Cold Reading During an Audition

Students rehearsing onstage
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Imagine that you are at an audition. The casting director hands you a script that you have never read before. Now, he or she expects you to look at the lines for about a minute and then somehow deliver your character's lines brilliantly.

That’s cold reading. It does sound rather chilling, doesn’t it? But follow these steps and you’ll eventually warm up to the idea.

Research the Material

If you are auditioning for a movie or television show, you might not be able to read the script in advance, but don’t let that stop you from researching the role. Use the internet, trade magazines like Variety and Hollywood Reporter, and any other sources to find out about the storyline and the character types that the directors might be looking for.

If you are auditioning for a play, you should be able to obtain a copy of the script. (Try your local library or, if the play is a classic that is in the public domain, do an Internet search.) If you can read the play in advance, do so. Get to know the characters inside and out. Practice reading the lines. If you’re truly ambitious, memorize a few key scenes or monologues. Another excellent resource is YouTube. Do a search for the play's title and you will often find several videos of scenes from the play.

If you can do this, then you’ll be a step ahead of other actors who have no idea what the play is about.

Don’t Block Your Face

This is a simple, but an incredibly important piece of advice. Because the script will be in your hands during your audition, you might be tempted to hold the words right in front of your face. Don’t. The director wants to see your facial expressions. If you hide behind the script, you’ll never get the part.


This is good advice for auditions in general. If your nerves get the better of you, the director might see that script shaking in your hand. You want to try not to look and sound uncomfortable or tense — even if you are.

Does this step just stress you out even more? Then you should take some time to learn how to relax.

Remember also that most directors realize how stressful auditioning is for actors. If during your audition you feel you have completely blown it, you can ask to start over. The answer is often "yes."

Practice Reading Aloud

This kind of practice is essential to mastering cold reading. Whenever you get the chance, read out loud. And don’t just read the words in a monotone voice, read the words with emotion. Read the words “in character.”

Find opportunities to read to others:

  • Read storybooks to children.
  • Read magazine articles to friends.
  • Read poetry to your family.
  • Read this article out loud to your computer.

The more you read aloud, the more natural your voice will sound. Remember, the challenge of cold reading is to sound as though you are saying those written words spontaneously. Practice provides increased confidence.

Move While You Read

During a cold read audition, most actors stand still as they read from the script. However, if it seems appropriate for your character to move, feel free to move.

Therefore, as you practice reading aloud, make certain you incorporate natural movements. Nothing extreme, nothing too distracting. Go with what feels right, or what the stage directions indicate. Remember, body language is also a major part of the audition.

Listen and React

Many “cold readers” mistakenly look down at their script while their fellow actors are delivering their lines. Instead, you should be in character, listening and reacting to their words. Much of your audition relies on how you respond to the other characters.

Be Creative and Receptive to New Ideas

There are limitless ways to read a scene or monologue. Show your creativity by developing unique characters. The director may ask you to read the part in a different way. Embrace the director’s suggestions and demonstrate what a team player you can be.

Your creativity, your cold reading skills, and your professionalism will all help you during your auditions. Break a leg!