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Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part

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Michael Shurtleff has been casting director for Broadway shows like Chicago and Becket and for films like The Graduate and Jesus Christ Superstar. His legendary course on auditioning has launched hundreds of successful careers. Now in this book he tells the all-important HOW for all aspiring actors, from the beginning student of acting to the proven talent trying out for Michael Shurtleff has been casting director for Broadway shows like Chicago and Becket and for films like The Graduate and Jesus Christ Superstar. His legendary course on auditioning has launched hundreds of successful careers. Now in this book he tells the all-important HOW for all aspiring actors, from the beginning student of acting to the proven talent trying out for that chance-in-a-million role!


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Michael Shurtleff has been casting director for Broadway shows like Chicago and Becket and for films like The Graduate and Jesus Christ Superstar. His legendary course on auditioning has launched hundreds of successful careers. Now in this book he tells the all-important HOW for all aspiring actors, from the beginning student of acting to the proven talent trying out for Michael Shurtleff has been casting director for Broadway shows like Chicago and Becket and for films like The Graduate and Jesus Christ Superstar. His legendary course on auditioning has launched hundreds of successful careers. Now in this book he tells the all-important HOW for all aspiring actors, from the beginning student of acting to the proven talent trying out for that chance-in-a-million role!

30 review for Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part

  1. 4 out of 5

    Z

    The best book on acting I have ever read, and also full of great insights into human psychology.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Linda C.

    This is a book I have bought many times over. I keep lending it to people and never getting it back. I use this book to remind me of what goes into good drama. Here is a link to a blog entry that I wrote about this book: http://lcmccabe.blogspot.com/2006/12/...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    The BEST Acting book I've ever read! I refer to this book constantly.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Keith Moser

    Anyone who wants to be an actor needs to read this book. It is, by far, the best book on acting I've ever read. It is filled with fantastic advice--some of it kind of obvious, much of it I've already been following for years, but still several good reminders of how to audition well. Of course, I've already read this twice since I bought it about a decade ago, so I shouldn't be too surprised that not much seemed new to me. Michael Shurtleff was a major Broadway and Hollywood casting director. He Anyone who wants to be an actor needs to read this book. It is, by far, the best book on acting I've ever read. It is filled with fantastic advice--some of it kind of obvious, much of it I've already been following for years, but still several good reminders of how to audition well. Of course, I've already read this twice since I bought it about a decade ago, so I shouldn't be too surprised that not much seemed new to me. Michael Shurtleff was a major Broadway and Hollywood casting director. He often worked with David Merrick and helped find such stars as Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Bette Midler and Gregory Hines. He has worked with Bob Fosse (who wrote the meta-foreword) and Andrew Lloyd Webber and helped cast the films The Graduate and The Sound of Music. He seems to know his stuff having seen thousands (if not millions) of actors audition for various roles over the years. The book has many interesting anecdotes from his years of experience, several classroom dialogues illustrating his different guideposts, a few leads on plays with good scenes and indispensable advice for anyone trying to land a role (whether in Hollywood or Hicksville). I wasted nearly half a pen re-highlighting this book (my yellow highlighter from 10+ years ago had almost completely disappeared on these yellowing pages), there's just that much good advice within.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carla

    Great read. Super insightful and extremely helpful. Any actor subjecting themselves to the madness of theater should read this.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Kate

    Definitely read this if you want to do anything in the field of drama. Or if you like philosophy. Or if you like weird, random stories about Barbra Streisand.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Shaun

    A must read for anyone who aspires to be an actor.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rohit Solanki

    Good tips. Direct, no bullshit advices. Every actor or director should read once. a bit boring though. Was really hard to read more than 20 pages a day.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    As an aspiring actor, I loved reading this book. Shurtleff takes you into the audition scene and gives you real life examples of what to do and what not to do. Some of the advice he gives is pretty self-explanatory but still extremely helpful. For me, I have referred back to this book to help me get into a good acting mindset. It emphasizes being yourself during an audition, while taking advantage of the many parts of the audition so the auditor gets a well-rounded view of what you can do. This As an aspiring actor, I loved reading this book. Shurtleff takes you into the audition scene and gives you real life examples of what to do and what not to do. Some of the advice he gives is pretty self-explanatory but still extremely helpful. For me, I have referred back to this book to help me get into a good acting mindset. It emphasizes being yourself during an audition, while taking advantage of the many parts of the audition so the auditor gets a well-rounded view of what you can do. This book gives information that is not only helpful in auditions, but can be implemented in basically every part of acting. I really like how this book talks about human nature and integrating that into character development. I'd say the most helpful section for an actor would be the Twelve Guideposts. In these chapters, Michael Shurtleff gives great outlines for making the character come to life using things like relationships, conflict and motivation. My favorite guidepost is number 6, Discoveries. In this guidepost, it talks about being involved in the moment, which can lead to new discoveries about other characters, themselves, the scene, or the show as a whole. It explains that the more discoveries the actor makes in a scene, the better it will be. I recommend this book to actors, directors, and anyone involved in the show-biz, but it can be useful in real life as well. It gives good tips on how to present and market yourself that can be useful in job interviews and meeting new people.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Brett Bavar

