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How to/Techniques: Get audition ready- Understand the text

In this final article our ‘Get audition ready’ series,Camilla introduces you to some exercises that will get you into the rhythm of understanding text.

Featured image credit: Photograph, Thai Mahendrakumar.

So, you’ve got those vocal chords resonating within you, and you’ve mastered stepping into the skin of your character. But if you have no clue what you’re actually saying, the words might as well be from another language.

These exercises are a lifesaver for Shakespeare and how to understand what you’re saying, but you can apply them to any monologue or piece of text. We’ve talked about leaving your brain alone and relying on instinct in the audition – well, there’ll be no instinct to rely on if you haven’t given your body and brain a ‘code’ so to speak. If you apply techniques to your speech or scene, then you will have a deeper, subconscious understanding to fall back on in your audition, without even thinking about it. So, try this new way of approaching text.

What you will need:
  • A studio or room where you can move
  • A speech or scene
  • A pen
  • Another student to practice with (for exercises 3-6)

Top tip:

Highlight every word you don’t understand in your speech, even if it’s modern. If you don’t understand what you’re saying 100%, the audience won’t either. Specificity is key.

Exercise 1: Walk the punctuation

Credit: Trying out the ‘Walk the punctuation’ exercise at Insights Acting Autumn/Winter Schools. Video, Dan Woodcock.

  1. Hold the speech in your hand and walk around the room. Read the speech out loud and change direction on every full stop, exclamation or question mark (.!?). Make sure you really change your direction and that you’re strict with yourself. This is to isolate the different thoughts.
  2. Continue the above, this time changing direction on every punctuation which is not a full stop such as a comma, semi-colon or hyphen (, ; –) and stop on every full stop.
  3. Notice the difference. If there are many full stops, it could be a political speech with lots of rounded statements, or your character could be really confident in what they’re saying. If you have a lot of punctuation which are not full stops, it tells you something about the character’s frame of mind – maybe they’re stressed, panicking, unsure or working something out.

Exercise 2: Shakespeare and getting to the end of the line

Credit: Trying out the ‘End of the line’ exercise during the Autumn/Winter workshops. Video, Dan Woodcock.

If you’re working on a Shakespeare speech chances are you’re freaking out about the meter, rhythm, and the lines. Don’t worry about this in your delivery, but it’s good to isolate when you practice.

  1. Use physicality to get you to the end of the line. Follow the same method as exercise.
  2. read each line out loud but this time hit, stamp, punch or clap on the last word of
    each line.
  3. The last word of each line is important. If you drop the ball and rush on to the next
    line, you lose the meaning of the one you’ve just done. Highlighting every last word of
    a Shakespeare line gives you an idea of what the speech is about.

Exercise 3: Physicalise the text

Physicalise all words while reading out loud. Commit 100% to moving to each word of the speech. Sometimes we filter what we read only focusing on the most essential words – but by slavishly going through every single word you’ll you get more nuances to your delivery.

Exercise 4: Owning an action

Credit: Trying out the ‘Owing an action’ exercise during the Autumn/Winter workshops. Video, Dan Woodcock.

Exercise 5: Pull through to the end of the thought

Credit: Trying out the ‘Pull through to the end of the thought’ exercise during the Autumn/Winter workshops. Video, Dan Woodcock.

This exercise is another way to connect with your acting partner. This time, you’re depending on and trusting each other to order to complete the action.

  1. Hold hands, bend your knees and lean away from each other.
  2. Then pull your partner up and jump through.
  3. Repeat the action, but this time, say a line of text as you complete it.
  4. Experiment with what words you emphase and when.

Exercise 6: Discovering the actions of a scene

Credit: Trying out the ‘Discovering the actions of a scene’ exercise during the Autumn/Winter workshops. Video, Dan Woodcock.

  1. Often, you’ll have directors asking you “What’s your action?” It means what are you trying to do – e.g. To bully Macbeth into killing Duncan.

In the video above you’ll see how you can experiment with how to deliver your actions and draw on life experience. Some of the techniques from across the ‘Get audition ready’can come in handy, like using a ‘half face’ to control the level of emotion in a character.

Exercise 7: Delivery

After doing these exercises, perform the speech normally – and notice the change. Do you understand the text more? Are the character’s intentions clearer?

Doing this work should make your delivery as alive and unpredictable as a living person speaking these words for the very first time. It’s important to be flexible in the delivery of your lines – life is unpredictable and so is acting! If you know who the character is, why you’re saying what you’re saying, and who you are saying it to, it will all fall into place. As long as you put the work in and prepare, you should be able to fly. As one of my tutors told me: “Plan it, rehearse it, forget about it, do it.”

Looking for more inspiration?

Go behind the scenes with our UAL Insights Autumn/Winter Acting Workshops video

Discover more of Camilla’s articles in our related posts.

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