“Seek opportunity and be ready for it.”
My high school drama teacher wrote that in my yearbook way back when. Frank Roberts. I loved working with Frank. He treated us like professionals and ran his classes and rehearsals like he would any professional company. When I went on to study acting in college and then grad school I was indeed ready for it, thanks to him.
I can still hear his words in his voice. But what did he mean, and why was “ready” underlined?
These are some of the ways I’ve come to interpret it over the years…
This business moves fast, as you know, and we’re rarely given much time to prepare for an audition. And these days we seem to have less and less time in the rehearsal room as well.
Focus on the roles you want to play, and start working on them now. Bring their scenes and monologues to class. All of them. When an audition for that role comes along you’ll be ready for it. No cramming. No scrambling. There’s incredible freedom in that.
My first class at TBG as a student was Lee Brock’s Monologue Workshop. I worked on Oberon from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. My favorite Shakespeare role, and I was terrified of it. How do you play someone so powerful? Lee helped me figure it out, and six months later I landed the role. Fast forward several years, again in class with Lee, and Zach from A Chorus Line was now at the top of my list. I worked on his monologue with Lee. Friends helped me learn the choreography. Does Lee know the ACL choreography? Maybe. I should have asked her. Regardless, after 3 auditions for various productions, and as time was running out, I finally got to play him. I may have been the oldest Zach ever, but I played him!
It’s worth noting that some say you should audition with material in the spirit of the show and not from the show itself, and they’re not wrong. Some casting notices even specify that. But when I’m going in for a role I really want, I do something from that role. If they don’t hire me, so be it, but there’s no doubt why I’m there. Tim Phillips, another wonderful teacher, told me, “If you’re gonna go down, go down in flames!” But that’s another blog.
Arrange living room play readings with friends. Or read in the park. Pick a play you want to do and cast yourself in the role you want. Cast the remaining roles or let people cast themselves. Hang out on a Sunday afternoon with wine and cheese and read the play out loud. Take breaks. Talk about it. Read some more. (Wine and cheese not required.)
Even if you’re not pursuing a specific role, play readings are a huge return on a small investment. And they’re a lot of fun.
Does this approach always work? Of course not. I am so prepared for roles I may never book, even after several auditions and callbacks. Still, I have their words in me. I have their story from beginning to end. I will always have that, and you will too.
Edward Stanley has been a member of the Barrow Group community since 2012. He’s worked as an actor and spokesperson in theatre, television, commercials, industrials, voiceover, and print for over thirty years. During his ten years in Los Angeles, he worked primarily in television, with roles on Modern Family, Hot in Cleveland, The Comeback, and Desperate Housewives, among others. Edward has performed extensively on stage in his hometown of Boston, working with SpeakEasy Stage, Provincetown Rep, Boston Lyric Opera, and the Charles Playhouse, and spent two seasons in nearly twenty productions with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Recent credits include Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra with the Virginia Shakespeare Festival, Zach in A Chorus Line at the Ivoryton Playhouse, and Duncan in Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More. Edward holds a BFA in Theatre from Adelphi University, where he has also served on the adjunct theatre faculty. He earned his MFA in Acting from the University of Alabama and has studied with the National Theatre Studio in London.
You can find TBG’s full schedule of classes here.