Audition Secrets from Gary Spatz and Gayla Goehl of The Playground – PREPARATION

Many beginning actors think that being memorized means they are prepared. Not true. There are many components needed to be truly prepared. Some of them that we teach at The Playground include: Physical Preparation, Script Analysis, Making Specific Choices and Practice. These all come into play. They are often learned slowly, over time, so get involved with acting classes and study scripts every day.

Physical Preparation

Warming Up, both physically and vocally is an important part of getting prepared and being prepared for every audition. Get ready by doing stretches or exercises, say some tongue twisters. Actors need to have their muscles ready to work before walking into the casting room. You may have been waiting over an hour, but when it is your turn, additional quick warm-ups that focus your mind and prepare your body will help you focus in the room.

At The Playground at the beginning of class we always have a warm-up. We do a series of physical warm-ups as well as vocal warm-ups. We teach all sorts of fun yet difficult tongue twisters. Here are some of the favorites that young actors always want to show that they practiced and learned.

  • Toy Boat, Toy Boat, Toy Boat
  • Specific Pacific, Specific Pacific, Specific Pacific
  • Unique New York, You Know You Need Unique New York.


Script Analysis

When preparing for every audition an actor should do at least a basic script analysis, also known as “breaking down the script” or “making choices” prior to starting to practice the scene.

During classes at The Playground we introduce young actors to this concept by teaching them how to ask themselves some of the following questions:

Genre: What type of scene is it? Comedy, Drama, HorrorAtmosphere: Where is my character specifically during the scene?
Relationship: What other characters is my character talking to?
Intention: What is my character’s intention during the scene?
Reason: Why is my character trying to do this?
Conflict: What conflicts exist for my character during the scene?

Making Specific Choices:

After answering the basic Script Analysis questions, it is important that each actor then make his or her own more personal and specific choices to these questions for every moment in a scene.

Once the actor knows what their character is going after (Intention), why is it important to them (reason) and what are the obstacle (conflict) that are standing in their way, then the actor must add more personal and specific choices. It is important to understand that intention, reason and conflict can change during the execution of a scene. How does the character feel about each person? Why is the character here right now? How is the character feeling right now? Scenes often start one way and end another. So ask yourself more questions: What does the character want to try to change? Why do they want to change it? How can they change it?

All these questions should be thought about and answered long before getting to the audition. And they should be answered even before memorizing the lines. During your rehearsals you might even find that you want to make more specific choices that make the scene stronger. Go for it.

These questions are all part of the preparation, and preparation is the first key to feeling confident in an audition. That’s what’s really being talked about right now, feeling really confident so that when walking into an audition (of any kind) an actor can feel prepared to do their best work. If preparation hasn’t been done and choices haven’t been made then there is no point in going to an audition!

Sometimes, young actors don’t understand these concepts immediately when they read a script. The script often may not contain any obvious facts or directions pointing them toward these important answers. Learning script analysis is a skill. Young actors need to be taught this skill. How to read the clues that are in each script, to be able to answer these questions and understand the drama that is propelling the scene.

“When an actor can’t find answers in the “sides,” they have to make logical assumptions about what was going on before the scene. They “make a choice“. Any choice is better than no choice. Actors need to study scripts and practice making these choices.

The choices actors make will manifest in their behavior when auditioning. The casting director is looking for believable, honest, authentic behavior, which only comes from the choices that an actor makes. To be believable in an audition, actors always need to be engaged in a specific choice. They read through the script like Sherlock Holmes and look for all the emotional and physical clues that the script gives about their character. They read the character synopsis and look for clues. Good actors make logical assumptions about what is going on and commit to them, even if they turn out to be wrong!

For example, if the scene starts with the character walking into a class to hear the teacher say “Sit down, you’re late”. The reason that they are late may not be in the “sides” so good actors make up a reason. No matter what choice that actor makes it will add value to the scene.” – Gary Spatz


Now that you have done your script analysis and made your specific choices it’s time to practice or as actors like to call it, rehearse. You need to have believable, honest and authentic behavior in the audition. So you must practice having believable, honest and authentic behavior. Practice as much as time allows you to.

What about memorizing the lines?

