An Overview of Cold Reading

By Eugene Buica, Artistic Director at The Acting Corps

The Acting Corps utilizes a myriad of techniques to help students improve their acting abilities. One of best-known and most basic strategies that The Acting Corps employs includes cold reading (sometimes called sight reading), which involves a performance or script reading without any previous rehearsal or practice. This technique is especially helpful to gauge the innate ability of an actor, as there has been no preparation or prior planning.

Many actors who practice cold reading methods find that basic acting techniques such as clear and slow speaking are just as vital to a cold reading as any other scenario. All too often, beginning actors fumble through this exercise, because the inability to prepare throws them off. However, it is rarely expected that a script be memorized for a cold reading, so reading from it is perfectly acceptable. First and foremost, actors must remember to take a few minutes beforehand to read the scene and analyze the character, to best represent him or her throughout the reading. There are other matters to consider, as well. If reading a scene with someone else, interacting with the second person is an integral component. Keeping track of lines with one’s thumb and holding the script at chest level enables an actor to make eye contact and move about while delivering lines. Pay attention to any introductions to the scene, as they may provide clues as to what the audition panel is expecting to see in this character. But more importantly—an actor should make decisions about the character and bring him or her to life.