Demystifying Callbacks

The auditioning process can be intimidating for experienced and inexperienced actors alike. In Demystifying Auditions, we offered advice on how to prepare for and what to expect during the initial step of the process: the open call. We’ve found that the second step in auditions — callbacks — is every bit as mystifying.

What are callbacks?
Callbacks are an additional session for the director(s) to work with selected actors to find out more about their skills.

What happens at callbacks?
Callbacks are a chance for directors to work with actors more closely than they can during the open call. The specifics depend on the directors, but the most common thing is for the director to pair different combinations of actors to read excerpts from the play and see how they work together. The directors may also ask actors to do improvisations in combinations or as a group. For musicals, callbacks may include more extensive work with the music director or choreographer.

Who is invited to callbacks?
Directors invite actors they want to see more from in order to make a decision. Usually these are actors from the open call. However, directors sometimes invite people to callbacks who were unable to attend the open call.

What does it mean if I do/don’t get invited to callbacks?
It is natural to try to read something into whether or not you are invited to callbacks. Don’t. Although it is often true that not being invited to callbacks is an indication that you are not under consideration for a role, it is not always true. It may simply mean that the director saw everything they needed to see from you in order to make a decision. Being invited to callbacks does mean you are being seriously considered for a role, but it doesn’t always mean you are a frontrunner.

The director kept having me read for one role in auditions and again in callbacks and then I didn’t get cast / I was offered a different role. What gives?
Directors use scenes to see how an actor fits in a certain role, but they also use scenes to learn things about the actor that apply to other roles. For example, they may ask you to try a scene a couple of different ways, from which they learn how well you take direction and how willing you are to experiment within a role. They may have you read a scene with several different actors, from which they learn how you work with other actors and what sort of chemistry you have with them. If you were offered a different role than you expected, it was because you showed the director something that told then you were right for that role. Embrace that. Every role is a challenge and an opportunity for greatness.

What does it mean that I didn’t get cast?
This is the toughest thing for all actors. It’s hard enough to be turned down after the open call. It can be even more crushing after you have been invited to callbacks. Our best advice is not to take it personally and not to get discouraged. There are so many factors that go into casting that you will drive yourself crazy if you try to understand the decisions directors make. You can do a genuinely good job at callbacks and still not be as right for a part as someone else (in the director’s opinion). Your job is to show the directors what you can do and to convince them to the best of your ability that you are right for a role. The rest is out of your hands.