15 tips for actors

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with many of New York’s most prominent agents and casting directors. Recently, in a small National Theatre Conference session at the Players Club in Gramercy Park (Edwin Booth’s former home), I was able to visit with talent agent Philip Adelman, casting director Harriet Bass, casting director Rich Cole and casting director Mark Simon as they shared their advice with producers, professors, directors and actors. Their key points included:

1. Remember that auditioning/casting/hiring is not a science – it is an art.

2. Not every actor can do every role – know what you can and can’t do and what you want to do!

3. Most university actors coming to New York could benefit from more screen time - especially to assist with auditions for film, television and commercials, but also for times when theatre audition tapes are necessary.

4. Jobs are won or lost in the audition! Audition classes must be taught by working professionals as the rules change every year!

5. For actors, unless you are an international star, you will be auditioning for the rest of your life!

6. Audition fears must be conquered and considered a ‘positive way to spend time’. Auditions should be the best part of your day – someone sits and watches you act!

7. Directors want to see you ‘live in the role’. You have to come in with your script memorized, ready to show as much of a final performance as possible.

8. If, in a call-sheet breakdown or casting notice, it says ‘scripts available’ and you don’t ask for one (especially of a new play), you are dead.

9. The reality is that electronic auditions and web casts are here – but no one likes it. Still, ‘I have cast many actors from tapes,’ notes one casting director.

10. You owe it to yourself to enter the business with the best haircut, body size and ‘physical best’ of your life – unless you want to limit yourself. Actors need to be physically fit.

11. We don’t tell people ‘you are not going to make it.’ It’s not my job to take away someone’s dream. There’s a lot of talent and good training out there and it depends on what each person brings to the table in terms of talent, experience, curiosity and imagination.

12. Bring discoveries into the audition room!

13. One casting director noted, ‘University or professional school showcases have made life easier for agents but the hook is usually that I know someone in the cast – and the rest of the cast benefits.’ One casting director reported that they were invited to more than 100 showcases annually – but only went to 15. ‘I’m not a snob,’ he explained, ‘but I have other work to do.’

14. The concept of a well-rounded actor has more to do with actors who know themselves and what they want out of their careers.

15. The best actors are those who do their homework, let you know that they want to be a part of your project, research the director, the play, other productions, and know the play well. Winging it does not work.

From Working in American Theatre, Methuen Drama (Bloomsbury)