    Shurtleff shares many nuggets of wisdom for actors in this book, though those nuggets are sometimes buried due to the book's lack of clear structure. I am an improvisor, and I haven't auditioned for a scripted play since I was a kid. Some of the advice in this book is particularly useful for actors auditioning for scripted plays, but I still found a lot of useful advice for acting in improvised scenes as well. The core of the book sets forth the 12 "guideposts" for reading a script in an audition. Shurtleff shares many nuggets of wisdom for actors in this book, though those nuggets are sometimes buried due to the book's lack of clear structure. I am an improvisor, and I haven't auditioned for a scripted play since I was a kid. Some of the advice in this book is particularly useful for actors auditioning for scripted plays, but I still found a lot of useful advice for acting in improvised scenes as well. The core of the book sets forth the 12 "guideposts" for reading a script in an audition. Though I do not do script readings myself, these guideposts can still be useful when doing improv scenes. When practicing improv, I could focus on a particular guidepost to develop my ability in that arena. Hopefully, this would eventually lead to performing in accordance with all of the guideposts after practicing enough.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    Not just for actors! While aimed at actors who need knowledge or help with auditions, it is a lifetime's worth of good anecdotes from a big deal insider, told with the force and tenderness of a relative who knows you can make it, but is not sure your passion for the field will survive all the hoops. It's about how to present yourself to people who will judge you in moments, how to be pragmatic, authentic to yourself and yet totally surprise them into thinking well and memorably of you--even if Not just for actors! While aimed at actors who need knowledge or help with auditions, it is a lifetime's worth of good anecdotes from a big deal insider, told with the force and tenderness of a relative who knows you can make it, but is not sure your passion for the field will survive all the hoops. It's about how to present yourself to people who will judge you in moments, how to be pragmatic, authentic to yourself and yet totally surprise them into thinking well and memorably of you--even if you don't end up getting that particular role.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Danielle Alonzo

    Lots of valuable information. Best excerpt for me .. is to give an ENTIRE range of who you are in an audition. An audition is NOT the performance. This rang very true for me. An audition is the chance to show the auditor WHO you are. Your personality.. and all facets of it. This book is a staple for any serious actor & with each new set of sides I receive.. I touch base with my highlighted parts and get renewed :)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Emily Giuffre

    The absolute must read for actors. If you want to have successful auditions you have to get this book for yourself and read it a few times. Known by all in the business as the "bible" on how to audition and very good just to go deeper into characters after you've been cast in a play.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kayley

    As a Theatre major, this book has done more than just open my eyes when it came to auditioning. This book is very helpful for actors. Highly recommend it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Bridge

    Excellent, pragmatic advice for scene study/monologues/auditions. Somewhat antiquated. A useful resource for students and teachers of Theatre.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chalise

    Use it in my acting classes. It is great for beginning actors and experienced actors alike. Easy to understand and apply as an actor.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Walter

    The best book on the topic of acting ever written. I have used it countless times, both as a teaching tool and as a reference for myself. MUST READ if you want to get better at getting cast.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Mark Amacker

    Excellent book! It helps teach much more than auditioning, it also teaches exploring and approaching scenes. Excellent for anyone who is into acting if even a little, it'll help you out!

  19. 5 out of 5

    LeeLee

    I thought this would be cheesy, but damned if it's not really, really helpful.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Richard Wu

