How to Handle Props in an Audition

5024843If you’ve traipsed through any number of educational acting adventures, be it school, workshops, master classes, apprenticeships or, more likely, some combination of all these and more, you’ve probably run into different schools of thought when it comes to audition technique. But one question I’ve been surprised to run into lately centers on the use of props.

Essentially, the confusion boils down to auditioning. If a side includes action that requires a prop, how does one handle that? Ignore it? Mime it? Use something in the room as a substitute?

According to certain views, ignoring the action signals the auditors that you are not reading the sides thoroughly, not committing, or are unable to take direction.

But on the other hand miming an invisible prop inevitably feels awkward, and looks worse.

Despair not, my comrades. There is a better way. And it can be broken into bullet points!

  1. Determine the point of the prop to the scene. The prop was written in for a reason. Likely it is linked to an action that is supposed to reveal something about the character. So the first thing to do is figure out what that revelation is. Does the prop provide busy work behind which a character can hide her feelings? Is it a symbolic expression of a relationship? Once you know why the prop is there you can plot your course of action.
  2. Is the actual prop procurable? If the prop is small and won’t distract (a cell phone, a cigarette), consider bringing your own. It could lend polish and flow to the scene. If we’re talking about something unwieldy, or something that you’d have to awkwardly carry through the scene, scrap that plan. No one expects you to bring it anyway.
  3. Don’t mime. I was going to title this point more subtly, but that’s really how I feel. Once you start miming, that’s all the scene is about—how cleanly you do it, how odd it looks on film, etc. And that is not what you want them to remember. Instead, try finding a physical way to express the intention of the action (which you discovered in step one). If, for example, your character is absorbed in eating pie as a tactic to avoid another character’s questions, find something else to focus on. Fidget with your clothes. Use your body language to stonewall them. It’s OK to get a little creative.
  4. Take your time in the room. If there is something you need that isn’t provided, take time to remedy the situation. These people aren’t monsters; it’s OK to ask for things (within reason). The most common example is a chair. If you feel strongly that the scene would play better seated, and there are chairs available in the room, politely and confidently ask if you can use one, and set it up. Be efficient, but don’t rush. Remember you have a right to be there.
  5. Remember they want to see At the end of the day, no prop in the world is going to save a crummy audition, just as the lack of one won’t hold back a great audition. Remember that you are what the auditors want to see. Your energy, what you bring to the character. Props are written in to enhance and flesh out a story, so treat them as such. If they can be used in a way that will show you off better, go for it. If not, you’re really all you need in there.

Happy auditioning!

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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

One Comment

  1. Posted August 18, 2016 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    Your fourth tip is a really good thing to keep in mind for this type of thing. I think that being open and polite about what you need also shows that you are workable to a director. It is definitely in an actor’s best interest to ensure that they have the basic props that they need, I will keep this in mind for my next audition. Thank you for such a helpful article!

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