cold read

Mastering cold reading for actors

What is cold reading? Should I wear a jacket or the cold read won’t be that cold? How to improve my cold reading skills? Cold reading will challenge how fast you can catch the part, how you can work under pressure, what are your improv skills, maybe even your acting intelligence, and everything with a little or no preparation. Cold reading is another skill, and it is very different from acting.

What is Cold reading?

Cold reading or cold read is a practice where the actor reads the script/sides with little or no time given for preparation. Cold reading is a common practice used in auditions, especially commercial auditions. The script is passed to you on the audition, and you should read it out loud with little or no preparation. You can also come across a cold read on rehearsals when the script is changed at the last minute.

A little or no time?

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Yes, a little or no time for preparation. Sometimes you will get a few minutes to go through, sometimes not even that. So basically, it’s just you and the script. What to do now?

How to prepare best for a cold read?

Even though a cold reading could sound really stressful, nothing to be scared of. So calm down, breathe, focus, and start reading the lines. Don’t try to memorize it. Nobody is expecting you to memorize the sides in a few minutes. Instead, you can memorize the first and the last line as it could be to your advantage. It will bring a better expression as you start confidently from the top without reading the line. And remembering the last line will bring you more calmness to your soul as you know when the scenes end.

Check out my article about HOW TO MEMORIZE LINES FOR ACTORS.

Read it!

First, read it. Take your time to read it from top to bottom consciously. Then, breathe, take a moment to think about what you read. And reread it.

Understanding the scene

There is not much time, so ask yourself basic questions to build on.

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What happened in the scene?

What is the relationship between the characters?

Where is the scene taking place? What time, season, and environment? Is it outside or inside?

Is there any big BEAT? What are the stakes?

Moment before

What is the “moment before.” Try to describe for yourself what your character did before the scene starts. What though he has, what action he did, what line he said?

Moment after

Don’t cut the scene at the end by the last line, but finish the scene with the moment after. What is the action the character will do after the scene ends?

What to be aware?

Read the punctuation properly. The punctuation will tell you a lot about the lines. So read them correctly to deliver the text right. Speak loud enough to sound out all the letters of the word, and be aware of not sticking words together.

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Four secrets to successfully cold read

Listen, react, read and deliver.

Listen to the scene partner. Keep eye contact, and don’t look at the script while listening.

React. React to what you hear. Every line somehow affects us. When you are really listening to your scene partner, you are affected by his word. Because it is a cold read, you don’t have time to break down the character, so you really can’t say how your character will react in the specific situation with these specific lines, but You can react logically as you would in real life.

Read. Read the lines you should say and deliver them!

That’s it, and the circle repeats until the end of the scene – Listen, react, read, and deliver.

How to practice cold reading

The answer might surprise you, but yes, you can practice cold reading by… wait for it… READING. Read at home, read out loud, practice your reading skills.

Additionally tips

When you are holding the script, hold your finger on the line you are reading that you won’t get lost after listening to your scene partner.

Hold script in your chest/waist level all the audition to be seen and react/read as soon as possible.

Also, check out the Backstage article with ten tips to cold read.

About the author:

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I am a never-ending fighter for the perfect ART, enjoying the process of unperfectness. I am many things and nothing, but my main focus is acting. I've studied at the Vancouver Academy of Dramatic Arts. I've been an actor in Theater Around The Corner, Moravian Theater Olomouc, Theater DiGoknu, or Mlada Scena II. And I am working hard on my craft.

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