True story coming up,
You’re listening to acting for community theater, a little show with big ideas, stories, acting tips, and a lot of heart for community theater artists. I’m Barbra, French,
Every actor I’ve ever known, including myself, dreads auditioning at some point in their lives. Many never get over it. And I understand why you’re standing in a room with a bunch of strangers who are watching every little thing that you do and judging it in order to decide if you’re good enough to work with. Yikes, it’s a wonder there are any actors left at all. Then again, we do like to take risks. Don’t we theater is done up on the high wire, not on the exercise mat. We’re brave souls in a love hate relationship with auditions.
Today is story time. I want to tell you how I got over the feeling of dreading auditions. During the 1990s, I was doing my undergrad in theater and I was taking my first directing course. The university that I was attending had annual general auditions for all the season’s shows, including all the directing student projects and festivals I attended as both a director and an actor. In other words, I got to sit in the house of the main stage theater with all the directors, both faculty and students as an auditioner watching my fellow acting students. And when my turn came, I trotted up on stage and was suddenly on the other end of the equation as an auditionee. I waited in the wings as the actor, before me was doing his bit. And it was odd because I found myself not as nervous as I usually was for an audition.
And I should have been more nervous because I was on the big stage and there were probably 15 or 20 directors sitting down in the house watching judging, and of course, casting in their heads. I really wanted to make a good impression. And yet I wasn’t, as nervous as I thought I’d be was this because I just came from the director’s camp. I wondered then the actor ahead of me suddenly was finished his piece and he walked off. I took center stage. What I saw were the tops of a bunch of heads. Each director was looking down, furiously writing notes on the last audition and a kind of peace came over me. I remember smiling and I thought, okay, I’ll wait for you. I’ll grant you that I’m in no hurry. This is going to be fun. And as their heads came up slowly, one by one, I felt more and more in control of the whole thing.
Like, like I was patiently waiting for them to finish so that they could do what they were supposed to do, which was listening to me. It was as if I could hear them think, Oh, we kept her waiting. We’re ready now. Sorry about that. And something in that gave me a weird kind of power. As I stood there, calmly waiting for the last head to pop up. It was the best audition that I think I’d ever done. I nailed every moment. It was a comic monologue and a little risque and totally unknown to them, which was all great. But every laugh came exactly where I wanted it to. I’ve thought about that audition many times since then, wondering what had changed. What was it that made it so easy, so powerful, so much fun. And I’ve come to a couple of conclusions and maybe those conclusions will help you make your next audition.
Easy, powerful, and fun. First, having sat with the directors for most of the time, I realized that what directors want is to like you, they want to like you, they are hoping that you’re the one. When you come out on stage and they are totally willing to work with the right person who shows them 20 seconds of an honest, truthful moment. Really second, I was literally controlling the room and I finally figured that out because I had to wait for them to finish writing. I chose to be patient and they were holding me up. They weren’t waiting for me. I was waiting for them. I was in control. I had them in my hand. It was up to me when I started my monologue. And I wasn’t about to do it until I was satisfied that every single one of them was paying me the proper attention.
This was a huge revelation. As actors, we think that the people behind the table are in control, that they’re running the show, that we are like petitioners with our hands out, waiting for a sign that they approve, but they want to find an actor. One that is willing to work for them. And they have their hands out to understanding what a director was totally freed me up as an actor. Now I’m not suggesting that you go into an audition full of yourself and thinking that you own the room and should bow to you. That was for all you divas out there. What I am suggesting is that you have far more power and control and importance than you think you do. So reach for it respectfully and politely and take your place on that stage. And third, I decided that I was just going to have fun to hell with it, no matter what happened, it was going to be fun for me.
And suddenly all the pressure was off. I was doing this for me. I was playing, I was toying with them, teasing them, making them wait that extra second or two to drop the punchline. I was having a ball and there was no nervousness at all. And I will never forget that day. So I hope that you can take away something from this experience. I know I did. You may never get to be in the director’s chair at an audition, but trust me, they really do want and need to like you. And they really do have their hands out, even if they don’t know it, especially in community theater. Your job is to realize that you are in control of that room while you’re auditioning. It’s all about you. And if you can just say to hell with it, I’m having fun. You’re going to feel most of that nervousness just melt away and you’re going to kill it. Oh, and, uh, did I get the role I did so feeling in control and having fun definitely works. Thank you so much for letting me share my story with you today. I’m until next time. I’m Barbra French. Thanks for listening.
I’m Barbra French. Thanks for listening. The university I attended had annual genual…. the university I attended had ann…the university. I attended had annual general adition…aaahhh da uh da uh aaahhh…the university that I was attending had annual general additions for all the sues….beeep