Pre-Audition: Surviving the Head Trips in the Hall

You are prepared. You’ve researched the part, work-shopped your package, and your updated resume is printed attractively on the back of your current, type-appropriate eight by ten. Stalking across the parking lot in your stylish (yet comfortable) shoes, Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” blaring through your earbuds, you mentally defy any Boy Scout in America to be half as prepared as you are for this audition.

Then you walk into the waiting area.

Navigating the pre-audition process can be every bit as harrowing as the audition itself. In an audition you are often expected to be emotionally vulnerable, but vulnerable is the last thing you want to be in room full of competitors running on adrenaline and desperation. Unfortunately, the nature of many auditions dictates a certain amount of waiting, and it can be difficult to stay focused while stewing in a cesspool of collective anxiety. Eventually you will find the tricks that work best for you, but here are some ideas I have found helpful.

1. Plan Ahead
Go ahead and set yourself up for success. If you know the auditioning environment stresses you out, try to limit your exposure. This can be tricky. Like many actors, I always like to arrive at least twenty minutes early for any audition. It gives me time to check in, fill out forms, look over any new sides and mentally shed the day. But preparing for all eventualities often gets me there with more than enough time to spare, which can be toxic.  If you are worried about being late, leave work or home with plenty of extra time to deal with traffic, faulty directions, weather, or what have you, but don’t go into the building until you need to. Scope out a nearby coffee shop or park ahead of time, or any safe place that is close to the audition location where you can center yourself and take a few minutes to relax and mentally prepare.

2. Create a Routine and Know Shortcuts.
The more you know yourself as an auditioner, the better you can work out what this means to you. Having a routine built of warm-ups and mood boosters that mean something special to you can help keep you feeling calm and prepared when surrounded by brusque monitors and agitated actors. It might be helpful to keep a journal and write down what works for you and what doesn’t. If music helps you feel positive and confident, create an audition playlist you can have at the ready. Know what snacks keep you alert and energized, and have some on hand. Know your weaknesses, and target them efficiently. If I don’t have a lot of time to stretch or warm up, I do a roll-down (an exercise in which you fold at the waist and come back up vertebra by vertebra) and some jaw loosening exercises, because I know I carry a lot of tension in my back and jaw.

This brings us to what I think of as “shortcuts.” Many times you will be unable to luxuriate in your full pre-audition routine, so know what triggers can illicit the same response. For instance, I would love to meditate before every audition, but this is almost never workable. Instead, I visualize a bubble of energy that surrounds me and wards off any negative energy. Or if I am the one providing the negativity, I imagine my self-doubt as a gremlin on my shoulder and picture blasting it to smithereens with a shotgun. I realize this might not be the most practical of weaponry, but the over-the-top imagery makes me laugh, and frankly, sometimes a shotgun is the only thing big enough to get rid of those negative voices. Again, go with what works for you, but the more specific, the better.

3. Be Your Own Advocate
Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. This can be a tough one, especially when you run into friends who want to chat and catch up. Sometimes this can be a nice way to break the tension, elevate confidence, and feel like a community. But there will be certain auditions where you just want to stay focused on yourself, and it is not rude to gently detach yourself from greetings and conversations, pop in some earphones, and find some space to yourself. Likewise, insist on appropriate standards for yourself. Of course, you want to be respectful of the monitor and auditors, and oblige them as best you can. But if, for example, you arrive in good time and are asked to audition early, don’t be afraid to (politely) request a few moments to gather yourself in the hall. Any points you gained by being accommodating will be lost if you let yourself walk in rattled.

Bottom line, do what it takes to protect yourself. Cultivating an unshakeable attitude is no easy task. I know I am constantly refining my strategies and have had some spectacular errors to spice my trials. But that’s all part of the process, and it’s worth it when you walk into the audition room feeling as prepared as you felt in your apartment. Bring on the Boy Scouts.

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Rachel Rachel Frawley is an actor living in Atlanta. She holds a B.F.A. in Theatre from Michigan State University (with cognates in Music and Professional Writing) and is an Apprentice Company graduate from the Atlanta Shakespeare Co. She also works as an education artist for local theatres, which have included the Shakespeare Tavern and Aurora Theatre. For more information, visit her website at www.rachelfrawley.com

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