How to Handle a Bad Reader in Your Audition

Picture this: it is your big audition with the deliciously emotional scene that every actor dreams of, and you have been preparing for weeks. You read through the sides a hundred times, practicing with your actor friend exactly how you are going to perform. You have deciphered every single moment in the sides and pre-planned all of your actions and reactions. Then it is audition day and you feel confident and prepared. You walk in with your head held high and are more than ready to show the casting director what you’ve got. You slate and recite your first line, and eagerly await the reader’s emotive response. And then… nothing. The reader recites his line in a monotonous voice, barely audible and flat as ever. There is no feeling, no power behind his delivery. This is supposed to be an impassioned and fiery scene, chock full of tears and yelling, and all you get from the reader is a bland, lackluster mess. Uh oh…What to do?

You have all been there, or if not yet, you will be.  The readers in your auditions are typically not actors, often times a casting assistant, an intern, someone hired the day before or even a friend of someone in the office helping out. They usually have not had sufficient time to read through the sides. They may not have even gotten a single read through in before auditions begin. It can throw you off your game when they mess up or forget to read a line. And forget about them having a scene properly prepared- they will not have the emotions and actions worked out the way you would. In fact, many readers are told ahead of time that “this is not their audition; do not oversell it and outperform the actor whose audition it is.” Therefore, you are not going to get an award-winning performance from your reader, especially if he has to read with fifty other actors that day using the same sides.

Even if your reader gives a decent read, sometimes there are other challenging factors. For example, the gender of the reader doesn’t always match the gender of the character. I know in my experience as an intern reading in auditions, more likely than not I was reading the part of a big, strong man–a cowboy, or maybe a superhero. I saw many actors (understandably) thrown by this: it’s difficult to picture a small college-aged girl as a burly, fighting man. But then again, it is your job to do just that. It is called acting. I once saw a young man come in for his audition who was so unfocused because I was reading the role of a man that he stopped his audition twice, came over to me and put his hands on my shoulders and commented on how it was impossible for him to picture me as that role. Not only was that inappropriate, it also made him look like an amateur. Needless to say, he did not get the part. No matter what these readers throw at you, at the end of the day it is your JOB to give a good performance.

Here’s how: Keep your head in the game and pretend the reader is who the sides say he is. Do not allow yourself to get flustered and forget your lines or decide to dial down your performance to match that of the reader. Keep true to your hard work and preparations and show the casting director the professional actor that you are. Maintain focus–as difficult as it is, you have to block all out anything that may throw you and keep your mind in character. You may feel as if you will look foolish if you react strongly to a monotonous line, or that if your reader is terrible, it will make your whole audition look terrible and you will not book the part. The reality is that casting directors and producers are not listening to the reader; they are looking for what you do despite the reader. If you are a professional and a good actor, you can see past the reading and perform well under pressure and in difficult situations. Hold up your end of the acting despite what the other actors or readers do and you will come out on top.

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lauren began her casting career as an intern for Sarah Finn Casting on films such as Captain America, Cowboys & Aliens, TRON: Legacy, and Faster. After her six month internship, she returned for her final semester of college, where she went on to become a casting director in Wilmington, NC on various independent films. She also spent over a year as a casting assistant with an independent casting director and acted in multiple films. She is currently working with Marcia Ross & Erin Toner Casting and also works as an actor and in production.

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