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Acting Book Reviews: Audition by Michael Shurtleff

May 7, 2013


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A few weeks ago, I was on my way to my survival job. I had an extra 5 minutes to spare before I had to be at work, so I stopped at the thrift store conveniently located on the block prior to my job. In the midst of skimming through the books, I came upon a bright yellow cover. When I turned the book over and read the title, “Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part” by Michael Shurtleff, I was intrigued. I was also skeptical. It sounded too good to be true. It sounded like one of those quick-fix books. I read the description on the back of the book:

“The casting director for Chicago, Pippin, Becket, Gypsy, The Graduate, The Sound of Music and Jesus Christ Superstar tells you how you can find your dream! Absolutely everything an actor needs to know to get the part is here: what to do that moment before, how to use humor; create mystery; how to develop a distinct style; and how to evaluate the place, the relationship and the competition. In fact, Audition is a necessary guide to dealing with all the ‘auditions’ we face in life. This is the bible on the subject!”

Since I was looking for a good read, and I am always trying to improve my auditioning skills- I decided to give it a go.

The book was published in 1979. Even though it isn’t a recent novel, the information is still relevant and very informative! The book begins with a comedic forward by Bob Fosse. So far, so good. The book is very well written. I had no trouble focusing, it was easy to read. Michael Shurtleff takes the reader through the 12 guideposts of a successful audition:

  • Guidepost 1.) Relationship
  • Guidepost 2.) What are You Fighting For? Conflict
  • Guidepost 3.) The Moment Before
  • Guidepost 4.) Humor
  • Guidepost 5.) Opposites
  • Guidepost 6.) Discoveries
  • Guidepost 7.) Communication and Competition
  • Guidepost 8.) Importance
  • Guidepost 9.) Find the Events
  • Guidepost 10.) Place
  • Guidepost 11.) Game Playing and Role Playing
  • Guidepost 12.) Mystery and Secret

Some of these guideposts included conversations between Michael Shurtleff and actors/actresses he has coached. They discuss the character the actor/actress is portraying, their relationship with the other character is the scene, and how they are portraying the emotions the character is feeling. At first, I began to feel like these conversations were a bit repetitive and pointless. However, soon the topics the actors were struggling with began to hit home. It was helpful to hear the actors (so to speak) describe the struggles they were dealing with in a scene, be able to relate to those struggles, and read Michael Shurtleff’s solution for those struggles.

This book has given me a whole new way of thinking. I know I will be reviewing the many useful tips in this book before my next audition. Some of the things I read in this book I have heard/read before. Some of the things were a first to read. Either way, it was helpful to remind myself of the things I may have forgotten, and learn some new things!

I would recommend this book to any actor. It is definitely something every beginning actor should read. It is a wonderful guide as to what a beginning actor can expect at an audition and covers such topics as: who the auditors are, entering and exiting an audition, your wardrobe, standing in the light, and working on the sides. As an experienced actor, I also found it very helpful. Some of the things I found helpful were- advice on marketing yourself as an actor, putting yourself into a reading, and thinking beyond what is stated in the script. I think every actor, no matter what level or stage of their career, would benefit from having this book in their tool belt.

I highly recommend at least going to this LINK, and checking out the preview pages offered by Amazon. Enjoy!

The Growing Artist Signature

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2013 10:37 am

    I just want to second you on this. This book is one of the ABSOLUTELY MUST READS. As an actor, you’ve just got have this in your arsenal. Such good tips. You’ll go into your next cold read with so much more clarity.

  2. The College Theatre Dork permalink
    May 7, 2013 2:36 pm

    This is the book I got when I was 14 and has stayed on my bookshelf ever since. MUST READ and RE-READ!

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