You’re about to perform in the biggest audition of your entire acting career. The audition panel includes one of the most powerful and influential casting directors in the business. You’re down to the last few. This is a recall/callback. It’s all on the line. How do you think you feel?
Most of you, even if you don’t want to admit it, will be nervous.
Your heart rate will have increased, your breathing has become chesty and short, you may have started sweating, you could feel light headed, cloudy headed. Some will experience this as if it is an out of body experience. Like you’re watching yourself audition in the third person.
All of these mental and physical symptoms are something of performance anxiety. We want to do well, but we have something to lose, something to important to gain. If we can just impress, then we can take our career to a new place. All these thoughts increase the power of the anxiety. Nerves are normal, but if they stop you doing your best, they are an obstacle that must be overcome.
In professional and drama school auditions, you may have to deal with the nerves before anyone can see how good you are.
Your nervousness, your anxiety under pressure takes the edge off your ability to perform at your best. You lose the chance, the role, the opportunity. But not because you aren’t good, because you got in your own way.
First and foremost accept that nerves are normal. If you feel those symptoms, it means that it means something to you. You are invested in a positive outcome. But we know that this causes mental obstacles.
The solution is thankfully easy. The solution is to take control of your state. When opportunity meets desire to win and it flares up as mental interference and you start to lose focus or even confidence, then what happens is our mental and physical state are affected. If you get stressed enough, your lines will even fall from your memory.
And the way to control your state is through your breathing.
In the psychology of successful auditioning, we call it CENTRING.
Centring originated from Aikido, the Japanese martial art. Centring helps us to lock out our noisy, distracting mind and to bring our focus of attention into the here and now.
When you are affected by the stress and pressure of auditioning, you are mentally and physically tense. When you are tense, you waste energy, you waste your ability and inevitably, you end up wasting the opportunity.
HOW TO CENTRE
I discovered these tools from Dr Don Greene who has written a number of performance psychology texts for musicians. I think you’ll find it incredibly useful. Don’t let its simplicity fool you - with practise it will help you reduce the impact of audition nerves on your performances.
This is how it goes down:
STAGE 1: Take some long, slow, deep breaths. Breathe in for the count of 6. Hold the breath for the count of 2 and then let go and release that breath over the count of 7. (If you aren’t used to deep breathing - try this - lie on the floor with your hands on your belly button. When you breathe in, push your belly button up towards your hands. When you breathe out, release it and let it fall. In through the nose and out through the mouth.
STAGE 2: Practise this kind of breathing. Keep your mind focused on the belly button area.
STAGE 3: Before auditions, while waiting, put your mind on the belly button area, what we can call ‘the centre’.
STAGE 4: Now as you breathe, consider your CUES - now you are linking relaxed concentration with the cues that will focus your mind.
STAGE 5: Finish with imagining or visualising the successful audition and imagine them offering you the role.
(IF YOU KNEW THAT DOING THESE EXERCISE WOULD GUARANTEE YOU THE ROLE, WOULD YOU DO IT? If you said YES, you should do it. If you said NO, you should do it)
Stage 5 is important because if you can’t imagine getting the role, it makes it harder to do your best. By imagining a successful audition, you start to believe in its possibility.
I can’t promise that taking control of the nerves will get you the role. But you will give a much better audition. As your breathing reduces the pressure, and your mind starts to focus, your chances of performing at a higher level increases.
To You, The Best
Mark Westbrook is an Audition Success Coach based in Glasgow, Scotland - you can work with him to improve your chances of success in your next audition - in person or online by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org