How to Have a Successful Theater Audition For Children and Youth

Sometimes an excited young person will come racing into the kitchen after school waving a flyer announcing an audition. Sometimes a parent will notice a piece in the newspaper calling for young actors come and try out for a play, and think that this will be the perfect activity for their energetic, outgoing child. But no matter how the information is circulated around your community, you can be sure that when your child goes through the door to his or her first audition, their first impression may be enough to send them back into your arms. This does not have to happen if you know a few things about the audition process and if you do a few things to prepare your young actor for what to expect.

As you enter the audition room, you will see a couple of smiling adults seated at a table – this will be at the center of the action. These two are most likely to be the director and the stage manager. Name tags, audition forms, pencils, and dozens of kids will be on and around that table. You and your child will need to go to the table and get an audition form to be filed out. Make sure you do not drop your child off and leave! There will be questions on that form best answered by a parent, or at least by someone whose handwriting is more legible than a 5th graders. What is likely to undermine your child here is the sheer number of kids in the room, and if your child is a little one and the audition call is for a wide age range such as 5 – 18 years, the sight of the “big guys “can be overwhelming. Not to mention that probably two thirds of these bigger guys have done one or more plays together and are joyfully reuniting with their beloved former cast mates in a not quiet manner. Experienced theatrical kids are not known for their docile demeanors by any stretch of the imagination, but do not let this worry you as your 7 year old child disappears behind your leg. There is every likelihood that your own shy little one will be the next member of the exuberant “remember when we were rehearsing…?” club.

The most important thing to remember here is that your child needs to be ready for this experience and sometimes the young person is just not ready yet. It doesn’t so much depend on the child’s age, though of course this does has some bearing on the outcome, but all children develop different skills at different times. A vivacious 5 year old may be oblivious to the crowd and the unfamiliar grown-ups, and just feel completely at home from the beginning. Yet there are many 10 year olds who, outgoing and entertaining at home though they may be, are just not comfortable enough in public yet to thrive in the happily chaotic world of a youth theater production. Don’t despair! Theatrical experiences are not for everyone. This may be the case with your child, and that is fine. You may think this is the perfect place for her but she may not agree. The most important thing at this point is also the most delicate issue here as you try to decide if you should take your young person home or encourage her to stay and give it a try. Is your child going to regret not auditioning more than she will have to fight her discomfort to overcome her shyness and have a successful audition?

One way to prevent this situation is to spend a little time preparing your child for what she will encounter during the auditions. Prepare her for the big crowd of happy reuniters, for the unfamiliar adults, and remind her that eye contact and a smile is a good way to greet someone new.

Another good idea is to spend time talking with your child about the audition itself. Every director has their own favorite activities to use at auditions, but you can be very sure they will all include a chance for your youngster to show off how loud and expressive she can be. Tell your child that this is not the time to be shy! If she has ever wanted a chance to show off, this would be the right moment to do it. Of course, this does not mean you want to encourage out of control behavior, as the director will also be looking for the children who can follow directions and respond to suggestions, but go ahead and encourage your child not to fear being too loud, or too physically expressive. You can coach her with the idea that while people are often telling kids to be quiet and settle down, in this situation what the director will want to see at auditions is how loudly you can speak and how expressively she can use her face and body. And assure her that there is nothing to be feared in the group of boisterous regulars. Every single one of those young actors once had a first audition too, and truth be told they probably felt exactly the way she does right now, when it was their first time.

The other thing to be aware of when bringing your child to her first auditions is the dreaded, “What if I don’t get a part?” Ah now, this is a hard one. The hardest part for the kids and the hardest part for the director.