What is a Cold Read?
The words “time for the cold read,” can bring about anxious feelings in performers. A cold read lets the person holding the audition see the talent of the actor in its most raw form. Sometimes, it may even be the most important part of an audition. Often time, though, the cold read can be a nerve-wracking experience for an actor. But what is a cold read, anyway?
At a cold read, the director (or whoever is conducting the audition), will hand the performer a piece of work that is completely foreign to the person auditioning. This means that the performer has never even had a glimpse of this script before coming to the audition! Then, the director may choose to give the performer a few minutes to quickly scan through the material and become vaguely familiar with the task set before them. At an audition, a wise performer will use this time to understand their character better, discover the time period of the scene, interpret the lines they are about to speak to the best of their ability, and also to establish a connection with the script and characters. Finally, when the director calls time, your short read-through is up!
When you begin to perform your new scene or dialogue, be sure to read slowly, confidently, and clearly, as though you have been rehearsing this piece for months beforehand. This is the director’s chance to see more of you as an actor, in your purest form. Show your creativity; move around when you feel the scene calls for it. Also be sure you are engaged with the other person in the scene, if this is the circumstance. Try not to look at your script during their lines so as to open yourself to listening and reacting to the other person. This helps to capture the essence of the entire scene. Another habit to watch out for is to make sure you never block your face with the script you are reading. Hiding behind the paper will not help you will get the part!
One of the most crucial questions that actors have when going into a cold read is this: Do I need to memorize anything? The answer is no. Do not feel like you have to memorize every single line on the piece of paper they give you. A cold read exists so that the director can see how much life and energy you can bring to a character on short notice, not how quickly you can memorize lines! So relax and let the words flow out of your mouth, and let the character radiate off your body. Show the director that you can be given a script on short notice, take in the information presented to you, and perform it to your best ability.
Written by Caroline Meisner for The Talent Notes