Amy Kingsley-Hughes

Actor. Writer. Filmmaker

Handling audition fear

Auditions are looked on by so many as a terrifying and tedious part of the job of an actor that they often wish they didn’t have to go through. However, it can be made into something much more positive if you try.

Auditions are an opportunity that actors would be squeeing with joy over if they weren’t so stressed by the pressure of “needing to impress people”.

They are presented with the opportunity to perform for an audience of only one or a few people who want nothing more than for you to be perfect for the role in their production.

It’s a perfect situation for me – getting to act for the possible opportunity of more acting!

Sadly, far too many actors get way too worked up over their auditions that they come across inexperienced and incapable due to their fear of failure – which I have been told can bring out the strangest behaviours in actors!

Nerves are going to come across badly when casting directors are looking for someone who just works in the role. You may need to play nervous, but you should work to be as relaxed and competent as possible. If you’re very nervous at the audition, how can they guarantee you will be okay for the production? The more out of your depth you appear, the more hesitant they will be to put their faith in you.

 

That isn’t to say that they want you to turn up in your pyjamas having not yet glanced at the sides, because that would look just awful! What they want to see is someone who is energetic, collected and who can simply be the character.

It is okay if the sides quiver in your hands a bit, but don’t go in there covered in sweat with the wide eyes of a deer in headlights.

You are entering that room to present yourself as the best actor and safest bet that they can put their money on (because, trust me, it could be a hell of a lot of money). You have to show that you have it in you to take that role and make it real and memorable.

 

If you are feeling nervous about your audition(s), here are some helpful tips for staying cool but while maintaining energy:

Breathing: I know that the typical advice of ‘remember to breathe’ is not helpful to someone who is already in a state where breathing has become an issue, so I am not going to leave you hanging on that.

Find a semi-quiet place and sit with your hands and arms relaxed at your sides and take a slow deep breath in through your nose. Try to hold it for a few seconds and then let the air seep slowly out of your mouth until you feel naturally ready to breathe in again. Try to clear your mind of all thoughts and focus only on how smooth and slow your breathing is. Repeat this for a time until you feel calmer and more relaxed.

(Note: Do not attempt this exercise if you are asthmatic. I am, but I don’t want you getting hurt. Consult your doctor before doing any slow breathing exercises)

Take comfort: Every casting director wants nothing more than for you to be the one they are looking for. If you turn out to be the perfect actor for the job, then their job is pretty much done and they can relax! They want you to get it as much as you do.

Be peaceful: Sometimes talking to someone can help distract you from your fear, but acting is a competitive job and some people want nothing more than to make sure there’s as little in their way (including you), so don’t give people an opportunity to psyche you out. If you talk to some, talk to someone who seems generally relaxed and friendly and avoid talking about advice, nerves, competition or anything that will make you feel worse. If they really want to help you out with your audition, they can help you chill out. That’s all they can do.

Also, be considerate of those around you. Other people may be nervous too, so make sure you are peaceful so you’re not freaking them out. If you find a way to take your mind off it, make sure you’re still being respectful of the rest of the room.

Prepare: While they won’t expect you to go in there knowing line of the sides, try to get a good feel for the lines so you can read them at a couple glances so you aren’t hiding behind a sheet of paper the whole time. Also try to see if there is anything to can gather about your character from the piece/s. The audition pieces they use were probably selected for a good reason, so try to gather as much from it as you can.

Also, if it helps you, try to come up with your own previous circumstances and back-story for the character if none are given. It will help give your performance more depth. (Just try to keep it fairly simple so you don’t sway way too far away from the possibilities.)

Perspective: The casting crew are not trolls. They aren’t going to eat you if you don’t give a stellar performance. There will be thousands of opportunities for other auditions, so just focus on doing the very best you can in this audition so that, even if you don’t get it, you have more experience for your next audition and role!

Fake it to make it: If all fails, pretend you are totally relaxed. Wear anti-perspirant, powder your face, hide all signs of nerves and give two great performances for the price of one! If you act relaxed, you are also more likely to become relaxed. Learn the expressions you make when you are nervous and relaxed and learn how to recreate the relaxed gestures, posture and expression of calm.

 

I hope this piece has helped. Please feel free to leave any comments, questions and suggestions in the section below and I’ll get back to you. X

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