You need a Shakespeare audition piece? Great! The full might and wonder of the Complete Works is open to you. Now, how to choose? Lizzie Conrad Hughes, whose Casting Shakespeare bootcamp is designed to help you polish the right piece ready for feedback from an industry insider, has some guidelines. Apply now to squeeze into the next course
You’ve always fancied doing “To be or not to be”, or “Gallop apace” — could this be the time to go for it? As a rough guide, check the following mental boxes:
1. Is the character realistically your casting? I love Juliet’s great speeches, and Mercutio’s, and have always wanted to speak Macbeth’s lines – but I have to be realistic. I am who I am. I need to show the people behind the desk that I know my casting niche. Otherwise, why should they trust my creative judgement?
2. Does the piece show me off well? I want to play Cleopatra – do I then choose a speech of Cleo’s? Not really. More profitable to identify the qualities in Egypt’s sovereign that I want casting people to see in me – passion, power, sexual confidence – and find another speech that displays those qualities.
3. “I want to do a speech nobody else does.” This is a blind alley: everyone wants to achieve this, thus the lesser known and collaborative plays are all plundered as regularly as the most popular plays. You can look outside Shakespeare, of course, but again there are only a certain number of plays, characters and speeches, so we’re all picking at the same carcasses. Much better to choose the piece that excites you, every time you speak it, for that is the piece that will get you the roles you want.
4. Some people advise avoiding the most famous speeches: for that, see point 3 above.
5. Be aware where the speech comes in a scene. Will it make sense on its own? Can you hit that note from a standing start? Think it through and consult others if you’re not sure.
6. Do read the play your speech comes from. You’d be amazed how many actors don’t.