CD Workshops are very popular in L.A. These are events (usually a couple hours long) where you get to meet and work with a casting director. Typically you are given a scene, assigned a partner, and you then have anywhere from 5 - 30 minutes to work together outside before you come back in to perform (this is what's called a 'cold read' since you likely don't have it memorized, and you haven't had a whole lot of time.) The CD will then critique your performance and occasionally ask you to do it again.
These workshops, which typically cost around $30-45, can be hit or miss. Sometimes they will be great learning experiences and sometimes they won't be. Sometimes the CD puts a lot of time and thought into assigning the scenes and critiquing your work, and sometimes he/she doesn't. The main reason they are so popular (and some would say necessary) is that they can build that valuable connection to a particular casting director or casting office. It is very difficult to meet CDs otherwise, so workshops can provide at least a brief introduction, and casting people are more likely to call in people they know than people they don't. The hope, of course, is that the CD will remember your work and call you in for future projects they are casting.
This week I went to two CD workshops at SAG -- both free, another bonus of my union membership! -- and they went pretty well. It was good to meet the two CDs; they both happen to be independent casting directors (that is, not affiliated with a big agency or studio or show) who mainly work on independent films. It was also good to practice cold reading skills and performing in front of people since many auditions will be just that. Now, the key will be staying in touch with these CDs, sending them postcards, updates of things I'm doing -- just to stay on their radar, so that if a role comes up that I might be suited for I would hopefully pop into their mind.
So, 2 CDs down, just another 300 to go...