5 exercises to succeed in your drama school audition
Picking a monologue whilst sitting on the train to the audition will not get you in. You are competing with some of your generations best artists for a spot in that exclusive club, so you should prepare accordingly - as an actor would. This involves asking a lot of questions regarding who you are, why you’re the way you are, why the scene is happening etc.
While properly writing and formatting your resume ahead of your drama school audition can make your application stand out, it won't be enough. There are some exercises to help you succeed in your drama school audition, that you can use to help find the character and this will help you during and after the performance. The performance you give should be truthful. That’s the key word that you’re looking to achieve, can you come into an unknown space with the pressure of the panel, and be truthful to the character you’ve created?
"As a disclaimer, these are simply suggestions of widely acknowledged exercises that should be considered as a basis for practice. These exercises will not increase students’ chances of being accepted into Acting in English at Cours Florent. In order to improve, students should practice a wide range of exercises and those mentioned in this article are to be used as a starting point. Mastering these specific exercises does not guarantee that students will pass the audition process."
1. Analysis of Scene
This is a lot of work that needs to be done in order for you to understand the complexities of life. No decisions are made out-of-hand, you always want something or are influenced by what has gone before. You can do this in your own life as well.
Why did you have cornflakes this morning?
Because your mum always says, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, worries about you if you don’t eat, you wake up very late in the day so can’t make anything more complex and… you don’t mind cornflakes so much. Everyone wins.
So, for your scene, ask yourself why the story has progressed to that point so far? What we might need to know from the past? What the future holds, in terms of anticipation?
Go on to explore the character’s development and whether anything has changed up until that point (it might change during the scene, which is fun).
Every scene also has an arc:
- Setup phase: Highlighting what you need to know about the scene.
- What happens in the scene: This should garner all the characters attention.
- What decisions are made: Due to what happens in the scene.
- Resolution: How does it finish?
All of this is filling in why the scene exists. It creates a rounder, more-truthful performance if you commit this to memory, because the character has subconsciously.
2. The intentions exercise
Find someone you trust to give you honest feedback. This is a good resource to have across your whole life, and when you’re practising this art, it’s a highly coveted thing.
Go through your speech line-by-line, as you are performing it vocally. It must be as though you’ve just walked into the audition room for this to be effective.
Have your honest person stop you every time they don’t believe what you’re saying.
You will repeat the line until they do.
This does a couple of things; firstly, it reinforces the idea’s behind the lines, what their intention is and the desire they’re trying to fulfil. Secondly, the abrupt changes of pace to the story will help you learn the lines and allow you to explore a change of pace during the piece. A lot of auditionees learn their text with a set-way of performing it, which falls down in an audition after the panel asks you to perform in a slightly different manner.
3. Classical Speeches
Spend time deciphering the text to it’s utmost. This isn’t something that you can spend 10 minutes on and expect to be perfect. These characters are fluent in this older English and if you have a general-rough idea of what’s being said, you might as well be stood up there with a script.
The dots indicate a long passage of time because it’s hard and should be time consuming. After you feel you have a good grasp of the text, the next step is rewriting the text from memory into your own words. Familiarising yourself with the intentions from a modern language perspective is a useful way of unlocking a scene. It’s easy to imagine prancing around a castle, but this isn’t truthful to you yet. The language is the key into emotional responses so, knowing what’s being said helps a whole lot.
For your contemporary speech, understanding what’s being said is also very important. The sub-text of a scene is what underlies the main speech.
An easy way to think of a similar expression is when somebody’s being passive-aggressive. They’re saying “thank you,” they’re not thanking you though; they’re expressing an underlying feeling of resent for something they think has been unjustly delivered.
It’s the way of delivering a line and the thought processes that influence that.
5. Inner and Outer Characteristics
- Inner Characteristic = How you truly are; Lost, Docile, Intelligent, Restless, Superior etc.
- Outer Characteristic = What is visible to the audience/other people (Based on the Inner Characteristics); Easily-riled, Flexible, Self-Conscious, Indirect-Movement, Dominating etc.
There is always a character choice influencing why you are acting the way you’re acting. You can match up the order of Inner to Outer Characteristics on the above example.
A character who feels lost in life; he doesn’t know which way to turn at a hugely important moment for him, he feels an immense pressure that this decision could change his entire life and he has to make the right choice in a few minutes. Now, if a play opens and that character was just on-stage thinking, the audience wouldn’t have any context/know anything about his life. Suddenly, a very friendly, talkative character walks onstage and starts to distract him with inane chatter, he becomes increasingly more frustrated and shouts at him with horrific verbal abuse. The chatty character leaves in tears. Blackout.
The audience can’t see everything that you do in terms of history and character choices.
You’re the artist – It’s your job to choose the most appropriate.
This is all a very intense way of looking at a scene, and one that you’re expected to do in order to produce the best performance you can. An actor who isn’t as naturally talented as others but works harder and more intricately will always surmount to greater things.