My recent experiences auditioning and giving advice to friends who are starting to audition made me realize I should share a few audition tips for those of us who get nervous.
1. Choosing a Monologue
I'm just zeroing in on nerve-busting strategies here. Obviously you must still take into account all the normal stuff like appropriateness of genre, range, length, context, your personal connection to the piece etc etc.
If you've done any work with me you'll have heard me say that you need to know your text inside out and back to front. This is always true but it is especially important in the context of an audition. To test if you know your piece well enough try it while doing something that requires both your body and brain like a choreographed dance or gardening. If you cannot simultaneously say your words and do the activity then you don't know the piece well enough yet. In addition to knowing your words inside out, it is also helpful to know yourself. Everyone is different. How do your nerves manifest? At an audition what does your body typically do? What mannerisms and personality traits surface? And how can you use this knowledge to your advantage?
Now, I'm NOT saying that you should choose something about a nervous actor and just ride your nerves in the audition. There are so many reasons why that doesn't work. But it IS a lot easier to match your physical energy and subtly change it than is is to do a complete 180 against what your body is giving you. You'll always have to ground your energy, personalize and get into character but if your nervous self is highly strung perhaps a neurotic or desperate person would be a better choice than a depressive or zen-master. That way you can use your adrenaline engine instead of spending all your energy trying to smother it. Similarly, if you become paralyzed with nerves and want to crawl into a hole a hide then perhaps you want a less physical character, look for something a bit more contained.
The hardest part about auditioning, especially if you are choosing to work with your nerves instead of against them, is staying/getting grounded. Most of us when we're nervous let that hysterical energy bring our centre of gravity way up into our shoulders. But we'll address that a little later in the series. Right now just think about the character you've chosen or are going to choose and how you can make the physical manifestation of your nerves work for you.
I've been avoiding blogging. I've been telling myself I don't have the time. But I've been writing drafts, just not finishing or publishing them, so that's obviously not true.
I've been avoiding blogging because I'm afraid of owning my opinions. I've been reviewing a lot recently and something I struggle with is this idea of creating a "balanced" review. I don't have a problem with the fact that my review will be subjective, but within that subjectivity of my experience there is so much I have to say, so many arguments to make that just choosing what to focus on is a very big decision, it can completely skew the data. And is that bad? How do you know when you're focussing on the right thing? What if someone takes my criticism to heart? What if they think that one tick was all I saw of their entire performance? I can't comment on the entirety of even one person's performance, never mind encapsulate a show! I can only get specific with one or two things, how can I honestly say what's at the forefront of my mind while still representing the whole?
A conversation with a friend at the theatre tonight (I owe my friends so much, they remind me of who I am and what's important in life and inspire my dreams) made me think I'd really like to start a critical column somewhere. Not reviews, I do that already. Specific acting and voice tips based on my experiences, based on performances I see, that kind of thing and I was wondering how on earth I could do that. And then I realized I have a blog! That's what this is for! I should use it.
So this is a recommitment to myself. And to you, whoever reads this, to be brave and honest. To own my opinions and to be wrong. (Wow I am just reminded of a promise I made myself at the last mini-intensive with David Smukler. I said I'd find my courage. Amazing how quickly we forget the big stuff.)
Courage and blogging. And here we go. . .
Just a quick one while I'm thinking about it.
Do you walk around holding your arms up? I don't mean with your hands in the air, although that is an amusing image, I mean do you use the muscles in your shoulders to keep your arms "attached"... I bet you do. What would happen if you let those muscles go and let your arms surrender to gravity? 10 bucks says they don't fall off. ;)
Danielle Benzon coaches entrepreneurs and performing artists in voice, acting and audition technique. She is also certified to teach the Meisner Approach through the True Acting Institute. Danielle is based in Vancouver, Canada.