The Top 5 Mistakes Actors Make in Shakespeare Auditions


The Monologues You (Really) Need

I'll be the first to admit that I'm a speechaholic. I simply devour Shakespeare's language, and love to memorize his speeches. I have a dozen monologues ready to rock at all times, which is super uncommon for actors, and honestly not very helpful for me. I'll spend so much time agonizing over what I'll do in the room, only to immediately second-guess my choice as soon as I leave. 

While in the holding room, I have often overheard other actors say to their friends that they only have ONE Shakespeare monologue, so that's the one they'll be doing. 

Can I just get real with you for a second? If you're still using that one Shakespeare monologue you were forced to learn in college for every Shakespeare audition, you are doing yourself a disservice! I don't even have to know which speech it is to be able to tell you that. Why? because the speech doesn't take into account who YOU are and what you're trying to present in the room. And what if the casting director asks to see something else? Do you have another Shakespeare monologue to show them at all?

You need more than one monologue, but you really, REALLY don't need twelve. In order to effectively market yourself in almost any Shakespeare audition, I recommend having three thoughtfully chosen speeches that fit into specific categories:

1. The "Here I Am" Monologue

Do you know what sort of roles you would be cast in for traditional Shakespeare productions?
What roles would Sir Lawrence Olivier see you playing?
What do people assume about you based on 10 seconds with you?
What do you do really well?
The trick to this is knowing yourself well enough to explain it to the casting team via your monologue choice. Get opinions from friends and teachers that you trust if you're not sure what kind of impressions you're making, and then find a character that embodies that. If you're a clever young lady that appears to be a teenager, check out Juliet (Romeo & Juliet) or Miranda (The Tempest). If you're the "funny best friend" type, look into Silvius (As You Like It) or Bottom (A Midsummer Night's Dream). Despite this perhaps being an "obvious choice", if it's the role you're most suited for, it's okay! It shows a knowledge of yourself and where you fit into the Shakespeare universe. This piece must be in verse, as most auditions will request a verse monologue and it will be the one you use the most frequently.

2. The "Look What Else I Can Do" Monologue

This is still a role you can traditionally play (no gender-bending or anything), but it shows another side of you. If your first monologue is a low class character (like Mrs. Quickly from the Henry IV/Henry V saga and The Merry Wives of Windsor),  then consider a character of a higher social class (like Queen Margaret from the Henry VI/Richard III storyline). If your first piece is about love (perhaps Berowne from Love's Labour's Lost), go for something more bloody (Like Brutus from Julius Caesar, or even Macbeth). This will require some research and a reasonable knowledge of Shakespeare's material, but it's an investment into your career, and something you can probably use for years.

3. The "Breaking the Rules" Monologue

It's becoming mainstream to cast Shakespeare productions with little or no regard to the descriptions of the characters in the text. Gender-blind, age-blind, color-blind casting is happening all the time, which means this monologue might be your favorite one! If you're the Juliet type, maybe try on some Richard III. If you're constantly doing Falstaff, show off your Desdemona! This speech can be verse or prose. Whatever the role, avoid making it into a joke. Give the character their due and show your chops just as you would with other speeches, and you're sure to make a lasting impression on the casting team!

With a solid monologue in each of the three categories, you'll have a great choice that reflects what you can bring to a show for just about any audition. There are just a few other things to consider as you go forth on your quest for the perfect pieces:

Choose verse over prose. (Not sure what I'm talking about? Click here to learn the difference.) Most casting notices will straight-up ask you for a verse monologue. If you show up with prose when they asked for verse, you look like you either don't know what that means and didn't care to find out, or that you can't follow simple directions... neither of which is going to help you land the role you want. 

Funny is good, and surprisingly rare. Casting teams ask for comedic Shakespeare monologues from time to time - make one of your picks funny and you won't be caught off guard. 

Race doesn't matter, except when it does. If you are an actor of color, you can play any role that a white actor can play, period. Aaron from Titus Andronicus and Othello are both "Moors", people from northwestern Africa of Berber and Arab descent. Similarly, the Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice is from Morocco, and Shylock, Tubal, and Jessica in the same play are Jewish. These distinctions have significance in their respective storylines. Ask yourself if you are the right person to tell their stories before undertaking it.

