Gotta Be Off-Book?

How much script preparation is expected for an audition? I mean, I was handed 24 pages of sides. I’m happy that my potential role has so much, but am I really expected to memorize all of this for an audition in two days?

Great question! First off, no one expects you to memorize 24 pages of sides in two days! Wow! I agree, it’s great to have so much material to work with, but you must know that no director, no casting director, no auditor of any kind is going to expect full memorization. What they will expect is that you’ve taken time to get to know your character; that you’ve fully-developed some choices based on your interpretation of the material.

Certainly some auditors like to see actors off-book for auditions, but for a preread — and especially one with that much material — I would expect that they know, going in, that full memorization is a lot to hope for! Besides, they want to see your best work. It’s much more likely that you’ll do your best work with the sides in hand, being familiar enough with the lines that you don’t keep your head buried in the script, but having the ability to check the lines while working with the reader.

I’d say it’s far more likely that you’ll be asked to come in with a scene or two memorized for callbacks, and at that point, you’ll have gotten some feedback from your work at the preread, you’ll have had a little more time with the material, and — if you’ve had a chance to ask questions at the audition — you’ll have a good idea of the tone of the piece and the director’s preference of choices. Many actors choose to work with their acting coaches or peers when working on material for callbacks, and my only caution there is to be careful that you do not make a choice that is directly counter to the work you did at the preread. Remember — that’s what got you to the callback. No need to undo what good work you’ve already done. Just get even more comfortable with the material (and if that means being off-book for callbacks, so be it) and go in and nail it.

Break a leg! Let us know how it goes for you.

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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