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John O'Hare Acting Coach


It’s October and the audition season has kicked off in Australia. All the major drama schools are beginning their 2017 intake programs. Subscription theatres and Independent Theatre Companies are launching their 2017 seasons. The next big one is Redline Productions season launch at the Old Fitz Theatre in Sydney on October 17th – look out for the announcement of open auditions for their 2017 Unspoken season and Sydney’s Eternity Playhouse have also just announced open audition dates.

Big seasons, lots of plays, and directors to meet, and many delicious roles for actors of all ages!

Most auditions demand that you perform two monologues, one classical (usually Shakespeare) and one contemporary, before a panel of experts which include directors, lead actors (already cast), heads of Acting departments, voice and movement teachers, and current and alumni drama school students. These are always daunting and sometimes terrifying. So many talented actors fail at the first hurdle, they don’t even turn up for the audition, or if they do, they run away at first sight of the audition rooms and the other attendees.

I know this to be true, as it happened to me when I went to my first WAAPA audition at the Academy of performing arts!

My audition went like this . . .

I duly arrived on the assigned day. Feeling tense and somewhat bemused I wandered around the campus looking for the auditions when I saw a sign with an arrow pointing to the acting studio. My stomach immediately somersaulted.

I paced for what seemed an eternity, then I decided to sit on a grey wall outside the acting studio. “I’ll sit here and wait,” I emphatically decided to myself. A minute or two later, two very well known WAAPA alumni saw and approached me and asked if I was waiting to go into the acting auditions.

“No I’m waiting for a friend” I blurted.

Then: “Oh no, why did I say that?” I thought.

In one fell swoop,  I’d performed an inextricable emotional judo move on myself.

It turned out the two friendly famous alumni were assigned to usher nervous, disoriented auditionees into the rooms. To make matters worse, they sat down on the wall with me, chatted about being at acting school, and the play they were in. I was stuck in a bind and my head whirled. The more time I kept up this pretense of waiting for my imaginary friend, the more committed I became to the story. The HOLE OF SHAME I dug just got deeper and DEEPER! Suddenly, I could feel my cheeks begin to burn hot and I began to pant. I stood up abruptly.

One of my new actor besties asked me if I was okay. “Yeh, I’m fine,” I stammered. “Is there a bathroom close by?” The friendliest of the two pointed the way and offered to walk with me. “No I’m good thanks,” I said, morosely grinning. I backed away from them, turned the corner at the side of the studio, and as soon as I was out of their sight I bolted to the car park, jumped in my car, and drove home cursing my bad luck.

That day I miserably missed out on my audition. My dream of acting school was over. I had to wait another interminable twelve months to audition for WAAPA and NIDA. Why did this happen to me? I had completely blown it because I was under prepared. Because I wasn’t confident and ready, I was crippled by nerves and tension.

Whatever you do, don’t fall into the same trap; or has this already happened to you?

Remember, the actor’s first job is knowing how to audition well. If you’re not well-prepared and confident, you don’t get the job. Auditions are strange beasts but they are necessary events in our industry. We cannot work as a professional actor by avoiding them, there is nowhere to hide. Everyone involved has something to gain and something to lose in relation to their future. One sure way to prepare is to get in touch with a reputable acting coach, so that they can advise you in doing the work that needs to be done.

Audition Approach

  • It is best to see them as an opportunity to meet like minded artists and to take this opportunity to show your talent and share creative ideas.
  • Try to avoid making them feel like a day in court and that you’re on trial for a heinous crime.
  • Understand your patterns of behavior and how to cope with nerves.
  • Make a list of what happens to you whenever you are given an opportunity to audition. I know many actors send themselves into a tailspin of anxiety. With this in mind, understanding your patterns is the first step.
  • The second step is choosing and preparing your material; for this vital process you need professional feedback. Remember, you’re auditioning for professionals, so make sure you prepare with professionals. Your parents, Uncle Pete, or your partner may have your well being at heart, but ask yourself, are they industry professionals, can they really analyse a text with you, and can they give you the honest feedback you require to hone your craft?

Preparation Tips

Preparation is vital when it comes to auditions, so as long as you have fully prepared, you have done yourself justice.

  • Read the whole script at least three times, and each time read the whole script in one sitting.
  • Find a special place to read your script, somewhere you won’t be disturbed, turn off your mobile phone.
  • Its important to write down all of your first impressions about the story and your character, no matter how crazy they may seem at the time, I promise you, you will find gold in those first impressions later on.
  • Learn the given circumstances.
  • Create your Time and Place.
  • Decide who you’re talking to and who you are trying to change.
  • Ask yourself what you, in particular, bring to the role.
  • Know the journey of your monologue and what changes occur in you.
  • Mark those changes on your script.
  • Note the key moments of transition and do something with them.
  • Do your research.
  • What has gone before?
  • What just happened before you speak? Create a reality for this.
  • What is your character feeling when you begin?
  • What changes when you finish?
  • Language.
  • Meaning and sense.
  • Get a sense of the tempo and rhythm.

First Impressions

It is a well known cliche that a director knows whether you’re right for the part in less than thirty seconds of you starting. While this is is not necessarily true, it is worth noting that first impressions do stick.

The psychologist Frank Bernien developed the ‘thin slicing methodology’. This theory postulates that the first few minutes of a new encounter can be just as accurate, or even more accurate, than as an impression formed over a longer period of time. The significant thing here is that it’s beneficial to consider the impact you would like to have in a first impression.

Conclusion: It is important to be well prepared for every audition. When you arrive, engage and listen – FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT. Be fully prepared, do your work, make clear choices – the decisions will then lie in how the directors and producers see the character. Flexibility is important; be adaptable and open to direction. Don’t be afraid to clarify a direction.

Remember, every audition is a professional gig; it is a wonderful opportunity to show the industry your professionalism and your talent every time.

You are only as good as the performance you give. Chookas with your auditions

I will be holding a Shakespeare Audition Intensive on October 22nd – October 23rd in Sydney.  Classes are limited to only 15 Actors per class! Click here for details.

John O’Hare WAAPA (BA Acting), QUT (MFA) is a teacher and director at NIDA, QUT, WAAPA, ACTT and ACA.  Co-founder of O’Punksky’s Theatre, awards include 4 Green Room Awards, Logie Award and Irish Times Critics nominee. Stage productions include seasons at Playbox in Melbourne, Belvoir St, Griffin Theatre and the Eternity Playhouse in Sydney. Film and TV credits; Packed to the RaftersHome & Away, The Cooks, Wildside, GP, A Country Practice, The Leaving of Liverpool, Heroes II – The Return, Child of the AirBlackrock, A Long Road to HeavenJB and The MuleTough Nuts, Cops LAC, Rogue Nation and First Australians. Follow John’s blog for a practical advice on acting, as well as in-depth discussions about being an actor today in a world of instant communication.

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