Auditioning With A Partner

Leeann Dearing

Hey actors! Me again.

So, we all know that Improv skills are supremely important. Improvisation is prevalent in the casting room, and it is a many-headed-hydra-beast. You might be auditioning alone, reacting non-verbally to someone or something. You might be auditioning alone, speaking to the casting director or a reader. You might be speaking to camera. You might be filmed in a master with a scene parter (or two.)

The later can be tremendously fun. You have the benefit of a scene partner to react to! What a gift. Unless of course, it isn’t…

Every now and then you find yourself auditioning with someone who for whatever reason, isn’t a great scene partner. They might be very nervous. Or very new to improv. Maybe they’re not listening closely. Or trying to be funny. It happens to the best of us, of course. But what should you do if you find yourself in the casting room with a partner like that?

Glad you asked.

I could write about it. Or, I could show you.

Let’s start with what NOT to do. Meet Sarah Harvey.

My good friend, our studio receptionist, Leighton Agency Actress and a very talented Improviser. Today, we’re going to do an audition together for a fictitious company titled “The Happy Fun Time Pizza Place”. Except, I’m going to be a terrible scene partner, and she’s not going to handle it well. Here we go.

That was awkward.

Now let’s do that again. I’ll be just as wretched as before, but this time, Sarah will find a way to still give a decent audition. How?

By using the principles of agreement and “vertical scene moves” (expounding upon what was said rather than adding an un-related piece of information.) This concept takes some rehearsal to understand, but I’ll give a fast example.

A: You stole my skittles, Brenda.

B: Yes, I stole your skittles. And you kidnapped my dog.

This is already a weird scene, but go with it. So rather than dealing with the initiation (“You stole my skittles, Brenda”) and furthering the who/what/where of the scene, person B introduced a brand new problem to deal with.

A: You stole my skittles, Brenda.

B: Yes, I stole your skittles. You were late on rent, so I’m collecting late fees in the form of your personal groceries.

Okay, cool. Still a weird scene, but this time person B decided to really hear the offer and help justify the platform. They provided new information about the “what” by establishing the issue of rent. This gives us more information about their relationship (roommates). It heightens and furthers the initiation which was the skittle-stealing. It’s a better way to build a scene.

For a more in depth read on this, check out the UCB Improv Comedy Manual. It’s off the chain.

And now, another terrible Improv performance (by me) made less terrible (by Sarah).

So her terrible scene partner (me) was interrupting, wasn’t listening and was SUPER intent on playing the scene “jokey”. This actor is trying to make themselves look good in the audition. Sarah continues to “yes” my obnoxious scene work, and ends up getting out some selling points about our fictional company “Happy Fun Time Pizza Parlor”.