New York Readers’ Choice Awards 2010
Favorite Cold-Reading Teacher and Favorite Monologue Coach:  Karen Kohlhaas

Karen Kohlhaas

Karen Kohlhaas

“My philosophy in monologues and cold readings is that we’ve already ruined our lives by going into show business, so if we don’t have a good time, the joke’s on us,” says Karen Kohlhaas, winner in two categories: cold-reading teacher and monologue coach. “There’s so many things that actors can do to make the audition more enjoyable for themselves and for the people that watch them.”

Kohlhaas says very few performers actually seem to have a good time in the audition room—and that anyone with a positive spirit immediately stands out as a result. Her audition techniques are therefore designed to prepare actors not only for their next monologue or cold reading, but for a more consistently positive audition experience overall.

“The monologue and cold-reading techniques that I teach are based on my experience in watching auditions,” Kohlhaas says. “I sort of selfishly do it, because I get tense and nervous when I see a tense and nervous actor.”

She teaches actors to have not just one or two audition monologues, but a roster of up to 20. For auditions involving a cold reading, where you don’t have the opportunity to choose and prepare your own material, she teaches “ice-cold” reading: “Just pick it up and start acting,” sight unseen, she says. “If you can do that, you can do anything. I’m a big believer in always preparing for the worst-case scenario, so that anything after that is fantastic.”

Kohlhaas also makes sure actors know how to direct themselves during an audition—how to stage their monologue and make their own physical choices. “It keeps them focused, because they know what they’re going to do physically,” she says. “And it prevents them from either freezing up or from wandering with no purpose.”

“An important lesson is that you are in the audition room because you want to be there,” says Back Stage reader Aizzah Fatima in explaining why she voted for Kohlhaas in both categories. “I have learned to take my time and have a reliable method of entering and exiting the room that takes the focus away from me being nervous and wanting to run away. This helps me feel more confident during auditions.”

Fatima says she used the techniques she learned in Kohlhaas’ class at her first audition after graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and she booked the role. She credits Kohlhaas with preparing her for any type of audition, and adds that she still rehearses with actors she met in Kohlhaas’ class a year and a half ago.

Kohlhaas is a founding member of the Atlantic Theater Company and a senior teacher at the Atlantic Acting School. She is the author of “How to Choose a Monologue for Any Audition,” “The Monologue Audition: A Practical Guide for Actors,” and “The Monologue Audition Teacher’s Manual.”

Karen Kohlhaas, Atlantic Theater Company, 76 Ninth Ave., #537, NYC; (212) 252-4200;;


Jagger Kaye, CastingsnClasses, 300 W. 43rd St., #404, NYC;;
“Affordable, Blunt & Treats Actors With Respect” — Carlo Francis
“Very personal and nurturing and also educational” — Joyce Laoagan

Maggie Flanigan Studio, 153 W. 27th St., Suite 803, NYC; (917) 606-0982;;
“Brilliant, specific simple method” — Leon Fallon

Charles Sandlan, senior acting teacher and program director, Maggie Flanigan Studio
“Talented, specific and very very good” — Donna Augustin
“To-the-bone honesty and a keen eye” — Lex Friedman


Maggie Flanigan Studio, 153 W. 27th St., Suite 803, NYC; (917) 606-0982;;
“The best” — James Baird
“She is great.” — Rainey Qualley

Jagger Kaye, CastingsnClasses, 300 W. 43rd St., #404, NYC;;
“Excellent preparation, instills self-confidence” — Tricia Beyer
“Unerring sense for what works.” — Donna Swensen

Charles Sandlan, senior acting teacher and program director, Maggie Flanigan Studio
“Makes everything so clear and pushes people to do their best.” — Nicolle

This profile was published in the June 24-30, 2010 issue of Back Stage as part of the Back Stage Reader’s Choice Awards 2010.