When it comes to auditioning, basically the ideas is to go big or go home. But hamming it up can sometimes lead to overacting. So how do you avoid overdoing it while still giving it your everything?
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Trust the text!
There are a few schools of thought on this, but I am a firm believer that when it comes to acting, the text is sacred. Your number one goal in acting is to let the dramatic action rise and fall properly. In other words, your job is to tell the story.
A good playwright unfolds the story through the dialogue, and so your job is to simply say the dialogue. Don’t over complicate it. Follow the punctuation, and just say what you think the line means, in the way you think it’s meant to be said. Sometimes that will mean huge expression, sometimes that will require monotone and blank face. Make the choice, as long as it’s true to the text. When in doubt, just say the words.
One of my acting mentors always drove into our skulls to just trust what the text says, and say it. This isn’t about showing how amazing you can be, this is about “suiting the action to the word”.
2. Think like a Muppet
In Secrets of Screen Acting, author Patrick Tucker discusses two ideas of acting. To highly paraphrase, he talks about how some actors agree that the use of a lot of physical show of emotion in acting isn’t always necessary, and gives the example of the Muppets.
The Muppets are fun to watch because they can convey so much expression and emotion, even though the puppets themselves have a very small range of facial and even body movements. Yet they are believable enough actors that they can be convincing, even next to real actors. They can even move audiences to tears (don’t believe me? Try watching The Muppet Christmas Carol or Muppet Treasure Island).
If a Muppet can do it, you can do it. Just remember that your purpose, like a puppet, is to use your physical presence and voice to bring the story to life, and really, that’s all it takes.
3. Practice in various situations
If you want to audition for a film, practice both on a stage and try filming yourself. I really only have acted on stage, so watching my film acting is pathetic. But if I film myself a bunch, it definitely helps improve my audition. If you’re auditioning for the stage, practice auditioning in various types of locations to prepare for whatever space you are given.
Try changing the level of your acting based on the space/medium your are using. Maybe a smaller space will bring forward the subtleties of the text to you. Maybe you will determine the script demands huge expression no matter what space or medium it is put through. Maybe talking through the script at a fast-food restaurant with your friend will make the words more real to you. It’s worth a shot.
I hope these tips help in your upcoming auditions. Let me know in the comments what it is that helps you avoid overacting while still giving it your all.
Break legs, everyone!