I have never been one of those people who love auditioning– there are too many unknown factors, too many decisions that I am forced to make based on pure speculation. The stress of auditions has followed me to college, but it can be especially acute for young performers.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like theater programs are going to be implementing a new system any time soon, so all of us have to get used to the process of auditioning. Hopefully, the following six tips will help calm your nerves and make your next audition process smooth and successful.
I truly cannot underscore enough the importance of feeling confident in your material. At the end of the day, feeling competent and assured while you’re in the spotlight is far more important than trying to do something flashy, so spend less time picking a monologue and more time making strong, interesting choices.
Your preparation should also extend beyond your performance: make sure you know how the audition process is going to work before you show up. Do they want you to sing or dance, or wear something specific? How long are you expected to be there? Will they need any information from you that doesn’t appear on your resume? These are all questions you should try to have answered before stepping into the audition room. It may be the most mundane part of the process, but being organized in these respects can genuinely be the factor that puts you over the edge or holds you back. After all, school programs can’t have you involved if you don’t turn in your waiver.
Ask questions beforehand, understand the expectations, and then go in and execute them as only someone who is calm and collected can. Auditioning is daunting enough, so do everything you can beforehand to make sure that it all goes smoothly.
This may be a foreign term for some theater kids, but no matter the scenario, it’s always a good idea to show the people in charge that you value and respect their time.
You can demonstrate this respect in a variety of ways, from making sure you aren’t wandering the halls when your slot begins to moving between exercises efficiently to simply avoiding asking unnecessary questions because you took the time to figure out the answers yourself beforehand.
Whatever you’re auditioning for, the people in charge will almost always be more likely to cast someone who is conscientious and helpful than someone who is oblivious and obstructive. Because of this, it’s important that everything you do sends the same message: that you are an attentive team player who is going to make everyone’s lives easier, not harder.
Even if you’ve worked with this director throughout the entirety of your high school career, you should still be acting professionally towards them during auditions. Having a great relationship with the person who is deciding whether or not they want to work with you is an undeniable advantage, but you need to respect the fact that they are trying to piece together a puzzle that is much larger than you. Because of this, they will likely need to set their individual positive feelings for you aside.
It might seem like a personal slight if you are cut or given an undesirable role by someone you consider a close friend or mentor, but it’s vital to remember that the way you comport yourself towards that person after the fact says a lot more about you than your actions before the list comes out. Take the time to process your emotions, but make sure that you are also conscious of what must have been going through their heads. It’s okay to ask questions if you truly want to understand what the director’s thought process was, but in the end, it is on you to be mature enough to accept their decision.
A special word about student directors– their job is doubly hard because they are not awarded the same assumption of competence as adults. Be careful about the jokes you make to them concerning wanting a specific part or deserving a specific position just because they’re your friend, as it might reflect more poorly on them than you realize.
Make waiting productive and plan something fun for after.
Everyone handles stress differently, which is why it’s important to find an individualized way to keep yourself calm and focused while you wait for your slot. If you like an intense group warm-up, go for it. If you’d rather sit in a corner alone and do your homework, that’s fine, too. The only thing you should really avoid doing is spending the hours leading up to your big moment fixating and second-guessing everything you prepared.
Maybe your technique isn’t perfect and maybe your blocking choices aren’t as strong as they could be, but please let me be the voice of reason that tells you it is too late to worry about all that. Trust yourself and the hard work that you have already put in; don’t sabotage yourself by switching your monologue minutes before you take the stage. You know what you’re doing, and even if you don’t, last-minute risks are not going to get you where you want to be.
And once your audition is over, it’s entirely out of your hands. Because of this, it’s always smart to have something pleasant planned for yourself once you’re done. Whether it’s a meal with a friend, a Netflix movie and a facemask, or an hour of video gaming, giving yourself something nice to do after your audition will keep you from ruminating and will put you in a better headspace to receive whatever news comes next.
It is obviously stressful to be the one auditioning, but being the one in charge of casting is often more difficult than people realize. Your director, your choreographer, and whoever else is observing you have been given a very limited amount of time to look at dozens of different people. Even when it’s all going well, the process can be exhausting for those facilitating it.
It may not seem like there is much that you can do to lift those burdens– and quite frankly, just doing what they ask of you is probably the most helpful you can be– but a simple “thank you” goes a long way. It doesn’t cost you anything to be polite, and people definitely notice when you are. Be sure to thank your pianist, the stage manager, and anyone else working tirelessly to make this process happen.
Know your strengths– and your weaknesses.
A lot of frustration can arise when auditioners have unrealistic expectations of where their abilities can take them. I firmly believe that theater in educational settings is about expanding and improving your artistic abilities. With that said, being aware of what you’re best at and what you could stand to improve in can set yourself up for success and help you understand the results after the fact.
Don’t be afraid to ask directors what they’re looking for, both from you as an individual and from the ensemble as a whole. If you’re auditioning for a teacher you’ve worked with previously, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask for advice that will broaden your horizons. Just be sure that these inquiries are phrased productively– “how can I demonstrate my ability to play older, more serious characters” is much more likely to get a positive reaction out of a director than “I’m sick of playing ditzy teenage girls.” The question makes you look like a self-aware performer, whereas the statement might make you seem immature. Even if you don’t get the part you wanted, you’ll still have gotten valuable advice that you can apply to different auditions going forward.
It’s also important to acknowledge that this evaluation of your skills is not an evaluation of you as a person– or even of you as a performer. An acting teacher of mine once said, “it’s not about being liked, it’s about being right.” While I still firmly believe that being a conscientious and compassionate team player will help you get cast, there will be times when you simply do not fit with what the director wants for a role.
In moments like this, it’s important to try and maintain perspective. You are absolutely allowed to take some time and just be frustrated, confused, and disappointed. Once you work through all that, though, you’ll likely still have the opportunity to work on the show as an assistant designer, run crew member, or board op. Though these positions may not be where your passion lies, they will teach you valuable skills and give you the chance to be a part of the production. They may even open your eyes to an exciting new way of engaging with theater that you never would have experienced otherwise.
On the other hand, if it’s not emotionally viable for you to participate in a non-performing capacity, that’s also okay. You may feel like you’re losing brownie points, but most programs will not hold it against you if you choose to take a break. That time off may be exactly what you need in order to come back fresh and excited for the next round of auditions.
Every audition involves some level of guesswork– it’s just unavoidable. But if you come prepared, are professional and courteous, and maintain a healthy sense of perspective, you will be able to get through this process intact. You may even have a little fun.
Read more: onstageblog.com