    The economic mountaineers one finds scaling Wall Street skyscrapers love bragging about the quality of the bags under their eyes, and it’s true, they do keep late hours under abusive labor hierarchies. But in the pissing contest of masochism I wonder if they have anything on aspirant actors, who must, on stage, rend and tear their hearts and souls only to face rejection after rejection for the very qualities that dignify their humanity, all for, at best, a literal fraction of that emerald The economic mountaineers one finds scaling Wall Street skyscrapers love bragging about the quality of the bags under their eyes, and it’s true, they do keep late hours under abusive labor hierarchies. But in the pissing contest of masochism I wonder if they have anything on aspirant actors, who must, on stage, rend and tear their hearts and souls only to face rejection after rejection for the very qualities that dignify their humanity, all for, at best, a literal fraction of that emerald aquavit permitted their vampiric peers in finance. So one must ask what makes one wish to become an actor, what sort of individual is drawn to acting.To go into acting is like asking for admission to an insane asylum. Anyone may apply, but only the certifiably insane are admitted. [p.5]I suppose codes of ethics are the only thing preventing directors of stage and screen from prying said certifiably insane out of their asylums and setting them loose for the public’s viewing pleasure, for the result would be invariably more entertaining than the fluff and drivel you get out of those only feigning insanity, as if it were some sort of game and not reality, lived reality. What is art, after all, but a form of controlled insanity. Regardless, it is certainly the case that we are all actors in some capacity, the most oblivious of whom—normal people—are called by documentarians “social actors,” or those who mill around believing “acting” is something done on stages and movie sets, separate from real life. Humanity’s externalization of this thing we’re all doing all the time, acting, into its own space as an artistic pursuit… How odd it is. About as odd as the brain naming itself, but not quite as odd as what I’m about to suggest. Become what you are! -NietzscheHow is this done? Consider that acting is predicated on the desire to be other than what you are. Acting is the realm of escapism and fantasy, where you yes you, small-town Midwestern lass, can become a Hollywood superstar, adored by millions, with the right combination of luck, talent, and skill. That last quality is the real kicker; skill implies something you can get better at, and indeed, by partitioning our—let’s call it—active capacity, we’ve essentially enabled ourselves to be better. We just need to reincorporate* this externalized capacity; Jung called it “eating the shadow.” We can become what we are only through becoming other than what we are. This book is not about these things, of course, but how boring would a book review be if it simply summarized the covered material? It hardly needs mentioning that this is useful for anyone trying to break into acting roles, as it covers audition mechanics from all sorts of different angles. But in light of the above, shouldn’t you too want to get good at acting? Shurtleff knows his stuff—take a few tips. Favorite Quotes “Humor is not jokes. It is that attitude toward being alive without which you would have long ago jumped off the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge.” [p.74] “[A]ctors seem fond of doing Everyday Life, congratulating themselves on their Truthfulness in doing so. The truth is not enough if it is neither dramatic nor interesting nor unique. We have lots of truth all day long, ground into us endlessly, usually someone else’s truth, which they insist we know whether we want to or not. We have our own truths to face all the time, unattractive and unappealing, so that it takes every ounce of imagination to create some sort of dream to hold on to, however foolish, however unlikely, however hidden. People live for their dreams, not for the oppressiveness of truths.” [p.92] “Bursts of anger and regret after an audition are significant signs – meaning that you repressed yourself during the audition.” [p.158] “Casting is a very subjective process for the auditors, naturally, no matter what objective criteria they use. Given readings of equal excellence, they are more than likely to decide because “I like her.” There’s nothing you can do about that, so it’s better not to concern yourself with it. The reasons for not choosing you are likely to be myriad and complex, from the fact that you look too like another actor already cast to their subjective reaction of not liking your looks or the timbre of your voice to the fact that you remind them of their first wife—reasons you can do nothing to control or alter.” [p.25] -- PS – Four stars because Impro still remains my book of choice in this arena; the Venn of Shurtleff and Johnstone has decent overlap. *Reincorporation is foregrounded by recognition of externalization. The actual process of reincorporation is still mysterious to me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Angel Oziel

    Acting and A Lot of A Little Bit More I will like to start this review by the quote that I could say best describes theatre in its relationship to life: "All the world 's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts" -William Shakespeare I started in theatre not a long time ago, at my young age, and was baptized in it by fire, interesting enough, I didn't had to audition because I was going to do an extra and Acting and A Lot of A Little Bit More I will like to start this review by the quote that I could say best describes theatre in its relationship to life: "All the world 's a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts" -William Shakespeare I started in theatre not a long time ago, at my young age, and was baptized in it by fire, interesting enough, I didn't had to audition because I was going to do an extra and a supporting role in some scenes. Yet, the flow of intense blood that theatre brings to every animal still ran thru me because my father was one of the writers, and the director of the play, and I experienced the complete cycle of a play, because I had to assist my father in the entire production, which was called, Free Los Tres. Returning to the book and the reason why Im saying this, is because in theatre, I was baptized by fire, but that forced me to be water, and the essence of the book, is in what the author properly calls "opposites", this is a word that you will find a lot, but that in relation to every other rich concept and tool given to you by this book which I found to be essential as a good suit is to the job interview, that gives soul to theatre, and this book will give you a wider lense in which you can see acting, and specifically auditioning clear; this will give you to guts and the appropiate vision to properly follow it, according to one of the most succesfull casting directors, and if you think hard enough, a wise man beyond acting, so if you haven't read it, go at it, the book is also fun to read and as useful as commedy in an audition, I will and cannot say much more.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Justin Fan

