Cold reading is reading aloud from a script, without prior rehearsal, study or practice. Oftentimes actors are invited to do a cold reading to allow casting directors to gauge their performing abilities. Cold reading is one of the most dreaded parts of the audition process. Even seasoned actors sometimes fail during a cold reading session. Knowing that does not lessen your nervousness, though. You can either bungle the audition or try some calming techniques to restore your balance and focus. Before an audition do the following:
- Do some deep breathing exercises in a quiet corner, close your eyes and take in a lungful of air, holding it in for a few seconds before slowly releasing it. Do this several times until you can feel yourself relax.
- Focus your mind on your present goal – to pass the audition and get the part.
- Picture yourself on stage and showing the director and the casting crew what you can do. You have been practicing and perfecting your performance for a long time. Now is your chance to put it into practice.
- Rid your mind of your fear. Invite positive energy by thinking of why you want to pass the audition, what benefits getting the part will do to your career, and what it will add to your development as an actor.
- Relax your muscles. Let your arms hang loose by your side. Shake them from the shoulders until you feel the tension leave through your fingertips.
It is now your turn. You have considerably calmed down and collected your thoughts. There are several pointers to observe when doing a cold reading. These will serve you in good stead for now and in the future.
- Once you have the script, quickly read it and pick up the main point about your character. Memorize the main line, marking the passage with your thumb so you do not get lost. The director and casting crew should see your expressions as you deliver your lines. You can glance at the script again if the lines are too long to memorize. It is not possible to memorize long lines of monologue instantly.
- Listen carefully to what the director is saying. He might want you to deliver the line in another way or be describing the character differently from what your idea was. Be adaptable. Do not insist on doing it your way. That will quickly get you rejected.
- Keep your posture relaxed. Quickly get into character and deliver your lines without looking at the director or the camera. If you have to read with someone, focus your sole attention on the person who is reading with you.
- Move around if the script calls for it. Do not just stand still on the same spot.
- React to what the person reading with you is saying. Facial expressions, body movements, even a bit of silence are more eloquent than verbally spoken words.
- If the director asks you to do a different delivery, take it as positive compliment and do as the director asks. This is an indication that the director has seen something in you that he wants to explore.
- Keep in character up to the end of a cold reading and until you leave the stage. Be polite and thank the director and the casting crew. This shows your professionalism.
As an actor, you cannot really escape a cold reading. It is an essential part of being an actor. How you approach the audition is what makes you a professional. Let an old adage guide you – practice makes perfect.