Sides… they do more than come with your entree

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If you’ve ever used mass transit in New York City, you may have spotted someone on the subway or bus gripping a couple of sheets of paper with lines highlighted in bright, neon colors. She might even be muttering to herself, but she isn’t a wackjob. She’s just an actor preparing sides.

Sides are short selections from a script that actors perform in an audition room. By preparing a short portion of a script instead of the entire thing—imagine how tedious that would be—actors can use their time more efficiently and the casting team can see how an entire range of performers approaches the same section of the show.

Similarly, performers going in for musical theatre auditions might receive sides from a book scene (i.e. spoken dialogue) in addition to sheet music with selected songs from the score.

Directors and playwrights need to get a glimpse of an actor’s range and what they might bring to a role, so they may deliver multiple sides for one audition, taken from contrasting moments in the script.

For some casting sessions, actors receive sides in advance via email, which gives them time to prepare and memorize lines. In other instances, actors may have only minutes to familiarize themselves with their lines, since they pick up sides when they arrive at a casting office or rehearsal studio. With any luck, those sides will turn into the main course: A role in a hit show.

A.J. Muhammad

The author would like to thank Karla Mosley for providing information for this essay.

This video was made by Theatre Development Fund.

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Theatre Development Fund is the nation’s largest not-for-profit service organization for the performing arts. Through a variety of programs and services that promote education, access and conversation, it ensures an enduring appreciation of and engagement with live theatre. In addition to operating the TKTS booth in Duffy Square and the satellite booths at South Street Seaport and in downtown Brooklyn, TDF’s theatre education, accessibility, affordable ticketing and audience development programs help to make the unique experience of theatre available to diverse audiences while supporting New York’s theatre industry. Since it was founded in 1968, TDF has provided over 80 million people with access to performances at affordable prices while returning over $2 billion in revenue to thousands of productions.