How to Fly Without Fear: Doing Your Best in Auditions!
By Elana Safar
Remember the scene in Clueless when Cher and Dion accidentally drive onto the freeway and totally freak out?
When my mom was growing up, my grandparents used to practice driving to destinations in advance of important occasions. For example, if my mother had a job interview scheduled, they would hop in the car a couple days earlier, head to that very place, then turn around and go back home. They called this their dry run.
I used to poke fun at the idea of driving somewhere for seemingly no reason. Later, I came to realize that my grandparents were on to something, especially given their pre-GPS existence. The fact is that on any mundane day, a wrong turn or delayed train is no big deal. But when the stakes are high, even the smallest inconvenience can throw you off your game.
Airlines have figured out how to incorporate the art of the dry run in order to grow their business. Many airports have developed special programs for people who suffer from a fear of flying. As part of these courses, nervous flyers practice going to the airport, spending time there, and perhaps even sitting on a plane.They are also educated as to the science of flying and receive explanations for any mysterious plane noise that might seem scary. Eventually, the combination of knowledge and behavioral techniques help aerophobics relax and enjoy travel.
The mere act of walking into an audition room can evoke uneasiness. Just the other day, a fellow auditioner confided in me that she was on a Xanax to stay relaxed. The ugly truth is that more and more actors are resorting to pharmaceuticals to get through high-pressure auditions.
Nerves are universal, and plenty of well known stage and film stars get them. Barbra Streisand struggled with stage fright.Broadway and TV star Laura Benanti recently admitted to botching an audition because she wanted the part so badly. My childhood idol, Tony-award winner Daisy Eagan, tried beta blockers.
From an early age, I loved acting and singing and I performed with great ease. But as I got older, I found myself wrestling with audition anxiety. I would be dressed, prepared, and ready to go, and then seconds before entering an important audition or callback, my heart would start racing. If I was singing, my breath support would be compromised, ending me right then and there.
I began to realize that because I was so emotionally invested in a positive outcome, fear was creeping in and triggering my body’s acute stress response, also known as fight or flight syndrome. Yes, that’s right. That rush we feel before an audition is part of our evolutionary design in sensing danger. During the cavemen era, our bodies fired off hormones to give us extra energy in fending off threatening beasts. Auditions may not be growling bears, but our brains can perceive them as so and this fear holds us back from success.
Does any of this sounds familiar? It is essential that you take practical steps to attack this meshugas because the reality is that we performers have to be so on top of our game that no distraction, physical or psychological, impedes us from doing our work-- and doing it very well.
It is helpful to begin by recognizing that you are nervous because you really care, and caring is a good thing! Forgive yourself.
Casting director workshops are incredibly useful because they simulate the audition experience without actually being an audition. They are like a dry run with extra benefits: Participants have the opportunity to ask casting directors questions, try out material, practice working in a new medium (for example, a musical theatre actor transitioning into tv/ film) and overall, absorb nuances inherent to the audition process.
In addition, here are five things you can start doing NOW to curb audition anxiety:
Hopefully, a winning combination of artistic training, practical workshops, and an anxiety-free state will help you fly through auditions and performances with grace!
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