It’s understandable that actors sometimes feel as though they get to practice their craft at the discretion of others, and that agents, directors, and casting directors are the sole gatekeepers of their opportunities to be seen, let alone to succeed. Sadly, this belief plagues too many actors’ minds.
But there is another way. If you think that powers outside of yourself determine the course of your life and career, think again. The mindset you bring to the audition process forms the bedrock of your success. That’s pretty powerful. Let’s explore the core beliefs that ultimately drive the choices you make, and how you feel in the process.
Change your thought, change your state.
We’ve all heard the belief that perception determines reality. It’s true. Neuroscientists have mapped the brain’s responses to both real and imagined stimuli—it responds in pretty much the same way. This means that our entire system—heart rate, blood flow, digestion, emotional state—responds according to what our brain perceives as a positive or negative circumstance.
Let’s take this into the audition process. Imagine how a continual mental focus on the overabundance of actors in the world compared to the lack of opportunities for them impacts our emotional state. We’re doomed from the get-go. Replace that thought with any or all of the following and notice the results:
- I get to perform today and meet new people with whom I might collaborate, if not on this project, perhaps another in the future.
- I keep my auditioning chops honed every time I walk in that room, so regardless of the outcome, this is time well spent.
- The auditors and other actors here are all dealing with life, just like me. They may have overdue cable bills, sloppy roommates, worn out tires in need of replacing, or sick kids at home. I choose to be a light in this little corner of the world today, both through my art and through my interactions with others.
- I have agency. Especially today with the technological advances we enjoy, I can create my own work. There is no limit to the creative possibilities I have.
How do you feel when you try on these perspectives? What do you notice in your body? What seems possible now? If you do nothing else but shift your focus away from one limiting belief, toward a more expansive one, you will begin to notice a profound change not only in how you feel, but in the outcome of your auditions.
It’s an obvious statement to advise you to prepare your material thoroughly and rehearse it regularly. Nevertheless, we all get busy and sometimes cheat our audition prep time, rationalizing that “this piece is okay; it’s in good enough shape.” Let’s shine a light on this choice for a moment. Aside from the compromised quality of the material, how does less-than-adequate preparation impact your emotional state when you get in that room? We’ve all experienced that shaky feeling at one time or another. Our breathing isn’t rooted, we feel ungrounded, our thoughts are racing, and we don’t do our best work. It may be difficult to shed the remnants of that less-than-stellar experience when we go to our next audition.
The obvious take-away here is clear and simple: prepare, prepare, prepare. But life is not so clear and simple. And humans are complex. So, what can you do about it? Make this part of your job a priority and then make it fun. Here are some steps to take you in that direction:
- Commit to and invest in yourself. Root out where you are stingy with yourself. Do you cheat yourself of time? Money? Resources? Get clear about what you really want, then commit to setting aside enough of whatever you need to do your best work.
- Build in rewards. Even little “penny indulgences” like coffee with a friend when you finish rehearsing or a trip to your favorite bookstore will feed your motivation and reinforce the good habit you’re building.
- Take care of distractions and energy drains. Does that overdue phone bill or pile of dirty laundry cloud your focus? Take care of yourself at the fundamental levels of safety and security. It’s amazing how respecting oneself at this level increases one’s confidence, freedom, and dignity.
Get enough rest.
Another tip from Captain Obvious, but an important one. We’ve probably all, at least once in our careers, waited until the night before an audition to staple our resumes to our headshots or cram in last-minute rehearsal. Some of us have chosen to stay out late, rationalizing that “it’ll calm my nerves to de-stress with my friends.” How did you feel the next day? How did your audition(s) go? It might have gone fine, but trust me, that won’t always be the case, especially if you make this a habit.
Instead, choose to get to bed at a reasonable hour and just before you tuck yourself in, take a tip from elite athletes and success coaches by visualizing how you want the following day to go. Remember how the brain doesn’t distinguish between a real or an imagined stimulus? When we visualize the next day unfolding just as we want it to, with as much detail and clarity as possible, it does a number of remarkable things. It calms our minds, quiets distractions, interrupts negative thought patterns, and trains our brains to move toward our desired vision.
Check back soon for part two of this article to explore how to be at the top of your game the day of an audition, the moment before, and once you’re in the room.
Connie de Veer is a professor of acting and Voice at Illinois State University, a member of Actor’s Equity Association, a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, a certified professional Co-Active Coach, and the co-author of “Actor for Life: How to Have an Amazing Career Without All the Drama,” coming soon from Smith & Kraus. Find more resources at www.conniedeveer.com.