Auditioning with Michael Shurtleff

In the world of theatre and film, an actor must generally audition for a casting director, a director and, sometimes, an actor who has been cast already. Michael Shurtleff was an incredible and notable casting director during the 60’s and 70’s, and auditioned brilliant artists such as Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand.

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(Fun fact: He cast the film The Graduate and has been congratulated for casting a young, Jewish man to play the part of a hunky, college graduate.) Shurtleff wrote a book titled Audition, and it has served as the bible for many actors, including me. He speaks about the intricacies and techniques to acting in a way that is fully accessible in a 10 minute audition. In other words, he used acting approaches, such as Method acting, and comprised them into one page for actors to take everywhere. From this idea, he developed the ‘Twelve Guideposts’:

The Twelve Guideposts

  1. Relationship: who are you in relation to the other character and/or actor?
  2. Conflict: what are you fighting for?
  3. The Moment Before: where were you? How did you before the scene?
  4. Humor: can you find humor in the dreariest of situations?
  5. Opposites: if he is angry, you are passive aggressive.
  6. Discoveries: react to everything as if it’s your first time.
  7. Communication and Competition: who is winning in the conversation?
  8. Importance: make everything you say important.
  9. Find the Events: what is the event in the scene? Is it a confrontation or reunion?
  10. Place: where are you? Is it affecting your ability to speak?
  11. Game Playing and Role Playing: what are you trying to win? Who are you trying to be?
  12. Mystery and Secret: don’t prepare the audience for a moment that has not happened–so react truthfully.

Can you apply these guideposts to our everyday life? If so, how? If not, why not? Oh, and get the book! It is worth it.

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