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Cold Readings Vs. Prepared Monologues

By April 12, 2011

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Auditions are rarely the same. Casting directors are looking for all sorts of talents, acting styles, and "looks." Sometimes, the audition merely involves having a conversation with the actor. I have been to a few casting calls in which they simply wanted to see what an actor looked like in person. (Those were usually followed up with a brief nod and a "thanks for coming.")

Most calls involve some level of acting. During certain types of auditions (especially for live theater auditions), actors will be expected to have a prepared monologue (sometimes of their own choosing). For example, in the several productions of Shakespeare plays that I have participated in, I have always been instructed to select a classic monologue. Days before, I memorize the heck out of it, and when it's time to audition, I am given the entire stage to work my magic (or crash and burn).

As daunting as that might sound, most actors prefer arriving with a prepared monologue rather than dealing with the dreaded "cold reading" audition. Cold reading simply means reading the lines of the play (usually for the very first time) and doing one's best to display a character that the director will fall in love with.

Which one do you prefer? Cold reading or the prepared monologue? Or are they both intimidating? If so, check out my audition tips:


April 14, 2011 at 2:24 pm
(1) Angela Mitchell says:

Great piece. It’s an interesting debate because, from my own experiences in performance, the two skills are really separate. Some performers are superb cold readers, but they may not evolve as richly or as far as others who are less sure of themselves “on the spot.”

From a directing perspective on the character angle, I don’t want people coming in with a set view of the character, so for cold readings, I really like to try to pay attention to how well they listen, to how adaptive they are as we progress, and to little glimmers of how they might progress in the creation of the show.

April 18, 2011 at 5:18 pm
(2) Eric Brandt says:

There’s a third path as well that Wade didn’t touched on.

Increasingly, I find that when I’m on the casting side of the table, rather than the auditioning side, I like to spend a lot of time having the prospective actors doing improv work. I work exclusively in community theater and many of the people auditioning don’t bring a ton of experience in with them. By introducing a series of improvs, I can see how far a person loosens up, how well they can take direction, how much they can “become” rather than “act”, and it keeps the playing field level since no one knows what to expect next.

From there, I can go to a very few short readings to get an idea of voice, but the heavy lifting is already done by then.

Of course, that means I have to have a pretty clear idea of what I’m looking for, but in the CT realm, it’s probably more realistic to expect the director to be prepared for auditions than to hope the auditionees will be.

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