Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reading Between the Lines

Simon and Garfunkel once wrote a very iconic song entitled, "The Sound of Silence." There is a concept in that title that really applies to the art of auditioning. Throughout my time in casting, I've repeatedly observed the tendency of actors to rush through auditions - a lot of fast talking, and not so much listening. As a result, actors miss the opportunity to bring texture and fullness to the precious spaces between the lines.

It is often due to nervousness. I know when I'm nervous my heart races, my pulse pounds, and I tend to speak rapidly. If I'm really nervous, I can chatter away at warp speed. I see this in auditions all the time, a rushing that affects performance.

Actors are often well-rehearsed and know their lines well, so they look forward to articulating each one as beautifully as they have prepared it. But what is often missed is a reaction, a look, the experience of emotional unfolding and transition which can happen while listening to the other characters, and being affected by them. Those poignant and powerful moments of pain,  joy, desperation, sorrow, anger or whatever emotion is called for, that can happen in a few seconds, can happen during the lines and between the lines, in the silence.

For me, that slowing down, that intent listening makes a character more real, more natural, as I am watching an audition. To allow the time it takes to have a reaction, to have truly heard  the other character, instead of rushing too quickly to your next line, is essential.

Each audition can potentially be your big break, the turning point of your career, a launching pad to that next level of success. Don't rush through it for the wrong reasons.  Okay, if your character is on PCP or has ADD or is fleeing a crime scene with a time bomb strapped to their back, sure, go ahead and speed it up, but generally, slow it down. You made it into the audition room, into a moment of great opportunity, so relax and enjoy that experience to it's fullest. It can be exhilarating, and you want to bring the right energy to it.

That energy is very alert, very active, not laid back. It is very present. But still relaxed and not rushed. Famed playwright and director, Harold Pinter, had great respect for the pause. Just remember to bring fullness to everything that happens in a scene, whether you are speaking or not. Be just as present in those beautiful moments between the lines. That is where the mojo happens!

- Nancy


  1. It seems like "reading between the lines" would be common sense, but I know I unfortunately have fallen victim to not truly hearing the other character. I will definitely be more mindful at my future auditions.

    Thank you for sharing this, Nancy. And thank you for sharing your words of wisdom at last night's SAG Foundation panel! It was the first panel of its kind that I ever attended and I gained so much insight on casting, auditioning, and developing myself as an actor. Thank you!

  2. i love this! i will be hearing that guitar part in my head at the beginning of every audition i do this pilot season as a reminder to listen. thank you, nancy!