Audition Secrets from Gary Spatz and Gayla Goehl of The Playground – Part 2: COMMITMENT

Gary Spatz and Gayla Goehl continue to share their secrets for audition success…

This is a continuation of a multi-part article. Read the introduction or  Part 1 –  on preparation.


Commitment means making sure that, for the duration of the audition, an actor is prepared to completely inhabit their character. Fully committing to a scene requires an actor to trust in themselves and the choices they have made during preparation.

“When professionals imagine someone in a scene that they are supposed to “like” they don’t think about a generic person, but about someone that they actually know – someone they like. Only by making that personal choice can they feed their work and trigger authentic, organic inner emotional responses during the audition.” Gary Spatz

However, that’s only half of acting.  The other half comes in listening to what is being said to the character and in that moment making choices about how you feel about what was said to you.  Half of acting is re-acting.

“Acting” does not happen only when speaking

– half of acting happens while listening and reacting before speaking the next line. The casting person wants to see listening and reaction! They will watch the same scene many, many times, with many many actors and the actors who are fully engaged and listening will leave an impression. Even if they do not book the job, the casting agent will remember you and call you back for other roles.” Gary Spatz

Commitment also comes in the form of allowing yourself to be open to the emotional responsibility going on in the scene.  Let’s say you are working on a scene were someone is breaking up with you.  You have made the choice that this breakup is very confusing and devastating.  Then you must get to the point where you believe you are honestly experiencing those very emotions during the scene.

Young actors can struggle to get to these painful yet truthful places.

When I ask what is stopping them from getting to those emotions during rehearsal, I get answers like, “I don’t like anyone like that.”  “I’m in a great mood today. I don’t want to spoil it.” And “I’ll do it in the room for the casting director. I just don’t want to do it now.”

My answer is always the same. If you rehearse poorly, without commitment to the emotional life of the character, then you are hoping you do well in the audition. Not ensuring you will do well. If you are willing to rehearse working on creating these complex emotions, then you are preparing yourself to achieve them in front of casting directors, producers and directors. And if lucky enough to book the role and be on–set, then you are prepared to do those emotions in front of hundreds of other people too. There will be other actors, crew and possibly a multitude of others on-set with you.

 You must be committed to allowing yourself to experience these emotions.

– Gayla Goehl

Commitment to emotions is hard for some actors to do. Honest, real emotion can be difficult to achieve in a scene. That is part of an actor’s skill – willingness to be uncomfortable or scared. However, you must possess this willingness to be successful at an audition.

There are many techniques taught at The Playground to help to help the actor be more committed to the emotional choices in the scene.  One is making choices that are more personal to the actor.  An actor can imagine using real people and real relationships from their life. These personal choices create honest emotions. Allowing for real feelings to occur during the scene.

If the actor can combine that with truthful listening (having real thoughts of the character) then a casting director will see that.  They will see it in your eyes. THAT is what people are looking for on-camera. Honest, real reactions from the character that relate to and authentically make sense in what is going on in a scene.

An actor must commit to the preparation. Commit to the requirements of the scene. Commit to emotional willingness.  Then an actor is committed to the scene.

Stay tuned for the next installment on Auditions!




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

Audition Secrets from Gary Spatz and Gayla Goehl of The Playground (Intro)

The acting program at Gary Spatz’s “The Playground” A Young Actors’ Conservatory makes acting audition preparation and audition techniques a central part of their core curriculum.
Gary Spatz and Gayla Goehl of The Playground


Well, for actors, there are often big differences between auditioning for acting roles and working on set in that role. Learning what these audition techniques are and practicing them consistently, to the best of your ability, while in an acting class will lead to consistently great auditions. Great auditions lead to being cast and working on set in great roles.

At The Playground, learning these acting auditioning skills is an essential part of what the students learn. Since not every actor can come to The Playground to study and learn these techniques we are going to share several of the top ones with you now.

‘Auditioning Skills’ can be broken down into 4 sections:

  1. Preparation
  2. Commitment
  3. Focus
  4. Play

Tomorrow we’ll be posting Gary and Gayla’s comments about Preparation! Stay tuned…

How To Get A Job On The Disney Channel – A Guide For Parents And Children

Everyone wants to know how to land a job on the Disney Channel. I get asked several times a week and everyone seems to think that I have a secret that will help land them a series.

Well, I do have a secret and I’m going to share it with you now.

A lot of people think that you get on Disney by being cute, that all you need to do is get into the right audition, or get seen by the right people. This not the secret.

The people who do get jobs with Disney only need to do one thing well. So…

Here’s the”BIG SECRET.”