    If you’ve ever thought acting was easy, try planning for even the simplest line after this book. Michael Shurtleff provides his lessons condensed in 12 guidelines, but even that is a lot to consider before the start of a scene. How can I say yes to even the most outlandish scripts? What is the 20-year backstory to this character that audiences will meet for an hour, tops? The best acting occurs between the lines; what occurs in the moments of silence, connection, realization between characters If you’ve ever thought acting was easy, try planning for even the simplest line after this book. Michael Shurtleff provides his lessons condensed in 12 guidelines, but even that is a lot to consider before the start of a scene. How can I say yes to even the most outlandish scripts? What is the 20-year backstory to this character that audiences will meet for an hour, tops? The best acting occurs between the lines; what occurs in the moments of silence, connection, realization between characters that might have grown up together, portrayed by auditioning actors who have just met? Acting is doing, and obviously, reading about it isn’t doing much. But if you’re insane enough to believe that acting is your best future, then keep a copy of this with you at all times. If you’re doing it right, your next Audition is never far off.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Summerstay

    The New York casting director who writes this book focuses almost entirely on cold-readings including only a section on monologues which says, essentially, 'all the same stuff applies'. However, my friend, the son of a New York Actress informed me that most New York Theatres audition with monologues and not cold-reads. 'When was the book written?' 'The 70s.' 'Ah, that must be it. I suppose, after they all read the book, they realised how mad the idea really was.' And so the matter was resolved. I The New York casting director who writes this book focuses almost entirely on cold-readings including only a section on monologues which says, essentially, 'all the same stuff applies'. However, my friend, the son of a New York Actress informed me that most New York Theatres audition with monologues and not cold-reads. 'When was the book written?' 'The 70s.' 'Ah, that must be it. I suppose, after they all read the book, they realised how mad the idea really was.' And so the matter was resolved. I enjoyed the light humour that pervaded this book. I don't read much non-fiction cover to cover, but Shurtleff took this beyond the informative into the enjoyable with all his anecdotes and experiences.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Adam Carrington

    Golden advice from a casting director on how to pass a Broadway acting audition. Beautifully written. Grounded in experience and illustration of point. The psychology at play is fascinating for its relevance, applicable beyond the arts. Self-help genre, even. Thankfully, published in 1979, Shurtleff was writing directly for actors and unaware of the cross-appeal. That is part of the magic. To act is to master the manipulation of social dynamics. The skill of passing an audition involves Golden advice from a casting director on how to pass a Broadway acting audition. Beautifully written. Grounded in experience and illustration of point. The psychology at play is fascinating for its relevance, applicable beyond the arts. Self-help genre, even. Thankfully, published in 1979, Shurtleff was writing directly for actors and unaware of the cross-appeal. That is part of the magic. To act is to master the manipulation of social dynamics. The skill of passing an audition involves manipulating these dynamics under intense pressure to achieve a successful outcome. Basically, everyone could benefit from the advice contained in this book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    This is a good book, not just for auditions, but for acting classes as well. I found it to be very informative. There were some guide points I’ve learned in classes, I still learned new things. Even though, this was a book written primarily for theatre acting/auditions, I think some of it can be applied to film and tv acting.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Michael Padilla

    From Screen, Stage, to Life, Michael Shurtleff was an American Actor and a Big Force in the casting world. His experiences took him very far in his career in life as a casting director. "Audition: Everything an Actor needs to know to get the part" is just that, showing us the step by step process of how to make sure we nail that next actor's audition.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Some very interesting insights into acting and how to help young actors. But it feels formulaic and I worry that strict adherence to these guidelines would lead to performers that are too caught up in their heads. I also don't trust anyone who calls O'Neill "artless." He lost me after that.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rose Klein

    A must-read for everyone even remotely involved in acting, writing, or who is in the business of understanding people. Shurtleff gives perspective and a suite of tools for bringing characters to life that are invaluable.

  29. 5 out of 5

    marcus jackson

    Useful information Very useful information, the wording is a bit outdated but seeing the original publishing date (1978) it’s understandable. I recommend this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    EveAngelyne

    Funny, enticing, informative. Definitely gives anyone interested in the art plenty of food-for-thought and advice on how to perfect their performance.

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