“Once you know what is going on in the script, then of course you should memorize. That is an absolute “given” for an audition. You must always be as memorized as you can possibly be. You should be acting with the casting director/reader not reading for them. Memorization allows you to have more time to make an emotional connection to the script and with the casting director/reader. Of course if someone is memorized and making no emotional connection with either the script or the casting director/reader isn’t going to book the part either.” Gary Spatz

For some actors it is easy to memorize. For others it is a struggle. If you are one of those who struggles it helps to practice memorization every day. Anything. Math problems, lines from books, sequences of playing cards.

During the audition you will be reading with the Casting Director or a reader. Make sure to at least the first few lines are memorized so well that you don’t need to look at your audition sides. The same goes with the ending moments of the scene. Try to have the last few lines memorized so well you don’t need to look back at the script. And, if you know you don’t have any more lines, do not look back at your script.

The Playground OC Studio 1

Wrap Up:

Getting truly prepared for an audition takes a lot of skill and hard work for any actor. Committing to a weekly acting class like those at The Playground that teach and work on these important skills is a secret to your auditioning success. All this preparation allows an actor to completely commit to the choices that they have made while at the audition.


Next Post – Commitment


Why Formal Training Is Important For Actors – an essay by Gary Spatz

Hello all…

Portrait of Gary Spatz, Acting Coach, taken in November of 2010

Gary Spatz

In my last post I spoke about the necessity for passion which is the bedrock for any artist and the engine that drives them to achieve.

Today I wish to talk about training. Once you realize you have an enthusiasm for acting one must acquire a skill-set and this takes training, as with any performing arts discipline (dance, singing, or acting). This training can come in different forms and not just acting workshops or theatrical experiences (local plays, dance classes, etc.,). A background in gymnastics, martial arts, or sports also help the young student actor to focus their mind and energies into a performance. Eventually a young student actor must take the steps to work on the specific skills they must have to understand the craft of acting. Look for acting classes and workshops that allow you to exercise your creative muscles and not just your imagination. The physical side needs attention too, such as vocal warm ups, articulation, relaxation. Eventually the two come together when working on improvisation and scene study.

As with any craft, there is an apprenticeship that takes place. That word comes from American and European history, of a long-standing policy where young men apprenticed from a very young age (8,9,10 yrs. old) for seven years with a master craftsman. It might be a printer or a carpenter, but in those years the apprentice would learn the craft until they became a journeymen and had the prerequisite skills to perform that craft. Now here we are in the twenty-first century, but it is still important to recognize the discipline of learning a craft. Eventually good habits are instilled in a novice acting student, such as truly listening and being in the moment – so that one can respond genuinely. Also, an understanding of the importance of making specific choices about the material and making these choices personal. This process helps one understands the physical and emotional “imaginary” circumstances inherent in the material.

Once all these good habits come together with practice and repetition, they eventually will form the foundation for an actors technique. Technique is a collection of good habits that each artist develops for themselves, and that is their way of approaching and executing talent. It’s true in dance, song, and playing a musical instrument. One must develop a technique. For an actor, and this has been said many times before – their “instrument” is themselves. An actor uses their body, mind and spirit to inhabit a character to create the authentic emotional and physical life of that role. “Living truthfully under imaginary circumstances” is in effect the goal every actor should be trying to reach. What we are talking about here is human behavior and how that is manifested in a character.

This happens through the specific choices the actor makes regarding their character. Making the choice obviously is not enough. The real training comes when an actor is able to gives themselves permission to believe that specific choice. For example, the scene calls for the character to be alone in a grave yard. That is not specific enough. Adding that it is graveyard at midnight. Now we are getting somewhere. And it’s Halloween on a full moon. Right away these choices should begin to create a certain mood inside the character. This will manifest itself in the behavior of the character that is expressed on the stage or screen. Even before the first line of dialogue, that actor is in a specific time and place. This is just one of many choices the actor must make throughout the scene. We will get into more specific details about making choices in the next blog.

Eventually everything we are talking about regarding the various skills and techniques that an actor acquires over time, comes about through training. I believe in the common sense idea that in order to do something well, one must practice the skills and focus their energy with all their heart. I believe this is true, whether your learning to play soccer, or basketball, the guitar, or dance on stage, and I certainly believe it’s true when it comes to the craft of acting.

This is the reason I created The Playground in the first place. A place where young students could learn the craft and enjoy the process. It’s important that this be a joyful experience.  Parents, keep checking in with your young actors to make sure that they are challenged, engaged and nurtured throughout this adventure. NOW GO PLAY!