Sunday, 24 February 2013

How to Prepare a Shakespeare Audition Speech

Need help preparing a
Shakespeare audition speech?
If you're planning to audition for drama school, or if you want to perform in a Shakespeare play, chances are you'll have to prepare a Shakespeare audition speech. Now, on the face of it, this might seem daunting, especially if you're a drama school auditionee, who hasn't studied much of the Bard.

However, whether you love or loathe Shakespeare, there are a few simple steps that can help you prepare for an audition and ensure that you give the best performance possible.

Step One: Choose Your Weapon (Soliloquy)


You might be asked to perform a specific speech; in which case, you can skip this step.

If you have the opportunity to choose your Shakespeare speech though, the world really is your oyster.

Well, not quite your oyster, especially if you're a girl.

But there are some great soliloquies for both genders, and you may even choose to perform a speech from a character who is the opposite gender to you. For the ladies reading, if Sarah Bernhardt can do Hamlet, then why can't you?

If Sarah Bernhardt can do
Hamlet, why can't you?
And for the gentleman, all Shakespearean roles were originally played by men, so what's to stop you performing Portia's 'quality of mercy'.

Be wary, though, as you might be specifically asked to choose a speech that's in your playing age. So, if you're an eighteen-year-old girl, King Lear is certainly out.

All that said, though, it is wise not to select a speech that the auditioners have seen and heard a million times - I'm thinking along the lines of Juliet's balcony speech and Macbeth's 'tomorrow' soliloquy.

Unless you think you've got something totally original and radically unexpected to offer one of the really well-known speeches, it's better to choose one that the auditioners haven't already seen five times that day.

If you're looking for Shakespeare speeches, they can all be found here.

Step Two: Watch The Entire Play


Get a DVD copy of your Shakespeare
play and watch it
Notice, I wrote 'watch' not 'read'. By all means, read the play, too. And you might prefer to read rather than watch the play. However, I do strongly suggest watching it, especially if you're not a Shakespeare lover, because it is likely to help you make sense of the play as a whole.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to know the play from which your speech comes. Why? Well, for one thing, you might be asked a question to which you cannot give an answer.

But, in terms of your performance, you need to know what happens to your character both before and after the speech - what has lead him/her to this point? Is the speech in some way ironic, because of what's to come? These are things you simply cannot know unless you know the play.

Step Three: Get Some Inspiration


This is another step that you may choose to leave out, particularly if you're concerned that watching another actor's performance of a speech will negatively affect your own. However, in most cases, I think it can be extremely valuable to watch an expert do it. And don't just stick with one interpretation, seek out as many different versions of the speech as you can.

For example, take a look at Mel Gibson performing 'to be or not to be':


And compare that with Laurence Olivier's version of the speech:



Try to note what the actors do differently and why they've made those choices. When it comes to performing your own version of the speech, you might decide to go in an entirely different direction, or you may think that one or more of the actors is onto something.

There's nothing wrong with seeking inspiration; just ensure that when it comes to your audition, you're putting your own stamp on the speech.

Step Four: Learn the Words and Learn Them Well


Memorise your Shakespeare audition
speech, until you know it like the back
of your hand
You can't possible give the best performance you're capable of if you're struggling to remember the words.

For some people, learning Shakespearean dialogue is easier than modern speech, thanks to the rhythm, which can make it akin to learning song lyrics.

However, for many, memorising a Shakespeare speech is something of a nightmare.

If you find it difficult, there really is no quick fix. The solution is just drilling the speech over and over again, until you know it like the back of your hand.

If you know this is going to have to be your method, ensure that you've left yourself plenty of time to memorise the speech properly.

And that really is all there is to it. If you follow all of the steps above, you'll be well-prepared for your audition and able to perform your Shakespeare speech to the best of your abilities. So, break a leg!

If you'd like help getting to grips with Shakespeare and truly understanding a soliloquy or speech, be sure to check out, What's It All About, Shakespeare? An Introduction to The Bard of Avon.

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