Backpacks and Audition Triggers

May 19, 2019

Do you ever sit down and think about the triggers that cause you to fail in your auditions? No? That’s just me? Coolcoolcool.


But seriously. I spend all of this time and energy practicing and prepping my audition material, paying people to coach me, reaching out to friends to get the inside scoop on the track or the show or the director or the casting director, to finally show up 15 minutes early, warmed up, having just applied a second coat of lipstick, only to walk into the room and completely forget everything I know.





What gives?




Let’s unpack



One moment that comes to mind when my sh*t hits the fan, and I go from cool, calm, and collected to dumpster fire is the moment when they call my name. Sometimes, I know that I only have one person ahead of me, which gives me time to either get in the focus zone (right choice) or else start listening really hard to what’s going on in the room and attempting to figure out “the rules of the game” (how long they’re in there, what material did they do first, were they asked for more material, how much banter is happening, etc.) (wrong choice). Other times, I don’t know where I fall in the audition order, so when they do announce my name, it feels like a sneak attack, and I enter the room carrying a rushed and panicked anxious energy that is bound to seep out of every orifice of my body and infect anyone within 500 feet. My anxiety is made even worse when I have had to move mountains and molehills to even get INTO the room in the first place (emails and snail mails and favors, oh my!), and then when I FINALLY walk into the room I’ve dreamed about being in for weeks, the person behind the table is on their phone or staring at the table in a facial expression representing something looking like boredom or misery, or generally speaking to me as if I’m wearing a backpack on the subway during rush hour.



This is probably one of those audition situations where being a teacher does not serve me as an actor. Because as a teacher, I read any of the above distress signs on a student, and I say STOP. S T O P. Your current strategy is ineffective, and this person needs help. Reroute your teaching van, Jenna, because that learning road is CLOSED. As an actor, however, if I see a person or a team behind the table displaying any of those distress signs, I have two options. I can either pause, wait with a smile, and ask them to let me know when they’re ready, or I can steamroll ahead and hope they get on board- FAST. In either scenario, my ultimate goal is to try to convince them, in the first 10 seconds of my song, to forget whatever happened before I walked into the room, to forget the bad mood they’re in or whatever world altering event is happening for them beyond those doors, and be so moved by my art that they turn a moody corner to be suddenly inspired and present and rooting for my storytelling.


Whew. Triggers.


But this blog does not exist to just complain about the actor’s occasional tricky circumstance. This blog’s purpose is to figure it out- to get to the bottom of whatever it is- so we can all better understand from where the formula derived so that we can apply it to future calculus equations. And by calculus, I mean auditions.


So, I return to my original question. What can I do about these triggers so I have more audition wins than failures?


A thought: The audition sign in sheet is like the subway. Aside from planned weekend track work, no matter if you have to wait 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes, a train always comes. I know they’re going to call my name eventually, so it doesn’t need to come as a surprise when they finally do. I can sit there confidently knowing that at some point or another, I will go into that room and share my work.


Another thought: I often find myself approaching social situations as if someone needs saving, and I happen to have a life jacket. What can I say? Once a lifeguard, always a lifeguard. I think I’m subconsciously applying this practice to the audition room. But wait- isn’t it rude of me to think that anyone behind the table needs me to take care of them emotionally? Or even wants my help in fixing any other problem in their life besides their current casting problem which got me into the room in the first place? That’s so assertive of me. I don’t even know these people! I have to remember that my job as an actor is to show up, unabashedly myself, and do the work unapologetically. It’s not my job to teach nor is it to take care of anything other than telling the story truthfully within the given circumstances. I can “save” the people behind the table by being the right actor for the job.


My strategy this week will be to remember that we’re all adults. If anyone behind the table wants help or wants me to fix anything in their personal lives or otherwise, they’ll tell me. I can remove the obligation to take care of them from my plate, just as they can remove the obligation to take care of me from theirs. Emotions can be stored and inserted into my sides packet.





And do us all a favor, would you, and take off your backpack on the subway.

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