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How Does Cold Reading Work?

    What is a Cold Reading?

    • For the aspiring actor, cold readings will often be part of the audition process. A cold reading is when the actor is given a side or a scene to read and perform for the audition. This is called a "cold" reading because the actor is given little or no time to prepare for and rehearse the scene.

    How and When it is Used

    • It is rare for casting directors to use cold readings exclusively to determine the cast. In most cases, the actor will perform a rehearsed monologue as the first step in the audition process. The cold reading usually comes at the callback audition, when the auditioners have begun to narrow their pool of possibilities. The purpose of the reading is to envision each actor in the specific role for which he is being considered. The auditioners will also be watching to see how actors look next to one another and how their energies interact.

    How to Conquer It

    • If the actor is auditioning for a play, he should read the script backwards and forwards prior to the audition. This will ensure that the reading is as "warm" as possible. If the actor is auditioning for something that is brand new such as a commercial, a film or a premier stage production, there is little that he can do in advance to prepare for the cold reading. The actor should remember that the audtioners are more concerned with the overall feel of the reading than precise delivery of lines. He should not bury his face in the script in an attempt to deliver every line exactly as intended for production. The best way is to look at the script, memorize a few lines of dialogue, drop the script to the side and deliver the lines. It is perfectly fine to go more slowly than normal in order to fully connect with the scene partner. The actor should not treat the script as an anchor, but should gesture and move freely about the stage during the cold reading.

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