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Cold Reading During an Audition

How to Cold Read a Script

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Man speaking to actor sitting on stage
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What is Cold Reading?

Imagine that you are at an audition. The casting director hands you a script that you have never read before. Now, she expects you to look at the lines for about a minute and then somehow perform the scene brilliantly.

That’s cold reading. Brrr. It does sound rather chilling doesn’t it? But follow these steps and you’ll eventually warm up to the idea.

Research the Material:

Actors should expect to cold read in a number of situations:

  • High school drama try-outs

  • Community theater auditions

  • Film / commercial casting calls

If you are auditioning for a movie or television show, you might not be able to read the script in advance. But don’t let that stop you from researching the part. Use the internet, trade magazines like Variety and Hollywood Reporter, and any other sources to find out about the storyline and the character types that the directors might be looking for.

For more information about acting in front of the camera, visit the Film / TV Career Guidesite.

If you are auditioning for a play, you should be able to obtain a copy of the manuscript. (Try your local library or the internet if the play is a classic). If you can read the play in advance, do so. Get to know the characters inside and out. Practice reading the lines. If you’re truly ambitious, memorize a few key scenes or monologues.

If you can do this, then you’ll be a step above other actors who have no idea what the play is about.

Don’t Block Your Face:

This is simple but incredibly important. Because the script will be in your hands during your audition, you might be tempted to hold the words right in front of your face.

Don’t! The director wants to see your facial expressions. If you hide behind the script, you’ll never get the part!

Relax:

This is good advice for auditions in general. If your nerves get the better of you, the director might see that script shaking in your hand. If you look and sound uncomfortable or tense, then get ready to hear those dreaded words, “Thank you – next!”

Does that step just stress you out even more? Then you should take some time to learn how to relax.

Practice Reading Aloud:

This is essential to mastering cold reading. Whenever you get the chance, read out loud. And don’t just read the words in a monotone voice, read the words with emotion. Read the words “in character.”

Find opportunities to read to others:

  • Read storybooks to children.

  • Read magazine articles to friends.

  • Read poetry to your loved ones.

  • Read this article out loud to your computer!

The more you read the more natural your voice will sound. Remember, the challenge of cold reading is to sound as though you are saying those written words spontaneously. Practice makes perfect.

Move While You Read:

During a cold read audition, most actors stand still as they read from the script. However, if it seems appropriate for your character to move, I suggest you move.

Therefore, as you practice reading aloud, make certain you incorporate natural movements. Nothing extreme -- nothing too distracting. Go with what feels right, or what the stage directions indicate. Remember, body language is a major part of the audition, not just your voice.

Listen and React:

Many “cold readers” mistakenly look down at their script while their fellow actors are delivering their lines. Instead, you should be in character, listening and reacting to their words. Much of your performance relies on how you respond to the other characters.

Be Creative and Receptive to New Ideas:

There are limitless ways to read a scene or monologue. Show your creativity by developing unique characters. The director may ask you to read the part in a different way. Embrace the director’s suggestions and show him what a team-player you can be.

Your creativity, your cold reading skills, and your professionalism will all help you nail that audition. Break a leg!

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