THE WORLD OF THE PLAY
By Janelle Snow
What is the world of the play?
If I reached out to you and told you I was sending you a scene in which you and your lover are having an argument about your relationship, and I told you someone named Neil wrote it but I couldn’t remember if it was Neil Simon or Neil LaBute, I would say you’re missing a vital piece of information that would impact your preparation. And if you’re playing a parent whose child goes missing, the line “They were just here! I only turned away for a second!” takes on a different tone if it’s from Chicago PD versus Modern Family.
The good news is, even without a full script, you can easily access information that will help provide the framework for the decisions you’ll be making about your character, choices, wardrobe, etc.
Here’s a “Janalogy,” I often use when I’m teaching: say you receive an invitation to a wedding and you’re trying to figure out what to wear – you’ll look closely to see where the wedding is (church? fancy hotel? beach?), and when (before lunch? after dinner?) and if there are any special notes (“black tie” e.g.). The breakdown that comes with your audition is like the wedding invitation: look for the viewing platform (major network, cable, Amazon Prime, etc.), the creatives (producers, writers, director), and the type of project (multi-camera sitcom, feature film, web series, etc.).
I’ve been auditioning for on camera projects since the 1980s (before the internet – gasp!) so I fully appreciate the bounty of information available at every actors’ fingertips.
If you’re auditioning for a show that’s currently on the air but you’ve never seen it, there are free or inexpensive ways to do it – via the show’s website, iTunes, Hulu, etc.
If you’re auditioning for a new pilot, or don’t recognize some of the names of the creatives involved, websites like deadline.com and season-zero.com provide up-to-the-minute information on new and developing projects.
And if the project is being developed on a smaller scale, you can always ask for the log line or elevator pitch and origins (if the script was a love-child, who were its parents?). Just remember, The world of the play is your first step.
Be proactive in getting the information you need to build your audition on a firm foundation!
Janelle Snow teaches On Camera Acting at Acting Studio Chicago and teaches On Camera and Professional Preparation at The Theatre School at DePaul University and the Chicago College of Performing Arts. She is graduate of Northwestern and Harvard Universities and has been active in the Chicago acting community for over two decades.