Cold readings can be especially difficult for young performers who are still mastering basic reading skills. How do you give cold readings your best shot when you absolutely have no idea what the story is about? How are you supposed to know what emotion the director or writer intends for the most important lines? What if you’re overthinking?
On the other hand, cold readings actually excite some actors because of the freedom from the expectation of being completely off book. This is the mind-set we encourage your child to embrace. Cold reading is an opportunity to make strong choices, to improvise, and to shine. Here are tips to take off that cloud of nervousness when cold readings are inevitable.
Cold Readings: Tips for Child Actors
Hone your child’s reading skills.
Encourage your child to read aloud and pronounce words correctly every day. When building any skill, a person needs to train regularly. Buy children’s books to use as practice. Have your child read the main character’s parts out loud with you as their reading partner in the scenes. Consider this a daily regimen in order to build and maintain their skills. The sooner your child masters reading as a skill, the sooner will they be able to master reading and acting out appropriate emotions at the same time.
Arrive early for extra time with the script.
Arrive early on audition day to get as much time with the script as possible. The more your child knows about the context and general story line, the faster will they be able to make sense of the scene that is handed to them in the audition. Learn all you can about the scene, the characters, and the story, then make quick decisions: What does your character want? How does s/he feel about the other character(s)? Where is the scene located?
Having a clear objective, a specific point of view, and a strong sense of the setting will breeze you through your cold reading. Focus on what your character wants (the objective) versus what exactly your character is saying (the script). This is a basic acting technique (read Stanislavski’s system).
Memorize first and last lines only.
New readers usually feel pressured to memorize their parts if time allows, but in a cold reading, this habit can backfire badly. Children often attempt to memorize their lines even when they don’t have enough time. This prevents them from focusing on the important aspect of the audition: the acting. The truth is, casting directors, writers, producers, and directors do not expect a performer to memorize the all the lines during a cold reading. Instead, children need to stay focused on the character’s and scene partner’s intentions rather than worry about getting the words perfect. Help your child memorize the first and last lines only so they can connect immediately and leave on a strong note.
Often, when faced with new material, we forget all the common sense of reading like speaking slowly, clearly, and loudly. Reading the lines aloud several times, even if your child only has a few minutes before going in front of the casting director, is helpful. Teach your child to clarify anything that is uncertain by asking questions beforehand. Even if everything else falls apart, make sure that they can always hear you and see your face.
Tell your child to listen and react to their scene partner or reader.
The most common mistake newbie actors make is focusing too much on their own lines without listening and reacting to their scene partner’s or reader’s lines. Remember, acting is reacting. Once an actor says a line, they should be interested in the other actor’s response. If the scene partner’s lines told your child that their best friend died, they’re not supposed to just wait blankly for the scene partner’s long lines to end so they can react in shock. The scene partner or reader is there because the lines are a conversation and interaction between characters. It’s important to listen and react to the scene partner’s gestures and words until they give the cue for next line. Your child should not go back to the script until they have reacted to their scene partner. Listening and reacting are just as important in acting as delivering lines. (Read Meisner’s technique.)
Cold readings are sometimes hard for even the most seasoned actors. Let your child know that if they keep practicing, they will improve and stay sharp. Your support will help them do their best when a cold reading is required.
Are you ready to audition? Browse all the opportunities waiting for you at Explore Talent. Good luck!