Welcome to "Ask Blair," a weekly online column of practical advice for actors, written by Blair Glaser.
I'm a voice and theatre student at Northwestern, too (go Cats!). I was just wondering . . . besides thorough preparation, what do you find relieves pre-audition anxiety the most? Thanks for your time. Erin C. Granfield
Many books have been written on the syndrome of pre-audition anxiety from which so many actors suffer. So thanks for asking a most valuable question. What I will offer you is; first a story, then some tools that work for me.
In class, an actor complained to the teacher, "I do such great work in class, and then I go auditions, and I stink. Like I've never acted before. What do I do?"
The teacher replied, "Stop auditioning."
The student was stumped. "Then I won't ever get a job."
The teacher clarified, "I didn't say stop going to auditions, I said, stop auditioning."
The main lesosn here is that each audition is an opportunity to work. A performer's job can be done only with an audience, and that's what an audition provides. Anxiety may arise when you focus excessively on impressing those who are conducting the audition, on getting the job, and not on the opportunity of the audition itself. Needing to impress, in some cases, puts a great deal of pressure on the performer, which makes creative freedom much harder to achieve. Pre-audition anxiety may also stem from the natural fear associated with the exposure of performing. Most people hide and protect their inner selves in habitual ways, and performing asks you to go beyond those barriers. That's also what makes it so exciting, so changing what you label as "anxiety" to "excitement" may help.
It may be useful to discover where the anxiety comes from, so you can begin to break free of its destructive aspects and use it to your advantage. There is A LOT of energy in fear. When put to use in the correct way, it can really empower your performance.
Here are some tools that work most for me in dealing with pre-audition anxiety:
BREATHE deep breaths, preferably standing up, but make sure your knees are loose. You can bounce around a bit to get the energy flowing. When actors forget to breathe naturally, they become cut off from their feelings and their center which can result in a sped up, shallow-voiced performance. Ideally, you want to feel what's going on in your body, and for your energy to be grounded (flowing towards your feet, and not up to your head). Breathing may feel uncomfortable at first, but the discomfort will ease as you continue to breathe and slow down.
FOCUS on your task: of showing up, of doing the work the best you can, of feeling your character within you. Focusing on the anxiety creates more anxiety. If you find yourself fighting with it inside, just shift your focus to your preparation. You may need to keep shifting focus at first.
USE the enormous energy contained within fear. It is tremendously creative if you allow it to flow through you by breathing and without stopping it up. This is not easy, it takes practice.
If these tips are not wholly effective, you may want to try a little creative actor psychology :
Treat your anxiety as a character inside you. When you create distance from it, it loses some of its hold over you. Talk to it. Find out who it is, listen to what it needs to say. Then, let you be the director in your play and not the anxiety. Tell the anxiety it can come to the audition with you only if it agrees to help you do your best work. If you find the anxiety trying to snarl within your consciousness at the audition, you may have to gently but firmly send it home to keep the cat company.
Becoming free from the constraints of pre-performance anxiety is a process. So keeping going to auditions, and with each audition you go to, note your progress. If you can, stay optimistic.
Good luck, Erin! Let me know how your next audition goes.
For someone in the Southwest, what are the major theatrical agencies available in New York, L.A., etc. ? I would appreciate any information on these, such as contact info, and requirements. Thank You.
There are hundreds of agencies in both New York and Los Angeles, with thousands of agents all offering many different instructions on how to contact them. Let me introduce you to a little invaluable monthly publication called "The Ross Reports."
The "Ross Reports" tells everything about agents and agencies, what they accept or don't accept from actors, mailing addresses, phone numbers, etc. It also lists casting agents and what productions they are currently casting. "Ross Reports" is, unfortunately, as far as I know, unavailable in the Southwest, but they are available through The Drama Book Shop at 723 Seventh Ave., New York, NY, 10019, where you can mail order "Ross Reports" by calling 1-800-322-0595. Playbill has no business affiliation with "Ross Reports."
I am a sophomore musical theatre major. I have a whole background to this question, but I'm just gonna ask it. I have strong belting voice. I also can carry the notes a soprano sings. I am able to keep both of these parts of my voice in good condition as my voice teacher works my upper register and all of the departmental shows I do have me either singing the alto harmonies or belting instead of singing legit. My question is what do I put on my resume? Right now I have Mezzo with Belt, but I don't want to limit myself. What should I do? Just type the actual notes of my range? I'd appreciate any advice. Thanx....
I understand your worry about getting typecast as a belter, but its great that your range allows you to sing so many parts!
According to Jack Bowdan, a casting agent at Jay Binder (The King and I), your resume should make it apparent that you sing both legit and belt.
You may preface the notes of your vocal range with Lyric Soprano/ Strong Belt--and then put the range.
You may also want to design a resume which specifically reflects your capability for legit auditions, as well as one for belting auditions, while sending a resume reflecting both vocal skills to agencies and casting directors.
Good luck, Shana!
-- Blair Glaser
Blair Glaser coaches actors privately in NYC. For Blair's bio or information about classes, click here.