Finally, avoid using one of the 154 sonnets as your monologue. I was once in line to audition when the casting director stepped out of the audition room to announce to all of us that Shakespeare wrote nearly forty plays, so we should be playing his characters, NOT doing a sonnet. Unless you're auditioning for an evening of sonnets, pick a speech from a play. 

Whether you need to work your way up to three perfectly picked monologues, or scale it back from a dozen, I hope these tips will help you on your way. And if you need any additional assistance, click here to schedule a coaching with me! Break legs, all!


Is Your Training Serving You?

Let's start with a story:

This may surprise you, but I went to college for tap dancing. (Yes, really.) Twelve days after I graduated high school, I flew across the country to NYC, a city I had never traveled to, and began training in a two-year conservatory musical theatre program.

I chose musical theatre because I knew I wanted to be an actor, and since I can sing and I can dance, it seemed like the best course of action to have training in all of those things. This plan worked out for some time: I got a job dancing at parties and events for a few years, wearing some cool and some bizarre costumes while doing choreographed routines to some of Broadway's biggest hits. Next, I got a job touring the country teaching musical theatre (and improv, mime, and Shakespeare) to children. 

I got back to NYC in September of 2008, just days before the housing market crash and the financial disaster that followed. What a time to be auditioning! No one was buying tickets to shows, so few shows were being produced. I got a restaurant job and weathered the storm.

When work opportunities slowly started to come back, I learned that I didn't like musical theatre anymore. More importantly, I loathed auditioning for musical theatre. I was bitter. I wasn't trying my best. I didn't want to be there, and, therefore, no one wanted to hire me. I realized that classical theatre was much more appealing to me, but I didn't know how to get involved.

I'll tell you what I did, and what I wish I had done sooner. My path may not be what's right for everyone; it certainly came from trial and error.

What I did:

I tried the "be so good they can't ignore you" technique. Honestly, I probably wasn't all that good yet, with minimal training in classical theatre, but I was studious and determined. 

I worked for free. I'm not a fan of being a volunteer actor, but I needed to get some skills. I was cast in a less-than-great production of Medea where my dance/movement skills were a selling point in the audition. Then I played Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream. THEN, I started booking paying Shakespeare gigs.

While I'm a big fan of learning as much on the job as you can, I still had to play catch-up when I came in to my first paying Shakespeare job. I didn't understand the basics of verse mechanics, and made a lot of embarrassing, simple mistakes. Thankfully, I had patient people around me who helped point me in the right direction. My own curiosity and desire to not be embarrassed led me to...

What I wish I had done earlier:

Classes. So many classes. And workshops. And lectures. I cannot emphasize enough how much I needed to put my pride aside and get back into class. I was ten or more years out of college, with an education that was not serving me anymore. I don't even put my college on my resume, because it's simply unrelated to what I do now, as much as it would be if I had gone to school to be a mechanic. I took a good, hard look at my resume and realize that my training was lacking, so I fixed it by learning from people in the biz whose work I admire.


Is Your Training Serving You?

Do you feel that you have the skills to be competitive in auditions, and to be a rock star if and when you book the role? If not, you need more training. Focus as intensely as you can on the skills you need to master, and master them!

Who is booking the work? What training do they have? Can you get comparable training?

A Master's Degree might be out of the question for you, due to time, money, or any number of other reasons. One potential workaround is to study with the best teachers you can find, either privately or in a group class.

What I hope you take away from this is that if your training isn't serving you any more, that it is okay (and encouraged!) to go get the education you need for where you want your path to go. 

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Lessons from the Golf Course

Last summer, I took up golfing. Only weeks before I started learning this game, I was adamant that it was not for me. "I already have so many things that I'm not good at; why would I want to add golf to the list?" I ended up going to the driving range, then working on putting, then working on chipping, and before I knew what was happening, I was playing nine holes.