To land a great role with a great company (like Disney) all you have to do is… Have consistently excellent auditions. That’s all. Just do really really well on your audition. Every audition. Every time. Over and over again. The kids who get hired for a Disney series will do several auditions for any small roll, if it’s a series regular (staring role) then they will need to do as many as 5 or 6 or more and will need to be excellent every time. If every audition is great, then you have a chance. Probably not the secret you were hoping for, but I wish to be straight with you and there is enough misinformation out there already. The absolute truth is, you need to be totally prepared for the opportunity. .

To begin, in order to get an audition you generally need a talent agent to set up the appointment with a casting office. If you get an audition, you will walk in alone, with no help, just your skills and experience. If you haven’t practiced enough to have the poise and confidence to “perform” in the office then Disney won’t be interested. Disney needs to know that if they build a show around you – you will be there every day, lines memorized, ready to give 100% on every take on every scene (remember “being professional” means being able to do your best work even when you don’t feel like it).

Having the passion to be on Disney is not enough – you need to back it up with preparation!

Just wanting to be on a professional athlete won’t get you a spot in Dodgers line up, but it is enough to motivate you to play baseball. Athletes don’t just show up for a practice with the Dodgers and get on the team – and actors don’t just show up at a Disney audition and get on a show. With acting, desire is enough to get you into classes. If you have enough tenacity and determination you’ll work hard in class, do your homework, practice your scenes – day after day. Eventually, all that practice and dedication might lead to an audition where you will have an opportunity to share your talent.

Disney is looking for talent and for personality too!

Not everyone who tries will make it. But everyone who doesn’t try will certainly fail! What can parents do to know if their child has the commitment they need? Parents can take their kids to an acting class and see if the child fully participates. Does the child do all their homework? Do they look forward to going to class? They need to practice and go to all rehearsals, get their homework done every day. The young actor needs to do what they say they will do and generally be responsible for the work. On a Disney show, every week,the kids must learn an entire script AND go to school full time, AND keep up their GPA, AND deliver a terrific performance, regardless of what else’s is going on in their lives.

Before getting on Disney show most actors have auditioned many times before. As well as, booked other jobs in film/television/commercials. A good example would be the show Hannah Montana. They searched for a year or more, auditioning hundreds of girls. I must have coached at least a dozen or more. Miley Cyrus got passed over in her first audition and they came back to her a year later after having seen dozens and dozens of talented young actresses. Competition for any major role is beyond fierce.

So what we are saying at the end of day, if this is something you are truly serious about, you’ll find a workshop or class, some training facility that will allow you to learn the craft of acting. If someone tells you that you don’t need classes or that all you need is a headshot, then they just don’t know how the industry really works. The expectation on young performers, regardless of age is great. The myth of overnight success is a great PR article but it’s just not reality. It may seem like the kids on Disney are overnight sensations but for the most part they have been on this journey of classes, auditioning and working for a while. Once every 4 or 5 years someone slips into a role almost by accident but in reality the stars have lined up in such a way that their personality coupled with their look and talent converge absolutely perfectly for what the producers were looking for. This is not the normal route onto TV. An inexperienced newcomer getting a big role is about as likely as winning the lottery. A more realistic example of ” overnight success” is Ashley Argota, who had been taking classes, auditioning for roles on television and commercials along with performing with the American Girl Theater show for years before getting a TV show. She worked 7 days a week on stage and was obviously already committed to this path before landing her big part.

So, if you want to be on a Disney show lets recap whats important.

Being fully invested in your training and experience. Being responsible for your school work and grades. Finding legitimate talent representation to set up auditions. Being fully prepared for those auditions when they come. Be persistent and get ready for a long journey and have FUN with acting along the way. Remember it’s all creative play. Whether we are talking about shows on Nickelodeon, NBC, AMC, HBO, Paramount, Fox Studios, etc, the above tenants will apply. I understand that this path to becoming a working young actor is not easy but if one approaches it with a full and open heart, with genuine passion and a willingness to do the work, then there is no reason you can’t move confidently in the direction of your dreams.

Gary Spatz The Playground Reviews

Are you looking for reviews of The Playground? Well, you’ve come to the right place.


Here is a list of all the review sites that I’ve been able to find online (all links open in new page)

Moving To A New Home

Hello Everyone!

Starting on January 1st 2011 I will be putting all my articles onto my Blog at The Playground instead of on this site. I’ll have the same great insight gained from over 20 years of coaching young performers, it will just be in a different place. Please join me at

The Playground Los Angeles Blog!

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!