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Actors: How to Choose A Scene For An Audition

Choose a scene
By Dufflyn Lammers
By Dufflyn Lammers

These days Casting Directors often ask actors to bring in their own material to at least one night of their workshops or showcases. And, if you’re lucky enough to get a meeting with an agent who wants to see some work, you’ll have to be ready with material.  My clients at Act Now used to ask me where to find material and how to choose a scene. You want to be seen in the best light possible, right? You want to be very well-prepared and read something you’re actually right for…but how do you know what material will suit you?

When an actor needs to choose a prepared scene, here is what I recommend:

LET YOUR LOGLINE BE YOUR GUIDE:

When I work with my clients, we come up with the top “types” you can play and a “logline,” this should help you know the type of character you want to portray.

The logline for an actor is similar to the logline for a movie. So, if I said Jerry Maguire meets 27 Dresses, you’d know the movie I was talking about was a romantic comedy with a plucky blonde heroine, right? As an actor, mine would be; Young Mary Tyler Moore with the strength of Sigourney Weaver.

You can trade out different actors depending on the part, lean more towards those known for film if you’re pitching for film, or towards comedy if you’re pitching for a comedy. So if I’m pitching for a comedy it would change to Young Mary Tyler Moore meets Parker Posey. 

Look up material performed by these actors. Not anything too recent or too recognizable. For example, I know that Sigourney Weaver played the lead in Death and The Maiden on Broadway. But not everybody knows that. So that’s a great choice for me to show my dramatic side.

EXERCISE:

You can also do an exercise with your theatre group or with any group of actors called “Cast Me.”

Each actor takes a turn sitting in front of the group, facing them as if an audience. The actor whose turn it is sits without expression, just looking forward, not acting, not doing, just being. The rest of the group writes down five “types” they could see this actor playing. Such as: Military/Police, Sitcom Mom, Prostitute, Femme Fatale, Lovable Loser, Smartest Guy In The Room, Outlaw, etc. Then after 5-10 minutes everyone hands the person whose turn it is back their “types.” Each actor takes a turn. When looking over your “types” note recurring themes. If everyone said Outlaw, then that’s a good indication this is a good part for you. If only one person said it, maybe not. Do this exercise as many times as you can with different groups.

FIND GOOD MATERIAL:

These sites provide scene material for FREE:

Script-o-rama

Simply Scripts

IMSDb

For Monologues if you ever need one, I use these sites:

Why Sanity

Daily Actor

READ THIS ARTICLE:

I’ve never seen better advice than in this interview from Backstage West.

WHAT ABOUT CO-STARS?

In the United States Television Casting world, small supporting roles are referred to as “Co-stars.” This is how billing and pay are determined. Sometimes an actor can negotiate for higher billing with lower pay, ie: Guest Star billing with Co-Star pay. In Europe and in Film these are simply referred to as Supporting roles. A supporting role can be anything from one line to the second lead in a film. So that really varies. If you need to display a few different types in a showcase or workshop, and you want to use smaller, Co-Star or Supporting roles, these are tough to find. Here are my suggestions:

Record and watch shows similar to the one that the Casting Director you are meeting casts, jot down the lines, as well as the name of the show and episode, type it up, and then prepare it. I know this sounds like a lot of work but this is market research and you should be watching the supporting actors, if you want to be one of them! I know Miss Garcia (in the BSW article) suggests writing your own material, but honestly, I think for MOST actors there is strong material out there from professional writers, published, and tried and true. EXCEPT when it comes to these smaller parts. This is the one area where you may consider writing your own. That said, by all means show it to someone before you present it.

Selecting material that showcases the full range of your talents can be a timely process. So, do your research, plan ahead and go in there and show them what you got!

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