What I found, and what I want to share with you, are some life lessons that apply to my acting career, not just to this silly game of smacking a ball with a stick:

  1. The odds suck. The odds are against you hitting a hole-in-one, just as the odds are against you booking a Broadway show at your first EPA. There are so many variables at play, most importantly that you haven't been doing this all that long. Even if you have, the odds suck. Hit the ball anyway, or go home.
  2. Relax, aim, and be patient. The ball will not go where you want if you are tense. You will look nervous and desperate if you are tense in your audition. Focus on your objectives. Take your aim. If it doesn't go the way you expected, be patient, and try again if you can.
  3. Sometimes, it's best not to aim straight for the hole. It may be to your advantage to zig zag a bit, around a tree, bunker, or other obstacle. Likewise, sometimes it's a good idea to take a job out of town, or to take a class and not audition for a while. The path to the goal is rarely straight.
  4. Choose the right club. I love my five iron, but it's not always what I need for the shot. Make sure you have the right clubs in your bag (monologues, songs, etc.), and use the best one for the shot you're taking.
  5. Caddies are great, but learn to carry your own clubs. Having a support system is so important, but be able to make your own decisions, and have the stamina to walk to the next hole.
  6. If you don't enjoy it, that's okay! If you have given this game a try and you still hate it, WHY ARE YOU PLAYING? This is an expensive, time-consuming hobby. Find something else that fuels you and go do that. You can always come back if you miss it. 
  7. There will always be someone on the course who is better than you. Learn to compete against yourself. What about your game is improving? Where do you need more practice? Focus on improving yourself and you will enjoy the process more!
I hope my based-on-real-life metaphor was helpful for you, whether or not you're a golfer. Wishing you all the best, on the course and in life! 

Want to improve your Shakespeare game?

Poetry vs. Storytelling

I have a theory: we enjoy a Shakespeare production more when there is a balance between poetry and storytelling. I feel that Shakespeare's poetry should support the story, and that Shakespeare isn't really Shakespeare without the poetry. It's becoming very popular to rid Shakespeare's plays of poetry (or to "translate" them to contemporary English altogether), in an attempt to make them more accessible. While accessibility is certainly important, I feel that by utilizing the poetry in Shakespeare's text effectively, we can provide the audience with a more rich experience, while still telling the story. It's all about balance.

Too much emphasis on the poetry makes for more of a recitation than a play. 'cause WHEN you SEE a PLAY where ALL the AC-tors SPEAK like THIS, it ALL gets VE-ry TIRE-some AF-ter ON-ly SEC-onds, SEE? These tools should be to assist in telling the story, not distracting from it. In Much Ado About Nothing, the play is very much in prose until Claudio and Don Pedro begin to speak of love. The shift to verse when matters of the heart are being discussed doesn't need to be overwrought for the audience to feel the new groove. The rhythms support the text; characters in love often speak in verse because these feelings are too big for the everyday prose they may otherwise use. Likewise, if a character starts rhyming, they may be doing so to impress another character or the audience with their wit, or even to annoy another character. 

Image: Tee Public

Neglecting poetry in favor of the plot negates the whole reason the play was written in this beautiful language and rhythms and rhymes in the first place. There are countless ways to make a love-sick teen named Romeo fall for a headstrong girl named Juliet. The fact that their first lines to each other form a sonnet is simply divine! Why? Because NO ONE SPEAKS IN SONNETS SPONTANEOUSLY IN REAL LIFE. That's a big part of what makes it magical. If you take the poetry out of the equation, then what is truly special to show the audience that these two are meant to be? "Hey, girl" doesn't cut it.

The goal is to give the story the spotlight and to use the poetry as the structure to tell this tale. Here are some questions to help you determine your path through the poetry:

Do the characters know they are speaking in verse?

If they are rhyming?

If they are using a lot of metaphors?

Are the words they're speaking spontaneous, or have they been well-rehearsed for this much-anticipated moment?

Is their alliteration proving their intellect, or is it a fun coincidence that they realize after the fact, or are they oblivious? 

These are just some of the ways we can use the poetry of Shakespeare to help support the story. What ways do you use Shakespeare's poetry to help tell the story? Let me know in the comments!

