Auditions…WHY

I am having a frustrating week.  Luckily, it is turning into a constructive frustration, instead of a kicking, screaming, and eating my weight in cookies frustration (that was last week).  I do, of course, understand why auditions are necessary, and actually had a period of time when I “enjoyed” them.  By this I mean, I didn’t leave infuriated with myself.  But lately, something has been off.  After spending several months off the audition horse, I’m having a very hard time getting back on.  So this is my analysis of where I should go from here as far as my nerves, my approach to preparation, and my mindset inside the audition room.  Please, if you have ANY advice or similar stories, I would love to hear them:)

The Audition Horse

Issue #1: Preparation or Obsession:

In a nutshell, I had an odd occurrence while studying with the London Dramatic Academy.  Well, I had many odd ones there, but this was the icing on the cake.  While rehearsing our final Shakespeare project of Hamlet with my class, I slowly became frustrated with the lack of involvement I had in the presentation.  I have never been one to complain about a small role, that is not me in the least.  But this was an acting program, and I felt I was being ignored and unchallenged.  I tactfully approached my professor (who wasn’t the most pleasant man) and expressed my concern.  After some time, he came to me and told me he agreed with my frustrations.  So three days before the performance, he handed me a monster Ophelia speech to end the presentation.

I was honored to be trusted with this, but suddenly horrified with the lack of time to prepare such a piece, especially with little to no direction from Professor Pain in the Ass.  Up until the performance, even moments before, I drilled this monologue.  If it wasn’t artistically perfect, at least I had it memorized.  I had expressed myself, and been given this opportunity.  Well, when I got out there, in front of every professor from the program, I went blank.  I got about three lines in an suddenly didn’t know my head from a hole in the ground.  Eventually, my historical dance instructor had pity on me and fed me the line.  I was mortified.  My fear of impressing these teachers that wouldn’t give me the time of day won and I let it ruin my performance.  After much stomping and screaming, I learned to let this go, as well as that jerk teacher.  Cue “Nothing” from Chorus Line.

Since this incident, I have had quite a tough time letting go of the possibility of going up on lines in auditions.  The option is now there, swinging over my head, and since then, it has happened several times.  Before that time in London,  I only had two times since I was 8 that I forgot lines (always in auditions, never in a performance, thank goodness.)  One was in my first big scary NYC audition, and then other was when I was 8 and I forgot the words to “My Favorite Things,” at the East Brunswick community center.

I don’t think my obsessive drilling and rehearsing is actually helpful.  I need to find another alternative to assure I have properly prepared and can successfully stay in the moment.

Inside the Audition Room: Pretty Windows and Shiny Things

I had an audition today.  It could have gone worse and could have gone better.  But it prompted this post, so I think you have a gist of what went wrong already.  As I do, I drilled and drilled my monologue, even as that crazy person on the train talking to herself.  I stretched before hand, got in the zone, and made a great friendly entrance.   It was only one woman, thank goodness, opposed to the typical line up of men that instantly make me feel uncomfortable.  The room, this one in Shetler, was covered in gorgeous windows.  The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, and I was feeling pretty damn good at first.  And now…the conversation inside my brain during my 3 minutes or less…

*I introduce my pieces*

Brain: Alright!  That went nicely.  Why did she make a face when I said I was singing?  Ah well.  No turning back now!

*Start First Monologue*

Brain: Well this sounds great!  I know my stuff, that prep really paid off.  You are totally St.Joan right now.  You are rocking this and it’s smooth sailing from-

*I find myself focusing on a pretty cloud outside*

Brain: Nice cloud, huh?  Shit, you’re supposed to be speaking aren’t you.  What  are words?  Where am I?  Bllaaaauubbaaadoooooo

*Three seconds which feel like three years pass*

Brain: Shit!  That line!  Say that line!  End the misery!

*I jump ahead and make it to the end of monologue 1*

*monologue 2 starts*

Brain: Well there goes that, maybe you can salvage it and she forgot, or maybe she thought it was a dramatic pause?

*End monologue, go to start song*

Director: Okay thanks.  So I see you were in Comedy of Errors last year.  Could you do some of that?

Brain: I barely know what my name is.  You want me to do a monologue from a year ago?

To say the least, I didn’t get a callback.  It was one of those “we’ll tell you right away” deals. ” Take a cookie on the way out.”  But they were very sweet and it was by no means anything to do with the theatre.  I know that staying in character and being present in the moment is the key, I’m just got sure how to do that yet with this lovely brain commentary running on high volume.

After the Audition: Hug and Doughnut Time

Despite everything else, the hardest part of the audition for me is the moment afterwards.  There is an adrenaline rush beforehand and then suddenly I’m standing in the elevator wanting to hug the stranger next to me.  When Helen moves in I think we should set up a system of meeting each other to hug immediately afterwards.  I read a great book about taking the time to sit down afterwards and evaluate the audition based on what was in your control.  Many things clearly were not, but in my mind, my nerves should be.  This blog post has been my exercise this time.  I hope to find a group of friends soon to regularly meet up with to run monologues so it’s not just me rehearsing to my living room wall.

All in all, this post was not meant to be a rant, but more a good look at what the problem is so I can move forward.  Again, I welcome all comments for this one especially.  I’m all ears for advice.

