While in principal we don’t mind you using props in your auditions we would advise exercising extreme caution.
Props can become distracting and actually hinder a performance, especially if you are not used to handling the prop. We’ve had actors drop props, misuse them, and spend so much time with the prop that we’ve not been able to see their faces or judge their acting skills. Or directors become more interested in the prop rather than your performance.
If a prop is too elaborate it can smack of desperation – it can be in the same arena as wearing a costume to an audition – resist the temptation. Let your acting ability do the work.
If the prop is something that you would normally carry – say a mobile phone, a bag, some keys etc – i.e. something that you handle every day and can do so without any additional thought then it can be appropriate.
Cigarettes are borderline – they can be distracting, some people hold them in a weird way – and please never ever actually light up.
While auditioning for a lead role in Paris the scene called for the actor to grab some books and throw them on the floor in annoyance. To a man every actor found something in the room that they could use – a box of tissues, an empty dvd case, the sides they were holding. It was extremely effective. (As a side note – every single actor had also thoroughly learned their lines – no mean feat given that we asked them to do several meaty scenes and the dialogue was not in their first language).
And once, during the final rounds of auditioning for a leading lady when the movie star leading man was in the audition room to test chemistry – one of the shortlisted actresses unexpectedly pulled a gun. Of course it wasn’t real – but we weren’t to know that at the time. For a brief moment we could imagine the next day’s headlines – “Disgruntled actress exacts revenge on movie star and lowly casting director”. Needless to say, she didn’t get the job.
So please please never bring any weapons – real or otherwise – into the audition room.