are submitting yourself to a panel of judges who have about 3 minutes to decide if they like you or not. Not to sound like an after-school special, but it's important to be yourself.

If you're a girl who doesn't wear much makeup, don't glam yourself up for an audition. If you get cast, it means they liked that specific version of you, and you're going to be stuck wearing pounds of mascara for every rehearsal. The same idea goes for straightening/curling your hair. As for clothes, you're going to dress up if you want to be taken seriously. I'm not talking about ball gowns and tuxedos, but it's necessary that you look presentable.

For girls, wear a nice dress that you'd wear to your grandparents' garden party. That means NO cleavage. It's also good to avoid anything sleeveless. How often do you see women in sleeveless dresses in Shakespeare? The same rule goes for guys. No jeans! Khakis or black dress pants and a button-down shirt are usually a safe bet. Wear a tie if you like, but it's not required. As for shoes, men should wear dress shoes, while women should wear something nice with a closed toe. It's your decision whether you want to wear heels or flats, but make sure you're comfortable and can easily walk around.

Finally, be polite and engaging. Always enter the audition room with a smile and a greeting. The auditors may be rushed for time, but everyone appreciates pleasantries. Make sure to say your full name, what play your monologue is from, and which character you'll be playing. Take a beat before you start reading and a beat after you finish. And remember to say thank you afterward!

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