Thanks for reading and happy auditioning, if that’s your thing.

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4 thoughts on “Auditions…WHY

  1. I’ve find that I get nervous and mess up my lines when I go in with the mindset that I’m there to prove myself and I believe that the people behind the table are better than me and have seen better. I always try to enter an audition room remembering that I’m there to share what I love and have fun.

    As for my prep, I try to review my monologues every day (I recite them by rote and without inflection), usually in the shower or washing dishes or doing some menial task that way I know them like the back of my hand. I’ve found that if I know them that well than those words are the only ones I can think of in the moment.

    As for staying in the moment, I think that just takes practice. I still get distracted every now and then. When I’ve practiced putting it on its feet and I have a strong reason for delivering the monologue I don’t get distracted. I guess it becomes a part of my mental and physical memory.

    Lastly, I do not agree with that book you read that says you should calmly assess your work. I said just “let it go.” Regardless of how you thought your audition went, you can’t do anything about it afterwards. It’s done, so leave it in the done pile and move to the next one. If you feel it was a bad one you just take it as a lesson to step up your game. Besides, you never know what they are thinking–they could hate your good audition and love you poor one–you just never know.

    Hope this helps in some way. 🙂

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  2. Chaelee, this is SO incredibly helpful. Thank you for this. I have definitely experienced the fear that the people at the table are being negatively judgmental, when I know that A. that isn’t true, and B. it isn’t going to help to send them those vibes.

    I think the overall issue today was that the monologue was brand new. I rehearsed it as much as I could but it all in all, that was the first time it was done at an audition. So I’m hoping the more I work on it, the more I will find those intentions to actually keep me, well…acting.

    Also, I think you’re right about the backwards book advice. I tried to assess myself today and it only frustrated me. It made me feel like I hadn’t worked hard enough, and that just added to the existing frustration of the poopy audition. Which is silly and not helpful!

    Thanks so much for the advice and I hope you’re well!:)

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  3. So frequently do we go into the audition room or performance space and expect perfection. We can never find perfection…just connection. I’m sure you and I both know that being perfect is a silly notion and yet we constantly attempt to achieve it. It is always a rehearsal. That voice of judgement is always going to be with us. How loud he/she may be that day is another issue. All we can do is breath and welcome that judgmental voice. Instead of thinking about how terribly the audition went, think about the opposite as well. Think about what the ideal situation would have been (if you could achieve absolute perfection) and compare yourself to that scale. Now on the other hand, think about what the worse could have been and measure yourself there. You need both scales so that you aren’t too heavily leaning towards one side. Joanna Gleason says that when she blows an audition, she allots 6 minutes of time to bitch and moan about how badly it went. After that, she says it is self-indulgent and you need to move on. The same goes for a great audition. 6 minutes. I tried it for a couple of auditions. Praising myself and lauding the very ground I walked on for six minutes when it went well and tearing myself a new asshole when it was terrible. I didn’t hold myself back on either front. How many times do we audition and we say to ourselves “Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t beat yourself up.” Do it! Really go to town! It feels great to get it all out. But after those six minutes, you are back in control of it all.

    I think there is a valid point that Karen Kolhaas brings up in her books (perhaps the book you read) where she encourages you to write down the successes and failures of the monologue that you went into. A constant evaluation and checking into yourself for each audition is a vital process. It keeps you on track and allows you to find manageable and achievable goals for each audition. It is too much to say, “Alright, go in there and be good.” You can’t do that successfully. Small achievable goals for this audition: make sure paint the room with this phrase or find the emotional connection in this section, etc.

    I understand and sympathize with your strife about going up on lines. It’s a scary thing. Lines should be the last thing on your mind when you are auditioning. Absolutely. You want to make sure you know those damn things so well that it become second nature. I know it is tough if you are in a time crunch or you have to memorize a particular piece for the audition. In that case, you want to be so familiar with the material that you can improvise it if need be. I know this is stuff you know so I do apologize. Perhaps I’m typing this to speak to myself as well.

    I’m sorry to hear about your experiences with LDA. That’s a tough spot they put you in and you did the best you could with what was given to you. Regardless, you should be proud for standing up and speaking for yourself. You saw something wasn’t right and you went to remedy it. That’s fantastic.

    Keep going. You will never know what’s going on in the auditors minds (so don’t try). All you can do is try to be connected and love the things you are saying. If you don’t love what you are saying, learn something new.

    Best of luck to you Virginia. I miss you and hope you are well.

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    • Thanks, Matt! I really appreciate all of this, it’s very helpful to know so many people have gone through this debate as well. It’s interesting to see different takes on how to handle these types of auditions. I know the key is connection, like you said. When I was little, I used to try and trick myself and say that this was actually a normal rehearsal, not an audition. Not until I started doing this whole NYC craziness did I realize how it IS usually just a rehearsal, which is not a bad thing at all.
      I actually had a wonderful audition the other night, one where I read sides (maybe that helps?). It was the first time in a while at an audition I felt I was actually finding things and having fun working with the director because I wasn’t a giant ball of nerves. Those moments make it all worth it. So long story short, I know what you’re sayin’. It’s just time to make those “good” auditions less far and few between.

      Thanks so much for the support:) I hope you’re well too!!

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