First thing’s first: cold reading is reading aloud a transcript or text without any prior rehearsal and little knowledge on the context. Cold readings can be applied in various situations such as theater, stand-up comedy, and even during book events. They can be tough for anyone since they get the feeling that they’re currently being placed on the spot. But as an actor, a cold reading should be an opportunity to showcase your improvisation and flexibility skills. It can be a platform for a performer to test his ability and the way he or she delivers speech.
Cold readings can be applied during acting audition. Imagine the casting director handing you a script you have never read before and asking you to convey emotions out of it. Sounds pretty tough, right? As challenging as it may seem, cold readings are very much doable by any actor in the industry.
So with that being said, it is time to explore some useful tips in nailing a cold reading during an audition.
1. Calm down, take a deep breath, and relax
Bear in mind that a cold reading is an opportunity to show the casting directors what you are capable of. Whether you like it or not, there is a very big chance that it will be part of an audition. Auditions in general require relaxation even when the nerves seem to get the best of you. Tension will radiate in your voice and ultimately show on your face if you let your nervousness win. Since this is an on the spot activity, it’s best to start whenever you’re ready. Try a mini breathing exercise, wherein you inhale and exhale until you manage to shake the jitters out.
2. Internalize the character and the scene
Straight off the bat, you’ll need to transform yourself to the character and the scene he is currently in. You’ll be given ample time to run through the script before actually acting it out, but since that is limited, let your senses and logic be fully functional. Make quick decisions like, “What is this character like?” “What is his current state of mind?” Being able to fully understand what everything from the scene to the accompanying characters is something not only rookie performers do. This is the beauty of acting, the fact that you can challenge yourself into thinking things through with as little time as possible.
3. Refrain from being too stiff
At first glance, “refrain from being too stiff” seems like an easy thing to say and hard thing to do. But during a cold reading, the number one thing to keep in mind to refrain from sounding and looking like a robot is to relax despite not knowing your lines. Another important point to remember is to never forget that you are in an audition, thus you need to act! Try building your chemistry with your screen partner if you are required to act with someone and don’t forget to mold your character’s story according to your creativity and pacing. That way, you are comfortable and confident with your acting.
Another good advice is to move around the stage. Movement will help you shake any remaining nerves you have as well. Also try to imagine yourself in the actual production, so if your audition partner is delivering their lines, don’t look down on your script to ruin the moment. Instead, act that you are listening to them as they speak. Actions like these will surely not go unnoticed by the casting director and will work on your favor.
4. Loosen up and don’t focus on failing
No casting director expects any audition to be as flawless as possible. Cold readings are done impromptu, so they don’t expect that to be perfect either. As much as you want to give your best, note that you won’t be able to do that if you are to focus on being perfect or thinking about failing your audition for that matter. So take the pressure off yourself and try to make the experience as fun and relaxed as possible. Acting is supposed to be an experience that would convey emotions from your audience, so show the casting director you can be entertaining as well if the scene allows it.
Remember, cold readings are a test of an actor’s skills. But if you mess it up, or don’t deliver your cold reading the way you would have wanted it to be, know that there are other opportunities. For now, it’s best to build on that confidence since that’s your best weapon to nail any audition.