MANDELA'S 9 BASIC POINTS OF PASSING AN AUDITION AND BEING AN ACTOR
The development of Kenyan stage and set art has been phenomenal in recent days, so is the emergence of promising talents. However, most people who believe that they have something to offer to the acting industry in both theatre and TV have been disappointed severally for not making it past the auditions. I have been to the Kenya National Theatre on many occasions for a passive check on what actually goes on during these auditions. The many faces, young and old, streaming to the notice board and enthusiastically making calls here and there constantly draw my attention. Most of them are evidently desperate. At first, I could never tell who they were calling; it could have been anyone, a friend, a director, a producer, whomever.
On one occasion, a friend called while I was on my usual forays at this national shrine; he was organizing an audition for his forthcoming play and he wanted me on the panel, as a judge. The day came and there I was; I must admit I do not have the sharpest sense of dressing but I was presentable. I could tell because some of the potential actors were asking me for a pen to fill the audition forms, but I denied them. Reason, you do not come to fill forms without a pen! How do you expect to take notes? That was pitfall one and it happens severally. From my experience that day as a judge, I thought it wise to share some tidbits that may make or break your career as an actor.
How do you perceive acting?
Most people will tell you that acting is a hobby. When asked this question, never take it lightly; it gives your impression of the whole arts and film industry. If you are here for a hobby, you are not worth someone’s investment. Think of how you want to turn your hobby into a part-time or fulltime career; appreciate every form of art as worth billions of shillings and someone will give you an ear. Acting is a profession...it is a business; treat it like one and you are halfway there.
In some auditions, you might already have a clue of the character you will be auditioning for. If the director has given out such info, bring out that character by the way you dress. It is a trap. If it is a CEO somewhere in an office setting, how do you expect me to give a glimpse when you turn out in tattered jeans? Or how does a houseboy audition in a suit while mopping the floor? In simple words, dress the part. Don’t take it overboard though by carrying props. E.g just because you came to audition for a cop doesn’t mean you also carry a gun along but if you can get a police uniform, that’s a plus but not necessary. There are things we don’t expect you to have.
Otherwise, general auditions call for presentable dress codes; first impressions go a long way in judging you. My DESIGNER AT “GIKOSH” DOES A VERY GOOD JOB, too. This is because I can’t afford to shop at Mr. Price to look presentable.
Who are you?
Introduction seems simple even in office job interviews, until you stutter! This question doesn’t want your history and tribe and experiences, no. The panel wants to know your name, where you stay, what you do and two or three hobbies…unless the director wants specifics. The rest will come afterwards. If possible, drop the funny remarks and jokes. Be professional in that room. Keep it simple and straight to the point.
Impromptu character choice
As the dictum goes, choices always have consequences. You should be familiar with the role you choose to audition for. Creativity is king here. Although impromptu characters are used on many occasions to select actors, it does not mean you will play that role. It is just an examination you have to pass to fit the role that has been scripted. We are looking at how good your acting skills are.
This is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Come to audition while drunk, or high on something, even if your role is for someone tipsy and you will be sent packing. Keep time. Stop arguments with the panel about how you feel the role should be structured. No. You do not set your own exams. Your views can be listened to after you have passed the test.
Be a listener
You have to be a good listener if you want to make it anywhere. In an audition, you do exactly as you have been told and it will be an add advantage to you. The director will give you a situation for you to act, or ask you to enact anything from your mind to measure your creativity and execution. Seek clarification but do not ask too many questions; it will make you look slow in understanding and grasping concepts. At times the question “do you have any questions?” doesn’t mean you must have one.
You first want to impress a panel…and then the whole world afterwards. Create your own world and forget about how many eyes are fixed on you. Whether you are auditioning for the stage or for TV, lack of confidence can kill you. Meeting new people, putting up acting situations with them and trying camera sets with your friends will greatly improve your level of assuredness.
When auditioning, make sure that your voice is loud and strong. This makes it easier for the director and the audience to comprehend you; what you say and how you say it is very important in developing the plot of any act.
Are you an actor?
Many people believe that they can act despite tens of rejections at the auditions. Just because your closest friend and family members think they know you better and assure you that you can act does not mean the world will agree with them. Stop the ‘I am a born actor’ nonsense; you need to practice more and more. Test a critic and see what they say about your abilities and being passionate about something doesn’t mean you can do it...However, let that passion fuel you into wanting to do it better and better each time so that you may grow.
If you cannot master these basics, you will continue watching the same faces grace the TV for eons to come which is something you shouldn’t complain about. Learn the craft the way they did.
BY BRIAN MANDELA