Elements of Auditioning: Where

When it comes to auditioning, an actor has to communicate a lot of things in an extremely brief amount of time. The key then becomes finding ways to slow that time down and make sure that every second of the audition is the most potent it can be.

An element of given circumstances (i.e. the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where & Why) that actors leave out of their auditions more often than not is where. Sometimes, in an actor's desire to do a good job, where gets left by the wayside as just a tiny detail that doesn't matter as much as perhaps the words or the emotions of the material.

I saw this quote one day on a delivery truck for a furniture store and it instantly captured my attention:

"The details are not the details. They make the design." - Charles Eames

The same is true for acting: a powerful acting result (the design) is created through exacting attention to the given circumstances (the details). So, by that estimation, where is an extremely valuable commodity in the audition room.

The given circumstance where is dual-faceted. While actors largely succeed at honoring where the character they are working on is geographically located on the planet (the first type of where), actors sometimes gloss over the more immediate where of "Where specifically am I (the character) right now?" (the second type of where). In what specific outdoor area or indoor room does this scene or monologue take place? Am I in a location that I know well or is this the first time that I've been here? Do I want to be in this place? What am I doing here other than talking?

Those are just a couple preliminary where questions to begin an exploration, but then you want to get even more specific. For example, I had a student working on a piece that was falling flat. By examining the given circumstances, we determined that the scene was set outdoors at a lake that the character dearly loved.

I invited the actor to personalize the lake so that he could deepen his experience of this outdoor place by marrying the truth of the given circumstances to the truth of his own life. The actor took the class on a guided tour around the classroom of a lake area that he loved. As he placed the visual elements around the room, he engaged his five senses by speaking in detail about color of the water, the hue of the sky, the sound of the wind through the trees and the echo of the chattering birds.

When my student did the piece again – this time living fully at his personal lake – the piece came vividly alive with deeper meaning and a richness that helped him to go even further in achieving his ultimate objective for the piece. Honestly, it was magical. Working with this adjustment also filled him with ease and it was overall much more fun for him to do the piece.

With a little focused attention, creating and working from a compelling where is something that can be easily executed in an audition room. Your best ally in creating a powerful where is your imagination. You can do just as my student did in my example and visualize the outdoor area or indoor room in which your scene or monologue takes place. Our bodies respond differently to different places; consider how we physically approach being in a church versus being at the beach.

And while you may be limited on props per se, there are endless creative ways to use the outer objects that you do have access to – a chair, a bag, a water bottle, a pen or a pencil, a jacket or a sweater. You don't want to use these objects to merely indicate where you are. Use them instead to foster an internal experience of your where. If, for example, your where is a place that is cold, put your sweater on while enjoying the sensory experience of warming yourself up. Do the work for yourself first; I promise it will come through loud and clear for those whom you are auditioning.

Combining your visual imagination (like the work my student did) with your outer objects will pack the biggest punch, and you can successfully incorporate this work into your audition whether it is for stage or camera, a monologue or a scene/cold reading. The options are limitless and implementing where into your work will ultimately help you to take more control of those very few, very precious audition minutes.

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