A few weeks ago, I had, quite literally, the worst audition of my career. And here’s the kicker: it had literally nothing to do with my audition material. I performed my monologue really well, and sang my song capably. But your audition begins the moment you walk in the door. Literally. And boy, did I blow those first 20 seconds. Seriously. If I were a teacher, and one of my students walked in and did what I did in that audition, I would have said to them, “Stop. Turn around. Go back and try again.”
You see, there’s a protocol to auditions, but it had been so long since I’d been to a musical audition, that I completely lost my head. I did not give my accompanist the appropriate instructions on my song selection. I told him where to start and stop, but then just sort of assumed he knew the piece, and left him there. I didn’t share what song I would be singing, or allow the director to speak to me at all before I began. I was, by all appearances, a complete amateur: unprofessional, nervous, and oh-so-green. I didn’t need the stage manager to tell me “You’re good for the day” to know that I wasn’t needed for the callback later that day. I knew, as soon as I started walking out of the room, that I wasn’t going to book that job.
I realized a few months ago, while taking an acting class, that I don’t usually audition very well. I get too in my head and psych myself out. And as a result, I’m much more reserved, and I don’t fully commit to the acting choices I’m making, because “what if that’s wrong?” or “I don’t know if this is what they’re looking for.” On a scale of 1 to 10, I tend to perform my auditions with an energy that’s at about a 6.5. Safe. Secure. But ultimately, boring. In a Shakespeare Forum workshop recently, someone coached me by saying, “Everything Emily does is at a 10,” meaning, of course, that my characters should also be at a 10, rather than a 6.5.
So, after that TERRIBLE audition, something kind of amazing happened. The next week, I got an audition for a commercial. I also didn’t book that, but my audition was REALLY good. Granted, I was late, which is definitely a no-no; but when I was in the room, I was confident. I was professional. I was 100% authentically Emily. I let my energetic at-a-10 self shine through. Which, I realize now, doesn’t happen very often for me. I’ve been advised for years to “just be yourself.” And I always thought I WAS being myself. But having now experienced the feeling of really, truly embracing myself, and just simply being in the room, in the moment, I know the difference. And I look back at other times when I’ve had successful auditions, and it’s always when I’m comfortable in the room, or familiar with the people I’m auditioning for, and confident in my abilities as a performer. I was, quite simply, Emily.
I was really mad at myself after that terrible audition. I KNOW I’m better than that. I KNOW I can do more than what I did that day. But since that day, it’s like a switch has flipped, and each audition I’ve had since then has been successful. Even if I didn’t book the job, I’m not wondering if I should have done something differently. I know that I did everything I could, I was authentically me, and if I could go back and do it over, I wouldn’t, because I’m proud of the work I did in that room, in that moment.
A successful audition isn’t about booking the job. It’s about being vulnerable enough to show your true self, and be proud of who that person is. At the end of the day, the creative team is going to choose people that they would enjoy being around. So be yourself so they know what they’re in for. There are a flobbity-jillion reasons why you won’t book a job, many of which have literally nothing to do with you. But never, EVER, let it be because they didn’t like the not-quite-you version of you they got. Because if they don’t want the real, authentic YOU, you probably didn’t want to work with them, anyway. But if they only saw the not-quite-YOU, you’ll always wonder if you could have done something differently. To which I would say, “Yes. Next time, be YOU.”