It’s audition day. You’ve scored your scene, you’ve learned your lines, you’ve developed the muscle memory of the performance. Still, you're nervous.
The one inescapable fact is that you’re about to go into a room seeking something from someone else - whether it’s an acting job or a place in a performing arts school.
At auditions, actors require enormous amounts of courage when they step into that room. I’m about to ask you to have more - because it leads to freedom.
As you go into the room seeking the job, you may feel the need for affirmation, approval and validation. Your reason for being becomes about getting something from ‘them’. This dependency will lead to fear and anxiety because you're placing huge demands on the other person - whom you fear. You will try to suppress these feelings of anxiety - and the very act of controlling your anxiety will make it more intense.
However ask yourself: what’s it like for you being around someone who’s anxious and needy? Does it make you want to spend time with them? Of course not. You want to get away from them as soon as possible!
I was that needy actor for many years until the universe gave me a more life-affirming way to deal with this situation. Try it and it will fit your art like a glove. And your work will become deeper and more satisfying.
First: accept the fact that auditioning -although we all hate it - is necessary, then recognize that you are feeling insecure and needy, and allow it to be real.
Now choose to go in a new direction. It’s a courageous direction - one that most actors shy away from, but a new direction which, when your auditors sense it, they cannot help but be attracted to you.
The first part of the golden key is to consider this: you're a human being in a very tense situation, who is very needy. Who is that like? The character that you're playing!
So choose to be vulnerable yourself. Choose, as a human being in that room, to surrender control and open up your heart to the reality of your uncomfortable feelings. Don’t stuff them down anymore. Trust me: you won’t die.
And here’s where the art invisibly takes its place: Allow your character now to have that feeling of vulnerability. Your character is not wearing a suit of armor (even if you are playing Joan of Arc). Your character is broken in some way and they are struggling to get something - something that they may not even know that they need. Now put the solution for your brokenness on your imaginary scene partner. They are there to help you get what your heart desperately needs.
WHAT IT WILL FEEL LIKE
This may be the first time in your work that you feel helpless. You will feel out of control. The central processing unit that tells you how to say your lines and move your hands will be shut down. GOOD! You are now choosing to be human - to be imperfect, flawed, spontaneous, to show the auditors that you’re struggling, because, young actor, know this: the people on the other side of the room feel as imperfect, flawed, fearful and helpless as you. And if you have the courage to be vulnerable without placing any demands on the auditors, they will be drawn to you. They won’t be able to help it.
THE ONLY 'MUST'
This will only work if you sacrifice your ambition for getting the job, and replace it with an attitude of service to the playwright and the people who are in the room. Remember: the artist is a priest, who creates the conditions where those around them feel safe enough to feel something elevated.
Will it get you the job? Maybe. But if not, it has nothing to do with your talent. Because by being vulnerable, you’ve already shown them you have loads of talent - and that you’re not an emotional control freak, or an arrogant ‘artiste’. Which means that you can probably take direction very well, and go emotionally to the difficult places where they want to take your character. Hell, I'd want to work with you.
WANT TO DIG DEEPER?
Really bugged by anxiety? Want to explore this more? This course of action is borne out in a wonderful book by Barry McDonagh’s called DARE: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks. It helped me big bunches, as the DARE approach takes modern cognitive therapy and brings it into the 'the third wave of therapies.' Yes, I still suffer anxiety in some areas of life - so you see? No matter where you are in life, we’re all still growing up.
Bryan Bounds is the founder and head of education at the American School of Acting, providing acting skills for the 21st century. Learn more about our offerings here.