Most of us can agree that auditioning is just the worst. I would say “all of us” but we all know the few overachievers bouncing into a full waiting room with not a care in the world. But no matter how you feel about it, auditioning is the first step towards booking any gig. And mastering the audition process is essential to bringing home enough cheddar to live as a working artist. Here are a few tips to help you find the confidence you need next time you walk into that most intimidating of rooms.
1. Change the way you approach auditioning.
Whether you want to play bass in a garage band, or are vying for a coveted spot on Broadway, it’s easy to let nerves run their course and affect your two minutes on the chopping block. The best auditioning advice I ever received was from friend and mentor, Jen Waldman—Broadway actor and mastermind behind the inspiring Jen Waldman Studio. She urges her students to alter the way they approach auditions, and instead regard the entire process as a “performance appointment.” It might sound like splitting hairs, but what this approach does is give you ownership over your time slot. It’s your moment in the sun and everyone in the room has shown up for the chance, nay the privilege, to witness your creative genius. It’s so much more empowering to envision your two minutes as a gift rather than a death sentence.
“Practice makes perfect” is a time-honored cliché for good reason. Nerves are a funny thing and they delight in playing tricks on that old psyche of yours. I can remember so many times when I’ve put off preparing for my audition, right down to the wire, because of an innate fear that it was going to turn out to be awful. I know this isn’t rational—not practicing for fear of sucking. Practicing is perhaps the only thing you can do that will guarantee your audition will suck less. But just the same, that fear has frozen me in place on more than one occasion. If I’d just taken the time to prepare, I could have marched into that room confidently and given a performance that was worthy of the time I spent worrying about it.
3. Audition every chance you get.
If you’re right for it… audition. If you’re wrong for it… audition. Danny DeVito tells a story about a time he auditioned for the role of a six-foot tall, blond hunk—eerily reminiscent of his classic film “Twins”, but with him in the Schwarzenegger role. The lesson here is the practice of performing for “judges” is invaluable, plus you should never rule yourself out for any job! You might be so amazing that the casting folks completely reimagine the part just for you. It’s happened! Chris Colfer from the TV show Glee went in to read for the role of an Indian kid named Rajeesh and the show’s creator wound up writing a whole new part just for him.
Auditioning more not only increases your chances of landing a role, but it also gets you in front of more casting directors, booking agents, and talent scouts than you’d get the chance to meet anywhere else! Be kind and responsive, follow up with them, and make yourself stand out. Booking and casting professionals are rarely working on just one project. Help them remember you positively and they’ll recognize or even recommend you next time!
4. Grow a thick skin.
Rejection is seriously tough. It’s no fun, but it’s also nothing personal.
The people in a position to hire want you to be perfect because it makes their jobs so much easier—something we can all identify with. The fact of the matter is there are tons of aspiring artists and not nearly enough jobs, so often casting agents and bookers have the luxury to wait for just the right person to walk in the door. It’s so often not a case of talent, or even preparation, but of some unforeseen variable beyond your control. The venue spent thousands of dollars on posters with red guitars on them and you happened to walk in with a blue one. It’s not fair. But you have to remember, it’s probably not about you (it’s about the venue’s red guitar budget!). So buck up, Chuck! You keep plugging away at what you love and you’ll be out of the gutter in no time.
Auditions are awful. They can make even the bravest among us want to run through the streets yelling “nobody loves me!” But all you can do is worry about you. It might sound like mom advice , but it couldn’t be more true. Accept auditions for the devilish mistresses they are, and refine your approach so that you’ve done everything in your power to put your best, most hirable foot forward.