Cold readings do not need to be a dreaded form of acting. They can actually be quite exciting because you won’t have any pre-conceived notions about the nature of the scene.
When you are handed a script on the spot to read for a casting director, rather than sinking inside yourself, embrace it because it’s an opportunity.
How does an actor prepare for a cold reading?
Practice. Join a cold reading class with other actors and work, work, work. This will sharpen up your senses and give you the foundation you need to be familiar with that area of acting territory. It’s just like improvisation with the writers words coming out of your mouth, instead of your own words. This is great because there is no time to think, just give and listen honestly. The more you listen, the more you can give, the more you give, the more you take in. Over time you will grow more confident with cold readings.
You have to understand that in cold readings, you start from whatever place your state of being currently exists in. There is no putting on an emotion, or trying to get somewhere or falling into what you think the character should be feeling or doing. How can you if it’s a cold reading, right? =)
The most truthful thing you can give in a cold reading is you. Therefore, you need to remain open and attentive, not moment to moment but second to second. You are really hearing those words spoken to you for the first time and you are really saying them for the first time as well. The nature of the cold reading is already designed to give you an advantage. There are some acting schools that educate actors on the ‘first time’ concept and it is valid. In a cold reading, it really is the first time, which is why it’s such an opportunity for you to completely give yourself over to the scene and be present…it is the not knowing that makes cold readings intriguing.
Sometimes an actor can get screwed up when a casting director gives them 10 or so minutes to read it over before coming back into the room to audition the scene. This is where nerves can creep in as you quickly rush read through the scene a few times, trying to mark up your script with quick decisions and ideas and this and that and this and that…
A suggestion I’d like to share with you is to simply relax. Use that 10 or so minutes to bring yourself to a place of inner calm and focus, so when you go back into the room, you are ready to live spontaneously. Don’t get caught up in the ‘what you should do for the scene mentality’ in such a short span of time cause it can quite possibly work against you.
However, you may also wish to read the scene through, just to have a feel for it and that’s alright, too. Having a sense of the scene is sometimes all you really need. At the end of the day you need to do what works best for you. What may work for one actor may not necessarily work for another actor. Just like there is no one school of acting that has all the answers. It is better to take what works for your own mechanism than try to follow an acting religion. It always comes down to your own process of working and staying true to yourself. If you feel that reading the scene and making a few choices here and there is more fruitful for your cold reading moments before auditioning, than by all means trust that. It all comes down to how much time you have with the material, before you go in to audition and what you feel works best for your own way of working.
Cold readings are a great vehicle for the heart. Enjoy them, love them because it is an area of acting that is extremely rewarding and you can learn so much.