Acting Lesson: How To Do A Cold Reading

As a playwright, I'm sometimes asked to read for characters during my play-writing classes or writing groups, and even at auditions to read with actors. It's fun and I've always been fascinated with how a seasoned actor can bring words to life even when they haven't memorized the lines and are still reading from a script. They somehow kept pace with the script while the other actor was reading and their faces weren't buried in the script. So, I wanted to learn the techniques actors use for doing a successful cold read. I did a little searching and found a useful YouTube video by thehellerapproach on cold reading.

For those of you not familiar with acting, a cold read is an impromptu reading of part of a script. You are asked to read something and you are only given a few minutes. A cold reading is not when you are given the script the night before the audition since a dedicated actor would have studied and memorized the script by then. Sometimes in auditions, the casting director might want to hear you read for a different role than the one you originally signed up for.  In this case, they would hand you a different script and give you a few minutes to look over it before calling you in again to do a cold read. 

Tips For A Successful Cold Reading

1) Your attention should be on the other actor when they are talking. This is not the time to be looking at your script trying to keep up with the lines.

2) To hold your place on the script, you can slide your thumb down the page at a pace comparable to the actor reading so that when it is your turn to read, your finger will be on mark. I imagine this takes practice and presence. I'm going to be paying attention to see which actors use this technique during readings.

3) When it's your turn to read, you can look at the script and act it out while reading.

4) To avoid looking too shifty, don't shift your glance from the page to the actor too often. 

You can hear the full lesson on Free Acting Lessons: Cold Reading by the hellerapproach. Taking notes and sharing what I have learned helps me to remember. As far as additional tips, I'm going to add: practice, be confident, and a little prayer never hurt.