I once burned my neck with a curling iron while getting ready for an audition. It looked like a giant hickey. I had to race out the door with a wound too fresh to apply any cover up. When I walked into the room I addressed it head on. “Just so you know, this isn’t a hickey,” I said. “I burnt my neck with a curling iron. I wish it was a hickey actually, but that’s not likely considering the last date I went on.”
The casting directors laughed then asked, “What went wrong?” I launched into a story about my most recent date where after we split the bill, he made me wait at the table while he balanced his checkbook by hand. I had them laughing before I even read the sides. When I got the call that I booked the part, I was pretty sure it was more my storytelling than my actual audition that got me cast.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that live storytelling is hotter than ever these days, so never would it be a better time to have some storytelling skills in your back pocket for audition purposes. Here are just a few reasons being a good storyteller can help you book that part.
1. It will make you more memorable. It will be much easier for a casting director to remember “the blonde who once broke her leg skateboarding” than simply “another blonde.” Find a way to work in a quick personal anecdote if you see an opportunity. Remember, if the casting director is running behind and there is a big rush, maybe save your story for next time.
2. It will break the ice with the casting director. It’s always so hard to break the ice when first walking into an audition room. Sharing something personal can form an instant connection. When asked how you’re enjoying the weather or something else small talk-y, it could work to your advantage to have something interesting and personal to say. “I like the rain, I grew up in Washington State and miss it.” This opens the door for a response such as, “My daughter is going to college in Seattle,” and so on. Or, you can simply answer, “How are you liking the weather?” with “It’s fine.” You’ll get to read your scene faster, but the connection between you and the casting director may not happen. And if that doesn’t happen, that may be the only time you go in for him/her.
3. When asked a question about yourself, a personal story that goes with it can make you shine. How often do you go in for a role such as a mother and are asked, “Do you have kids?” Sure, you can answer with a yes or a no. Or you could answer instead with a quick anecdote that has to do with the question. “No, but after the phone call I just had with my sister I’m considering joining the convent. Did you know kids can swallow more than one penny at once?” Think about the role you are going in for beforehand and try and have a quick go-to story that goes with the part. A commercial for Disneyland, an under-five portraying a hairdresser, or and principle role as a police officer are all opportunities to associate a personal story with your scene. Even if you don’t get to say it in the room, it surely will help you bring some authenticity to the audition.
4. If the director is in the room, he/she is also deciding if he/she wants to work with you as aperson, not just an actor. Sharing a quick story about yourself can make you more likable and cast-able. It’s that simple.
5. Understanding story arc can help you find the arc of any scene. When telling a story for the stage, it’s essential you have a beginning, middle, and end. So, when prepping a scene, see if you can define the arc of it, even if it’s a commercial selling discount shoes. If you look hard enough there’s a story in everything.