Green Shirt Studio

What a Director Really Thinks During Auditions

Director at audition

If you’re just starting out at auditioning for plays, or even if you’ve been at it for a while, you may wonder what exactly is going through the mind of a director while he or she is watching auditions. As someone who has watched quite a few and who is also an actor, let me invite you into the mind of a director at an audition.

  1. We Don’t Always Know What We’re Looking For
    Sometimes, actually often times, we don’t know what we are “looking for.” Auditions are usually early on in the process, and we may not have made any decisions about type or the “look” of the character. It’s one of those things where you may not know what you want, but you know it when you see it. That is why it’s of utmost importance that you, as the actor, step into the room being your most authentic self.
  1. We Want You to Be Yourself
    We want you to be a person, not a robot—or, as I sometimes call it, an “act-bot.” Walk into the room being the best version of your authentic self that day, and you’ll be fine. You don’t have to be perfect. Listen to us, and your reader (if you have one), and connect with us on a human level. If you have over-rehearsed your material to the point where you aren’t able to respond to something that happens in the room, we will notice, and the impression you give will be false, or leave something lacking. Most often, what is lacking in an audition is humanity, because nerves turn us actors into, as I heard one director refer to it as, “weird aliens.”
  1. We Don’t Expect You to Be Perfect
    It’s okay to mess up! Some of the most memorable auditions—memorable in a charming, not a strange way—that stick out to me were ones in which the actor got flustered during a reading or forgot his or her lines to her monologue. You may feel embarrassed, but we just saw a very human moment up there. If this happens, please do not beat yourself up over it (especially not while in the room). It’s going to be ok!
  1. We Recognize When You’re Speaking in Code
    We notice when you are speaking to us “in code.” I’ll give two examples of what I mean. In a general audition, if you put together two audition monologues in an audition package that shows me that you can play a certain character in a play in our season, I clock that, and know what part you are gunning for. Another example was that I was bringing in actors for callbacks to read for a part that was a worn-hard, barkeep character in the Southern United States who just happened to be in love with a young man 20 years her junior. One of my friends, an incredible actress, came in, and dressed in a plaid shirt and jeans but also wore flats that had a touch of femininity to them, and I could tell that this actress was saying to me, through her choice of outfit, that she understood the duality inherent in the character. Amazing that a little thing like that can speak on so many levels! But it also showed me that the actress took the time to read the play, and the thoughtfulness and care that she showed in putting together her audition outfit was not lost on me.
  1. We Think About If We’d Like to Work with You
    Many of our decisions to call you back or not are made the instant you walk into the room. It just boils down to plain old chemistry. If I get a good vibe from you when you walk in, if I like you and your personality and think I’d like to work with you, I will probably call you back, unless you completely pull a 180 during your audition. I’m also likely to forgive a not-so-great audition and call you back anyway, just because I like being in the room with you and would like to give you another shot at it. For me, as much as it has to do with the quality of the acting, I want to be in the room with great human beings. If we’ve got a room full of awesome people during the rehearsal process, there’s no limit to what we can accomplish together.

I hope this helps you! Don’t worry, if you are still at the “weird alien” phase of auditioning. You might have to go through that and ride it out until you get to a place where you are more comfortable and at ease. Then you will open up and eventually be your more authentic self. We have to practice to get better!

Some quick tips: When gearing up for an audition, don’t only rehearse your monologues, but also practice walking into the room and saying “hi.” Practice how you say your name and how you introduce your monologues. Practice ending the audition and saying “thank you.” Practice all of this over and over again until you feel confident, and then let it all go and let yourself be in the moment on the day of. Break a leg!