Banner image: Irene Ryan finals at Saginaw in 2010.

Contact: Ryan Coordinator


Irene Ryan Scholarship Auditions


Please be advised that the following are suggestions and tips provided as a guide. It is important to remember that they are NOT rules by which the auditions will be evaluated.


Updated November 8, 2015

Time management is a very important consideration in selecting material for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Auditions. Actors will be stopped at the time limit at all levels of the audition. There is no grace period at any level. Actors are strongly encouraged to allow for room in their audition both for audience reaction and for taking the time necessary to fully develop the acting moments. It is a disadvantage to the actor to prepare an audition which requires the actor to rush to finish the material, which is indicative of an unprofessional and ill-prepared audition.

Actors and coaches are also strongly encouraged to select material which will help demonstrate the audition competencies listed below: 

  1. Use material that is within your age range, your vocal range (especially if you're singing), your emotional range, and within the scope of your movement skills. In addition, the portrayal of a disability should not be regarded as a technical skill or as a creative/contrasting acting choice.
  2. Provide your own accompanist if singing. This will allow you to prepare your audition in the most thorough fashion. Avoid a capella singing as it is not the standard of professional auditions and puts the actor at a disadvantage.
  3. Choose material that has a clear beginning and moves to a conclusion.
  4. Avoid material that you have performed in a complete production as it may hamper your ability to re-stage/re-think the scene for audition, rather than production purposes.
  5. Discuss your choice of material with your director, and your other acting teachers to make sure you have acquired performance rights and/or permission to perform the material
  6. Choose material in which you have faith and that allows you to gain confidence as you rehearse.

Rehearsing the Material

  1. Make strong, positive and varied choices aimed at putting your character in charge of the scene.
  2. Locate and exploit counterpoints and tensions between yourself and the character, tensions within the character, tensions between the character and the dramatic situation.
  3. Take a journey and allow the text to surprise you. Use discoveries, realizations, unusual tactics, and make nonverbal choices in the scene to keep the journey the character makes spontaneous and surprising.
  4. Give movement specificity, dramatic validity, and theatrical finish. Simple but completely realized movements and gestures are the most effective. Avoid literal interpretations of the text in movement and gesture.
  5. Avoid working on too many physical levels (on chairs, tabletop, etc.) simply to dazzle the audience with unusual staging choices. Look for staging choices that grow more from a thorough understanding of the text than a desire to use the audition venue in a unique and clever way.
  6. Maintain vocal control throughout the scene. Don't let emotions drive you beyond vocal expression you can control.
  7. Imagine the physical space appropriate for your scene; set the boundaries and maintain control of that space during the performance
  8. Movement should develop organically from the material; the connection between the physical action and its emotional source should be strong and clear.
  9. Ask your acting teachers and your coaches to help you with your audition. Bug them until they do. Don't let the regional festival be the first place your audition will be seen by others. Feedback from coaches and as much rehearsal in front of others as possible is essential.
  10. Your introduction is an important part of your audition. Make it count. Script and rehearse it as if it is an additional scene in your audition. Be sure both you and your partner are introduced by name (but do not identify your school), and that you identify the title of each piece you are performing. Keep the introductions brief, personable and professional.
  11. Adequate rehearsal is vital. A five minute presentation should be rehearsed a minimum of six hours, excluding time spent learning the material and discussing it with coaches.

At the Audition

  1. Wear simple, attractive, comfortable clothes and shoes suited to your movement choices. Current stylistic trends are not necessarily the most professional attire. Remember, your clothes aren't auditioning — you are.
  2. It is recommended that no costume as such be used, unless absolutely essential to the scene.
  3. It is recommended that no properties be used, unless absolutely essential to the scene.
  4. Minimize jewelry. Style your hair so that it flatters your face, not hides it.
  5. Warm up your voice and your body. Take time to connect to your partner.
  6. Assess the acoustic qualities of each performance space and make choices regarding how much vocal energy you will need to be heard.
  7. Command your space. You are being watched even as you place the furniture in preparation for the audition.
  8. You may certainly end your audition with "Thank you."

A Note about Time: 

In the regional semifinal round and beyond, be sure to clearly specify the ending of one piece and the beginning of the next. Do not run scenes together.

Time the performance carefully so that it is within the required limits; audience laughter is part of your time—you don't get extra time if they're laughing too hard to press forward. Carefully weigh the decision of how long you wish the preliminary round scene to run. If you decide to consume all three minutes in the preliminary round scene, you will have only two additional minutes to perform a contrasting scene in the semifinal round. The choice is entirely yours, but plan accordingly.

The confidence, poise, and polish characteristic of outstanding auditions is the result of dedicated, concentrated rehearsal and astute coaching.

Coaches and candidates may also wish to keep the following criteria, now used by selectors at every audition level, in mind when selecting and preparing material for the auditions:

  1. Ability to urgently pursue strong, clear objectives. (Has the actor identified a strong goal or task to pursue in the scene and are they consistently in "high stakes" pursuit of that task)?
  2. Ability to partner. (Is the actor genuinely and significantly connected to, and in relationship with their acting partner throughout the scene? Are they listening, responding and pursuing task through partner)?
  3. Ability to make varied, specific and bold acting choices. (Is the actor employing different tactics in pursuit of the overall task, are those tactics clear, interesting and specific? Is the actor avoiding the traps of generalizing, emoting, and playing a single character "color" or "quality" throughout the scene)?
  4. Mastery of an expressive and flexible vocal and physical instrument. (Does the actor have vocal and physical control? Can they be heard and understood throughout the audition? Is the audition free of superfluous energy or tension vocally or physically)?
  5. Facility with language and clear understanding of the text. (Has the actor met the specific demands of the language in the text? Do the actor's choices seem grounded in, and informed by a broader understanding of the entire play)?
  6. Demonstration of range and contrast. At each successive level of the audition—as it journeys from the preliminary to the final round—the actor is expected to show increasing degrees of range and contrast. In the preliminary round the actor will be evaluated primarily on the range and variety of choices within a single scene. In the semi-final round, the actor will be expected to demonstrate range and contrast in the material they select to perform as well as the choices they make within each scene. In the final round, the actor is expected to present three selections that demonstrate the broadest possible range and contrast.

This criteria has been developed to ensure that the actor demonstrates some ability in the craft of acting in addition to native talent, charisma and stage presence, and selecting material that enables the actor to demonstrate a genuine understanding of craft is strongly encouraged.

Actors and coaches are also strongly encouraged to remember that all auditions will be evaluated primarily on an actor's ability to demonstrate the acting competencies listed above, whether the material selected is from contemporary drama, rock opera, musical theatre, Shakespeare, Moliere or Christopher Durang. Actors are expected to illuminate the truth of a character within the context of the world the playwright has created in keeping with the stylistic demands of the play, rather than use the material as a vehicle solely to illuminate their own beautiful singing voices, their dazzling sense of comedy and style, or their ability to entertain an audience.

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