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…

Gary Spatz Recognized by Michael Fishman

Michael Fishman Tweet

Michael Fishman via Twitter:

Closest to a hero in my childhood was my acting coach GarySpatz. He made me believe in myself but not for work.

Gary Spatz responds:

What a sweet thing to say… honestly, that’s what I try to do for every child I teach.

Michael, was really great kid, kind, smart, and so considerate. He has become a such decent adult, with those same qualities, as well as a wonderful husband and father. That truly touches me that I may have played a small role in the development of this terrific young man. This is one of the primary reasons teacher’s do what they do, so they may impact(we hope in a positive way)those in our sphere of influence.