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How to Pronounce Character Names in Shakespeare's As You Like It

While Shakespeare's As You Like It almost certainly takes place in France, not all of the characters have French names, and some of the French names are not said with French pronunciation!

There are definitely some tricky names among the more typical ones in this always-popular comedy. Click to watch the video!


The Gift of Time

Some years ago, my sister worked a not-quite-soul-sucking day job. One of those jobs where, if there were no customers to assist, the managers would try to cut costs by sending employees home. Not all employees are fans of getting cut, as less hours means less money, but one particular manager framed it in a very memorable way:

"I give you the gift of time."

Although I know it was met with mixed reviews, I have to agree that time is valuable and something that we can never generate more of. Everyone knows this, and yet, it's so easy to forget it!

Today, NYC is hunkered down for a blizzard, which means most of us are dealing with a (mostly unexpected) gift of time today. Might I suggest that, while also using this Snow Day for some relaxation and Netflix, set aside a good chunk of it to do something to further your career or your art in a way that you normally wouldn't have time to do?

Some ideas for how to use your gift of time:

Start writing that webseries you've always wanted to create.

Learn that monologue that you just haven't had time to work on.

YouTube tutorial that makeup look and hairstyle you wanted to try for that audition next week.

Read a play! (None on your bookshelf? Check out an e-Book online, or go to Project Guttenberg for free classics.)

Prep your meals for your busy week ahead.

Clean your apartment (with some great music or a podcast on), so that you have less stress the rest of this week.

Call your family to let them know you're okay!

No matter how you choose to use your gift of time today, I hope it will be productive and fulfilling!

Looking for a Shakespeare Coach to help you prepare for
that upcoming audition or performance?



As I write this, things are picking up for Audition Season 2017. It's the time of year when many actors are getting up at stupid-o'clock-in-the-morning to try to get as many auditions done around their day-jobs as they possibly can; braving the freezing winter air for an hour or two in the line outside Ripley-Grier because they weren't fortunate enough to snag a spot on the brand-new online signup system that seems perpetually overloaded, and NEVER with enough coffee in their systems to deal with that crazy person that is just dying to know what your opinion is on their audition material while you wait in line. 

The struggle is real, my friends.

Or maybe it isn't this year. I wouldn't know because I'm doing this hip new thing I like to call:


I love being an actor, but sometimes, you gotta take a step back and evaluate your #priorities
Note: if you happen to be reading this out loud (I don't know why you would, but maybe you're just awesome like that), then be sure to note that #priorities should be read "hashtag priorities." It's more fun.

I'm getting married this year. I don't want my wedding to be a hot mess, so I need to spend time on it, because it matters to me. And so does my work as a Shakespeare Coach. And so does sleep. And so does actually spending time with my awesome future husband. Auditioning for shows that happen between now and my wedding is not in line with my #priorities, so I'm staying out of the audition scene for the most part and getting stuff done.

Do you need to stop killing yourself over auditions and be a person first? 

If you got let go from your day job tomorrow, would you be able to pay your rent and eat something other than ramen noodles? If not, maybe you should skip or cut down on your auditioning to get some savings. #priorities

Is NYC driving you just a little bit bananas? Did you not see your family over the holidays? Do you just need a break so that you don't flip out at people? You can take a break if you want! Your mental health, your family, and your overall happiness can overrule your need to get in the room. #priorities

Has your significant other stopped feeling significant because you're so wrapped up in your career? Taking time off, even just a day or two, can help you gain some balance. #priorities

It is very easy to let the feverish energy and pace of audition season make you feel like you are constantly in a race with all the other actors in NYC to be the first in line in the morning, the first to book a gig for the summer, or even to be the actor that managed to get seen at the most auditions on any given day. If we're keeping with the race analogy, remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint, and you're not actually competing against anyone... so it's not really a race, which is why that metaphor is kinda lame. There will always be more auditions. Really.

If you're someone who thrives on the four hours of sleep you're getting the night before an audition, God bless you. Very few people, if any, can sustain that for the 3 months or so of audition season. There is no shame in realizing that your #priorities are not in auditioning for every single thing or everything you're perfect for or anything at all right now. Be a person first, and an actor maybe fourth.

Much love,