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How to Audition for
the Hawaii Shakespeare Festival

A few people have asked for audition tips. You can find audition dates/times and procedureal information on our audition page, which also has some general advice. It's just one line. Ready? Here it is:

Make sure you understand who you are, what youre saying and why you’re saying it. Make a strong choice. Have fun.

But, assuming you're here because you'd appreciate a little more detail, let's break that down.

Understand what you’re saying

The first level is to be sure you understand the literal meaning of the words you’re speaking.

Suppose you’re reading an excerpt of one of Helena’s speeches from A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

1. How happy some o’er other some can be!
2. Through Athens I am thought as fair as she
3. But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so.
4. He will not know what all but he do know.

If you’re not familiar with Shakespeare, you may never have seen o’er, a contraction of over. If you don’t know what a word means, ask. No shame.

The second level is to understand the thoughts expressed through the individual words. In this case it helps to have some context. The director may provide that context with the monologue. In this case, for instance, something like:

Helena, in love with Demetrius, is frustrated that he only has eyes for her friend Hermia though she is equally pretty.

If you can’t glean the context from the excerpt and you’re not familiar with the play, ask. Your goal should be to understand the text well enough to paraphrase it. By paraphrase I mean a low-level, sentence-by-sentence expression in your own words, not a high-level summary that condenses the speech to a fraction of its length. For example:

1. Some people are so much happier than other people.
2. Everyone in Athens thinks I’m as pretty as she is
3. But so what? Demetrius doesn’t think so.
4. He refuses to acknowledge what’s obvious to everyone else.

Again, if you’re struggling with this, ask for help. We’ll happily provide it. We’re looking for actors, not PhDs, and we definitely want to encourage beginners. The more of this you can do on your own, the better, but even the best actors may stumble on an unusual construction. The last line of this excerpt—He will not know what all but he do know—in particular is challenging to parse. Ask!

Understand Who You Are

That’s easy, right? You’re Helena. It says so, right at the top of the page. But who is Helena? For the purposes of the audition you can focus on your relationship with any other characters on stage with you or who you speak about. In this case it’s sufficient to know that Helena is friend of Hermia, that she is in love with Demetrius, and that Demetrius is in love with Hermia.

If you’re familiar with the play, you may also know that this isn’t a completely one-sided affection. Demetrius initiated the relationship with Helena, then broke it off to pursue Hermia. You may use that to inform your reading. However, that sort of depth isn’t necessary for the initial audition. We do not expect you to have read the play in advance.

Also, know who you’re speaking to.

Understand Why You’re Saying It

This is where things start to get tricky for beginners (and I assume you’re a beginner if you’re reading this). Assume that everything you say, you say for a reason. There’s some effect you’re trying to achieve by speaking. Let’s take a simpler example to start, a conversation between domestic partners:

A: Did you remember to buy milk?
B: It’s your cat.

That’s pretty short, but there’s a lot of information to decode, and even more ways to interpret it. Let’s start with the basics. Why does person A speak? Presumably to know if person B bought milk (though we’ll explore other possibilities in a moment). As for person B, let me ask you this first—did they buy the milk or not?

Probably not, right? So why don’t they just say no? Because their intention is not to simply answer the question factually. They have another agenda. That’s what I mean by their reason for speaking. What effect is B trying to achieve by answering this way? Think about it for a second.

Ultimately it will depend on how A says what they say, but let’s assume a pretty straightforward reading for now. Then some possibilities for B’s intention might be: to deny responsibility, to shift the blame, to let himself off the hook. Those are all very similar, yet subtly different.

Sometimes the playwright will help you by making the intention clearer in the text. For example:

A: Did you remember to buy milk at least?
B: It’s your goddamn cat.

That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? But you could read the first two lines with the exact same intention as the second two lines.

Make a Strong Choice

When you read for us at an audition the first thing we’re going to do when you finish is give you an adjustment and ask you to read again. Doesn’t matter if you read well or poorly, if you nailed the character or were 180 degrees off. It may be that there was something lacking in your initial read that we think we can coax out with a bit of coaching. Or maybe we just loved your take and want to see what else you can do

We want to see if you can read the text in more than one way. We want to see if you can play a different intention. We want to see if you can take direction.

On rare occasions we may give you a second adjustment and have you read a third time, but odds are you’re going to read twice and be done. So why waste your first read on a bland interpretation? Give us something exciting. If we don’t like it, we’ll ask you to do something else (and if we do like it, we’ll still ask you to do something else).

Suppose you’re reading person A in our first little two-line scene about the milk. There’s no context for this scene other than the two lines you’ve been given. A strong choice will give us more information about the relationship between the characters. A weak choice will not (or, worse, interfere with our understanding).

Here’s a weak choice: you really want to know if they remembered to buy milk.

Here’s a weaker choice: you’re kind of thirsty, and some milk sounds good.

Here’s an even weaker choice: you are a T-1000, sent from the future to kill John Connor, but currently posing as person B’s domestic partner to gain information on Connor’s whereabouts.

Here’s a strong choice: you’ve had it with your partner, and if they don’t remember to buy the milk this time, you’re through.

Here’s a stronger choice: you know your partner doesn’t love your cat, but they love you. Right? And they know your cat is sick, so they’ll definitely remember to bring milk for your sick cat. Right? Because they love you?

Here’s another strong choice: your partner left two hours ago to buy milk at the corner store which is literally five minutes away, and now they walk in empty-handed with their shirt untucked and a goofy grin on their face. Jerk.

Here are some completely neutral choices: the scene takes place on a farm, in the 1800s, in the American South, on a spaceship, etc.

Have fun

Why is this last? This should be first. Have fun! This is community theatre. None of us are getting paid. Have fun. Enjoy the audition. Hopefully you’ll learn something too.

Bonus Advice

Fill out your audition form clearly and neatly. If we can’t read your contact info, we can’t contact you (this happens—don’t let it happen to you).

Be clear about your conflicts. If we want to work with you, we’ll find a way to work around your conflicts if possible. If we cast you and then you tell us you might not be available for tech week we’ll be very unhappy.

Be flexible. You’re auditioning for all three plays (unless you choose otherwise), and there are a lot of great roles in each.

Don’t be a jerk. We’re all going to spend a lot of time together over the summer. If you’re unpleasant to be around, you won’t be cast, no matter how talented you are.