The Moment Before

Laura Josepher

As college audition season gets underway, I wanted to talk about an important but often rushed through portion of the audition — the moment before.
The moment I’m talking about is the moment right before you start your song or monologue. It’s definitely not a moment most students focus on when preparing their audition material, but it should be, because this is a moment that can truly make or break your performance in the eyes of the faculty watching from behind the desk .
Why is the moment before so important? It is your time to show the adjudicators you are able to calm yourself, be in the moment, and step quickly into a character. Easier said than done, right? So how do you go about using this bit of time effectively?
The first step is making sure you have asked yourself some questions about your audition material:

Where am I? What does the space look like? Are you in a living room or a forest? And where, specifically, in that space are you located? Think of the space as a stage set and know exactly where on that set you are.

Who is with you? This is your scene partner. Where are they in relation to you in the space? Are they standing? Sitting? Close to you or far away? Note: if your character is alone, you are still speaking to someone — yourself. If this is the case, I suggest to my students that they imagine talking to themselves in a mirror.

What just happened? What was the action or the inciting dialogue that launches you into your song or your monologue? Was it a question? A statement? Make sure you learn the whole line. And, of course, make sure you have read the entire script so you can put your material in context.

What do you want? What is your goal in the monologue? What do you want from your scene partner? What are you trying to achieve? This is also called your “motivation.”  

Once you know all this information you are ready to assemble your moment before:

    • Begin with your slate: “Hello my name is… and I will be performing the role of [name of the character] from [name of the play] by [name of the playwright]” or “Hello my name is… and I will be performing [name of the song] from [name of the show] or by [writers names].” After your slate, drop your head, close your eyes, and take a deep breath (in through your nose and out through your mouth). 

    • With your eyes still closed, picture your surroundings. See the person you are speaking to, and hear them say the line that launches you into your song or monologue. Think about what you want to achieve in the scene or song.
    • THEN open your eyes. Take another moment to “locate” your scene partner in the room (NOTE: do not make one of the adjudicators your scene partner. Instead, choose a spot eye level next to them. This will allow the adjudicators to see your eyes but not feel awkward if they need to look down at their notes.)
    • If you are singing, look to the pianist and give them a nod to let them know your ready to begin. If you are delivering your monologue, just begin.
Students tell me all the time, “This will take too much time.” “Won’t they be mad if I make them wait?” Then I take out a stopwatch and time them. Most of the time this process takes less than 10 seconds. It feels like an eternity. I know. But it’s not. 

So many young artists rush into their audition material because of nerves. This doesn’t give them or the people behind the table a moment to catch their breath. Before they know it, the audition is over and it’s all a blur. You are allotted such a short amount of time in the audition room. You need to be able to be both relaxed enough to chat with the adjudicators, then change gears and get ready to perform. The faculty in the room will respect your need to take a few moments for that transition. Remember, they want you to do your best. And if they don’t, well, that tells you something about that school, doesn’t it?
None of this is easy to do. You will need to practice your moment before. Make it part of your regular audition rehearsal preparation. Slate and take a moment before every time. The transition between you — the person, and you — the performer, is an important distinction to make. And the moment before is your transformation moment.

* * *

LAURA JOSEPHER has been directing, teaching, and coaching professionally in New York City for the past thirty years. Along with partner, David Sisco, she runs Together they wrote the book, Mastering College Musical Theatre Auditions: Sound Advice for the Student, Teacher, and Parent. In her home in New York City, Laura operates an audition coaching studio where she specializes in working with young artists preparing for performing arts middle school, high school, and college auditions.


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