Top 5 Takeaways from “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff

There’s a reason why “Audition” by Michael Shurtleff is one of the most recommended acting books. It’s no-nonsense approach to auditioning is very clear, especially for emerging talent. I definitely recommend all actors to pick up a hard copy and refer back to it once in a while to keep your skills sharp and look at scripts from a fresh perspective! There are so many great takeaways from the book overall, but I figured I would share my Top 5 Takeaways below.

Ask yourself, “Where is the love?”

Even if you’re giving a scene that includes a yelling match or love that manifests in a way that isn’t the typical Romeo-and-Juliet type, there is always an element of love between characters. Make sure you’re reading between the lines. Just because your character is saying “Just leave me alone!”, doesn’t mean you need to say it as if you absolutely hate your scene partner. In real life, sometimes we say that when what we really need is companionship and a shoulder to cry on. Changing your attitude towards the other character can make a world of difference in your audition.

2. Ask yourself, “What are you fighting for?”

Every scene involves conflict. If it didn’t, it has no place in the storyline at all. When given a script, ask yourself what your character stands to lose and what they have to gain. Then, use your imagination to heighten the stakes and maximize the conflict in every scene. You’ll be amazed at how authentic and dramatic your performance will become!

3. When communicating with your scene partner, present your dialogue in a way that will make a difference in their relationship with you.

Whether or not what you say actually does make a difference will depend on the writer. But actors should always perform your scenes from “a point of innocence”. Even though you know how the scene ends, your character doesn’t. So, to get your scene partner to see things from your perspective, try different tactics and change your intent throughout the scene and on each run. Fighting for what you want can sometimes mean being gentle, then being assertive, and so on and so forth. Doing this also helps prevent your performance from being entirely one note, which is boring to watch.

4. Don’t be afraid of competition. Rather, enjoy it!

Even if you’re in a scene with a friend, and especially when you’re in a scene with a character of the same sex. Whether we realize it or not, we are always in competition with the people in our lives. Nobody goes into a contest thinking they’ll lose. Play to win.

5. Watch out for traps.

This is something I learned in my Film and TV course, too. Just because there are directions written out for you in your sides, doesn’t mean you have to present it that way. You can use them if they make sense to you, but for the most part, directions like “She said weakly” are just suggestions. Oh, and just because there are exclamation marks written in a script, doesn’t mean you must yell! There are other ways to show you are angry or heated. If you follow all the directions in your sides, you’ll end up having a performance similar to majority of actors reading for that same role. You’re a star – don’t blend in, stand out!

Again, there are so many takeaways from this book that can take your acting from 0 to 100. Serious actors need to read “Audition” – it’ll help you get ready for when your big break comes.

What acting books are you reading right now? Let me know if you have any suggestions and I’ll add them to my list!

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