Through 12 guideposts, Audition by Michael Shurtleff illustrates what tools the actor needs not only to find truth, but also how to communicate that to the audition panel. These guideposts are the building blocks for successfully and truthfully performing!
First ask, what is my relationship to the other character(s)? Once you have your basic facts, (i.e. he is my husband), you can move on to the real emotional questions. Do I resent them? Do I desire them? What do I desire from them? Avoid negative choices here. Find the love where you can! Few relationships are only hateful. Find the love, find the desire!
“What am I FIGHTING for?” Make big, positive choices! What does your character want? Even the most dull of characters have dreams, and you must express them in positive terms. Drama is about conflict, who is getting in your character’s way? What do you have to do to change that? Fight for what your character believes they deserve!
3: The Moment Before
Every scene begins in the middle. Find out what happened to your character before the scene, both literally and emotionally, and start their journey then. The character does not only exist when visible to the audience.
Humor doesn’t just mean comedy, it’s a tool we all use in our lives to lighten our burdens! Acting without humor, even in dramas, isn’t truthful; it’s lifeless and one-sided.
Once you have decided what your character is fighting for, you must then find the opposite of that to be true. No humans are consistent, even love contains hate. Underneath the desire to control is the desire to not have to anymore. Use the opposite to your advantage.
Actors shouldn’t be the only ones analyzing, your characters are, too! Don’t just assume that they accept everything placed in front of them. Ask, “What is new?” What would my character notice as strange, and how would they respond?
Emotions are worth nothing if they don’t come across. You must also have a need to have them felt by the other character! Your character must make sure the message is clear and that the other character has received it. Communication also requires that you be open to what message the other character is sending. Don’t get too caught up in your own head!
7 1/2: Competition
In every scene, the character holds one of two views.
1. I am right and you are wrong.
2. You should change from what you are to what I want you to be.
Every scene contains competition. Fight to win!
No one wants to see your Everyday Life played out on stage. Find the unusual! Raise the stakes! Don’t be afraid of confrontation, embrace the tension that makes drama exciting!
Events are changes that occur in your character’s life. The more events you find in a scene, the more interesting it will be. Find the confrontations, the climaxes, the changes. How does it change your character’s tactics? Mark them and change accordingly!
Where are you, and what is your emotional connection to where you are? Are you on your own turf where you are comfortable, or your partner’s?
11: Game/Role Playing
This does not mean insincerity. We take on roles in our everyday life! We may take on the role of son/daughter when speaking to our parents, but we wouldn’t take that on when talking to our spouse. Why would we? That wouldn’t accomplish anything. So ask yourself, “What role am I taking on to get what I want?”
These 11 guideposts supply the actor with answers, but to create interest, the character must still retain wonderment about what is going on. After all, in life, do we fully understand ourselves? Do we fully understand others?
Although this is entitled Audition, it obviously can be applied to any performance. Though these guideposts are laid out simply, they are a completely unique perspective on finding truth, and actually having it come across to the audience. Which, you know, is pretty important!