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Actor Audition Etiquette: 3 Mistakes to Avoid

This post was first published on March 28, 2016 as part of The Green Room on www.newmusicaltheatre.com. 

We talk a ton these days about audience etiquette, but what we don’t discuss is actor etiquette. Not at shows, of course. Hopefully, knowing what goes into the making of a show keeps any actor from being a disrespectful audience member. But what about actor etiquette at auditions? It’s the height of audition season, and it seems like every actor in New York City is attending every single audition. That’s a lot of people to fit into a holding room! Here are a few things to think about at your next audition so that you’re not the story everyone is telling the next day.

1. Keep It Together.

Yes, keeping it together mentally is its own challenge. But also just keep all of your belongings together. It’s winter, which means everyone is wearing heavy coats and twelve layers of clothing, and everyone has winter boots to change out of. If the room is empty, it’s fine to put your coat and bag on one chair and sit in the chair next to it. But as people begin to arrive, put your bag under the chair and sit with your stuff. It’s the same rules that apply to public transportation; you don’t put your bag on an empty seat on the subway when there are people who want to sit down. Also, never put your shoes on a chair. Eventually someone is going to have to sit there – they don’t want to end up with sidewalk dirt on their skirt!

2. Keep It Quiet.

The holding room is NOT a warm-up room. This is one of the biggest offenses I see throughout audition season and I have to say, no one is a bigger offender than a soprano. Whether or not their song calls for the highest note in their repertoire, I inevitably find myself sitting next to lip-trilling sopranos squeaking out the highest note they can muster. Why? That’s not even a warm-up! I never hear altos groaning out their lowest notes, although I am partial to a good quiet hum as my audition time nears. But if a soprano starts to trill, it sets off a chain reaction throughout the room and suddenly it’s as if every green finch and linnet bird in existence is surrounding me.

Warming up should be done on your own time. If that means waking up early so you can rent a practice room before your audition, then wake up earlier. Most studios will rent you a space for 30 minutes for a reasonable price ($5-$10) so that you can warm up and focus before your audition. If you’re pressed for time, warm up while you stand on the subway platform. As trains come in and out of the station, they’re so loud that no one will hear your trills or that one practice money note you need to get out before you walk into the audition.

Also remember that while you’re in the holding room, the most important thing to listen for is the monitor’s voice. When the monitor calls your name, respond audibly! They have a lot of names to list, so it really helps if they don’t have to look around to see you raising your hand. A simple and loud, “Here!” is all you need. We’re actors; we all know how to project our voices. If you hear the monitor speaking, whether or not what they’re saying applies to you, be quiet. It’s fine to talk to friends or the people next to you, but the information the monitor is relaying is very important to someone in the room and eventually it might apply to you.

3. Be Kind.

You don’t have to talk to other people in the holding room. If you prefer to sit and listen to music or read a book or go over your material, that is completely your prerogative. But if you do speak to others in the holding room, be kind. You are all in a very vulnerable position as you wait for your audition to come up. Novice or seasoned audition veteran, we all get a little bit anxious before we go into the room. Don’t make backhanded compliments (“Oh, you’re singing that?”). Don’t pry into information…it’s a little taboo to even ask what people are singing, so don’t be surprised if they give a non-answer. Make polite small talk if you want to, but remember that you never know who knows someone else. The holding room may not be the best place to bash an actor you recently saw. There’s a difference in intelligent discussion and a difference of opinions versus saying insulting things to someone who may be your most hated actor’s best friend.

Overall, the best way to prepare for an audition in the holding room is to prepare for the audition. Focus on the work ahead of you and on how you’re going to bring your best into the audition room.