Auditioning for The Mikado
March 25, 2004 5:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm doing an audition for a part in an amateur production of The Mikado. I have no stage experience at all. Any tips?

Although I think I have a decent singing voice, I have no acting experience at all (apart from when I was 10, but that doesn't count). I have two main worries: a) being able to memorise the songs and dialogue and b) not having a clue how to portray a character, i.e. how to act. Where do I start? I have one day to prepare.
posted by cbrody to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
I'm a director, and I often hold auditions:

In answer to your question about memorization, anyone (unless they are brain damaged) can memorize. The problem is, it's not fun, so we try to cut corners. If you get to the point where you kinda have it down, but you still have to expend a little energy recalling what comes next, you're not ready. The next lyric or line should just pop into your head when you need it. Depending on how bad your memorization skills are, it may take you hours of work to get to this place. I have a TERRIBLE memory. I must have to spend about an hour on each sentence in order to burn it into my permanent memory. But I CAN do it. It's awful. But the rewards are great.

One of the reasons you have to go over it and over it and over it is because (a) just when you think you've learned it, it's only in temporary memory, and (b) you may know it fine when you're at home, but at an audition, you're bound to be nervous, which taxes your brain. So you need to over-learn it.

In answer to your second question, about acting. Good acting is all about intention. Try to figure out what your character wants. Is he trying to "get the girl," to "make an honest buck," to "avenge his father's death," to "pay the rent"? Once you figure this out, see if you can tie everything in the scene in with this intention. In other words, each line should be some tactic to get what he wants. Each line is an attempt to overcome some obstacle in the way of the character's goal.

Obstacles could be internal or external. If your goal/intention is "to get the girl," you might have the external obstacle of "she's dating the head of the football team." You might have the internal obstacle of "I'm shy."

How are you lines an attempt to overcome these obstacles?

Once you figure this out, simply TRY to overcome your obstacles (to achieve your goal) while you play the scene.

Bad acting is about qualities: i.e. my character is "mean" so I'll talk in a bad-guy voice. Or my character is "noble" so I'll stand up tall and speak loudly and clearly.

I a Gilbert and Sullivan play, there's a place for caricature, but if I were the director, I'd be looking for truthfulness (i.e. honest attempts to overcome obstacles) first. It's easy to slap on a funny voice once the psychological groundwork is done.

For more info, read "An Actor Prepares," by Stanislovsky.

Break a leg!
posted by grumblebee at 5:44 AM on March 25, 2004

Well, IANAD, but about 10 years ago did appear in 'Larkrise to Candleford' at The Oxford Playhouse. Forgive me if you've heard this before...

In one scene, my mate & I had to appear naked - we started the scene with a towel round our waists and our backs to the audience, and when surprised by an entrance from upstage, I dropped the towel & leapt into the tin bath. I am absolutely certain I could not have done this, had I been wearing my usual glasses; they were banned, as they were deemed anachronistic by the director. Not being able to see the audience was an amazing liberation.

So, I have to say, if you wear glasses but can sing & act without them - it may help!
posted by dash_slot- at 9:16 AM on March 25, 2004

How many productions of the Mikado have you seen? The script and score alone are never enough. Grab every single recording and video you can find!

Are you really familiar with the story? The good opera directors & conductors I've known expect their *orchestra* to always know what's going on on-stage, so for the actors/singers, it's an even higher bar. grumblebee's stress on obstacles is a good way to think about a story in terms of characters, rather than scenes.

Regarding memorization - the trick I use to see if I *really* know a part is singing/reciting the part while I type something else entirely (usually carrying on a conversation with a friend in AIM).
posted by Sangre Azul at 10:29 AM on March 25, 2004

One day? Forget all the Stanislavsky and research nonsense for now. Go in and belt out your song as best you can and do what feels "right." If you're that inexperienced, trying anything fancier than just trying to be yourself is probably going to be a bad idea.

And don't worry about memorizing things later. Anyone can do it.
posted by Skot at 11:19 AM on March 25, 2004

Never let them see you sweat.
posted by sharksandwich at 12:07 PM on March 25, 2004

« Older How do I translate "print is dead" into French?   |   Analyzing word usage - algorithms, techniques, and... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.