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I have been to a lot of auditions in my life. That tends to be the case for most actors since they say that for every one job you do get, there will be twenty five you do not. So the only way to ever work is to simply audition for everything, getting through the twenty five so that you can make your way towards the one… and sometimes it can be exhausting.
I have no problem performing in front of people. Put me on a stage before an audience of one thousand and I may have some pre-performance jitters, but for the most part, I will be excited and ready to go. But auditions, on the other hand, terrify me. I think it is probably because so much rides on the audition. It decides what you’ll be doing for the next month or two of your life, what experience you’ll be able to add to your list. The performance is the fun part. The audition is scary.
Last night, for the first time in my life, I sat on the other side of the table for a set of auditions. I am assistant directing “In the Blood” here at Emerson, and am thrilled to be experiencing theatre from the creative, directorial side of things for a change. But being on the receiving end of these auditions really made me look at the process much differently.
First of all, being overly polite and uptight does not help much in the audition room. My director and I were being goofy, chatting about both the show and other events, and we loved to see actors come in confident and happy to meet us and perform. It is important to be respectful and professional, but also to show your personality! Directors do not want to see nervous robots. I received some invaluable advice the other day. Don’t think of it as an audition, think of it as a performance. Be excited to show the director what you have to offer, what you have done with the monologue or song you’ve prepared. I always have so much fun performing, so if I can wrap my head around the concept of the audition being a performance, perhaps that will add to the entertainment of it.
Secondly, it was so obvious when people were terrified or unsure of how the audition process works. People would stand awkwardly or ask us if it was okay to leave, which just made us feel uncomfortable and out of place. I have always approached auditions as if the people behind the table were the end all and be all, but a lot of the time the auditioners know just as much as auditionees. It is nice to have people who at least pretend to know what they’re doing.
Finally, and most importantly, I realized how much is out of the actors’ hands. There were so many cases when people walked out of the room and we said, “Wow. She was so talented, but I can’t see her as any of these roles.” So many times I have not been cast and assumed that meant I was not talented or that my audition went poorly. But in reality, every director has a different vision. Sometimes directors don’t cast someone because they are too tall or have blonde hair or look like their ex-boyfriend. This is an incredibly subjective field. And not being cast often does not mean you aren’t talented.
After this process, I feel much better about auditioning. I realize that all I can do is go into the room, show them who I am, and hope for the best. There will be times that I do not get cast and that does not mean I am not talented. It just means I was not what the director needed for that specific production. And that’s okay! All I can be is myself. And as an actor, that’s a great mentality to have.
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