Auditions: why bother?

Daunting. Nervous. Memory-lapse. Self-conscious. Warm-ups. Stretches. Lalalalalalalalala…

There are many words that one could associate with the audition process. For non-performers, an audition can be likened to a job interview. However, due to the nature of the industry, a performer would have to endure many more auditions than the average worker would attend interviews.

The preparation is intense, the competition is cut-throat, the egos and insecurities are on display, and you have a small window of time to leave a lasting impression on the panel.

At a guess, I have attended, or applied for, close to a hundred auditions in my life. I have heard “thank you” (a.k.a “no”) more times than I have heard “we would like to offer you a role”.

I am not a glutton for punishment; for coffee perhaps, but I do try again…and again. Why do I bother? That’s a good question. My reason is simply that I am passionate about telling a good story. I am drawn to opportunities which allow me this challenge and I am drawn to creative, artistic, and passionate people.

My beloved chorus shoes

Whether it be singing and/or acting in a production, bringing to life the lyrics in a song, learning a choreographed routine, memorising a monologue, or sight-reading a piece of music, auditions require a lot of mental rigour before, during, and after the fact. It is not just the subject matter one must master, it is the voice inside one’s head which must be tamed to the benefit of a performer. Even with meticulous preparation and mental composure, success is never guaranteed.

People may view an unsuccessful audition as a waste of time and effort. I don’t feel this is the case, though I have experienced auditions where I knew that the odds were never in my favour. I just took it on the chin. Sadly, “smoke and mirrors” exist in the industry, and as I have grown up I have learned who to trust, and what to invest my time and talent in.

There is a lot of pretence out there but I have thankfully always found a way to honour my craft and be true to my reasons for choosing to perform. In my experience, auditions have developed my self-awareness and resilience to a point where I can appreciate the scrutiny I am undergoing and be completely present in the performance or direction I receive from a panel.

Recent audition material -
Studying audition material

Practise goes a long way towards tranquility and confidence in an audition. Once I have the casting brief or audition material, I invest a lot of time learning it from memory if time allows. Very rarely have I needed a prompt in an audition room. When I am learning a new song, I never listen to a recording of it. I am concerned it will govern my interpretation. Instead, I will note bash the melody on a piano and work on the chunks of challenging phrases in spaced repetition until it becomes a part of me.

If I am memorising a monologue, I read the text over and over again, I search for intent, beats, and I say it in as many different ways as I possibly can. I play, I trial, I experiment, I record myself, I listen, I get frustrated, I resume, I make mistakes, a lot of mistakes, I correct, I get a second opinion, I deliver. I aim to audition as if I were in front of a live, paying audience, and that is the impression I try to leave for every panel I face.

During the audition, there will be mistakes: a lost lyric, a missed beat, a wrong note, but remember: don’t say “sorry”. Do take direction. Do listen. Just be. Presence and mindfulness are powerful audition skills that are often overlooked. It will serve you well if you add it to your practise regime.

Regardless of the outcome, I take every bit of advice that I can from the experience. I did not fail. I may not have been what they were looking for but I came prepared, I was polite, respectful, attentive, and auditioned confidently. I probably will be remembered for that.

All I ever have control over is my own performance. The panel have control over the casting decisions. It’s never a personal attack, it’s feedback. They are investing time in looking for the best talent just as much as I am investing time in trying to show them my best in the respective context of the role. If they like me I will get invited for a callback. If I am not chosen, I will hear a thank you. It’s just that simple. Callbacks can go on forever in some cases though!

Don’t be bitter, be better! Performers are emotionally-invested beings. It comes with the territory. However, there is no point being consumed with envy if an audition doesn’t go your way. Find the next challenge and invest yourself and your skills in that. Continue to find creative outlets and feed whatever drives your passion.

Be happy for those who have earned their success too. Without them, there is no industry for you to hone your craft in. Competition is healthy and camaraderie is enriching. The performing arts are often an undervalued industry but are a cornerstone of humanity.

Studying Eponine
Bringing a character to life

Why do I audition? I do it because performance is an honour and a privilege. The process of auditioning affords me the respect of my fellow creatives. It is the rite of passage I must cross in order to do justice to an important duty: to tell a story well, to serve, and to commit myself to my artistic endeavours. Then, rehearse rigorously so that, at the very least, one audience member can walk away from my performance moved by my storytelling and renewed in perspective and appreciation for life. For this reason, among many, it is worth the effort.

Sometimes I am given the role. In those cases, I am sincerely grateful. It is a bitter-sweet feeling because my success is another person’s heartache. I can only hope that my work does justice to the responsibility and privilege I have been appointed.

To all those currently auditioning, I hope that sharing this blog with you has encouraged you to continue sharing your unique beauty with the world. To those of you thinking about doing it, I encourage you to try. Every audition is a valuable education in itself.

Keep singing, acting, dancing, writing, playing! Keep the child alive inside you and open your imagination to the infinite inspiration that surrounds you. We are all connected in ways we may never understand. Let’s try to explore this phenomenon through the arts.

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