Delivering unscripted dialogue naturally and effectively in an audition relies on the ability to make several good choices. Those choices allow you to create a character with definition and make a lasting impression on the casting director. Failure to make specific choices can make weaken or destroy your audition, which is exactly what I witnessed in Austin today.
Many of the actors at today’s audition live in Austin. But imagine the ones, like me and my colleague Vanessa, who drove in from out of town. The actors traveling to Austin from Houston or Dallas devoted 7 or 8 hours to a five-minute audition. If you’re going to invest that kind of time, you want to be as prepared as possible. Understanding the power of making good choices during your improv is a big part of that preparation.
The audition involved two women attending a concert and ordering snacks from a food vendor. I played the vendor. Using an iPad, I took their order, tallied the cost, received payment from a credit card belonging to one of them, and had that woman pretend to sign on the iPad. We did the audition twice, starting with them facing camera on the first take and I switched placed for the second take.
Each take lasted no longer than 90 seconds and much of it involved taking the order. Here’s what I noticed right away. The actresses approached me quickly and barely allowed me the time to utter a simple greeting. They moved to enthusiastically ordering within seconds, but did so without giving definition to their items.
My improvisation experience, brief stints in the food service industry, and frequent trips to restaurants gave depth to my responses. I imagined myself (or someone else) really having to fill this order. I wanted to know if the pizza should be cheese, pepperoni or sausage. I asked if they preferred strawberry, chocolate, or Rocky Road ice cream. I offered a standard variety of milkshake flavors, too.
As a beginning actor, going into that audition room without dialogue can feel intimidating. You may feel at the mercy of the casting director and feel anxiety over what possible could be asked of you. It’s sometimes open-ended and you won’t know until you walk through the door. But the trick is thinking in specific details. Rather than spending your time wondering what will happen in the audition room, use that time to give your scene color and shape.
A good weekly improvisation class is helpful way to get comfortable with developing character and scene details quickly. Even one-time workshops focused on exercises instead of lecture can help you develop skills to give you an advantage during the improv auditions. Making this area of your acting development a top priority could become the game changer for your career in 2014.