Preparation; Fear; Waiting

Preparation; Fear; Waiting Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column explores how to be emotionally prepared for auditions, and offers advice to actors dealing with fear and impatience. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Once again, hello and thank you to all creative advice-seekers. This week's column explores how to be emotionally prepared for auditions, and offers advice to actors dealing with fear and impatience. I invite actors of all ages to continue write me with any problems encountered at auditions, in class, or anything you feel could be standing between you and your talent. Make sure to check the previous columns to see if your question, or one like it, has been answered already!

Question
Blair,
I think the reason my auditions have been so bad in the past is the lack of time for emotional preparation. When you audition you are thrust into a position where you are suddenly singing or acting. When I perform, I usually take a while to get in character and prep myself emotionally. Its hard to do an interview and then go from character to character (as I have to do in college auditions). Any hints on speeding up the process?
Mark

Dear Mark,
Great question. I think I have some hints for you.

It may be that part of what is holding you back is an idea of yours that you need to be in some heavy, emotional state before you begin a monologue. Emotional preparation is important, but actors tend to get very compulsive and uptight about it, which inhibits creativity, spontaneity and aliveness in performance and ultimately defeats the purpose of preparing at all.

I believe that preparation does not have to be done directly before you act for it to be effective. A few minutes (no more than 45) before you leave your house, or on the way to the audition is a great time to prepare. Find a way to relax, and then come into contact with who you (as the character) are, reviewing the situation you are in, what you want, why you need to speak, etc., filling yourself with the emotions that come up as you do this. Then, let it go. TRUST that you did your preparation, and it will be there for you when you need it. The trusting it will be there is the hard part. Now, I want to recommend in situations in which you are going to be interviewing, that you include yourself as one of the characters you prepare to play. In other words, prepare to play the "role" of you as the interviewing student. What shades of yourself would you like to present? Eager, intelligent, charming, outgoing, laid back, mysterious, etc.. Be true to your personality and be specific. Then, you can look at the WHOLE event as an audition--not separately as an interview, a monologue, and then another monologue or song. This should help you trust in your preparation.

After you've done the inner work, I think it is VERY useful to rely on some outside/in techniques, which I do with physicality and gesture. Moving your body is a great way to get connected. If you're character has a certain walk, just before the speech you can begin to pace in that way. Or if in the speech, your character has just burst in from running up the stairs, run around the stage a few times before starting, to create the physical sense of immediacy.

If you don't have a big physical thing that works, or in addition to one that does, I love to use "character quirks." In rehearsal, pick a gesture for the character that brings you into his world. For example, if you have a beard and are playing a scholar, stroke your beard. Maybe your character is nervous and he rubs his nose a lot. I find quirks really work to bring actors into the moment.

Then, after you begin your gesture but before your speech, isolate what is going on with you emotionally. Really see it and allow it to be there. Then, commit to it and begin the monologue right from where you are. Keep committing and following through, and you should soar! I hope this is useful for you, Mark. Let me know how the next one goes.

Question
Dear Blair,
I've been acting since the age of six, and I'm currently a college student. I'm at the point now where I can't picture myself doing anything with my life except pursuing a career in the theatre. I've already had many experiences in this field. My main concern is that people have told me what an unstable career the theatre is. I'm not questioning my love for the art, it's just that I'm not a person who can handle instability. I guess I'm just scared to hit New York after college not really knowing what to expect. I'm look young, which I figure would be a plus in the business, but the problem is that I don't know if I can handle it.
Thanks! Melissa

Hey Melissa,
One of the worst things an actor can be, is scared of her own fear. Which is not to say you won't feel scared. You will most likely feel very afraid, on many occasions throughout the actor's journey. Barbara Striesand and many other performers have had to endure intense, ill-making bouts of stage fright. But they were not so afraid that they stopped themselves from going through it to the glory on other side of the curtain.

There is nothing wrong with moving to NY, giving acting your best shot and deciding after some time that the lifestyle is too intense for you. But if you really want to be an actress more than anything, then at least give yourself the opportunity to go for it--rather than cop out because other people have told you it's gonna be tough. Find out for yourself how tough it really is, and in doing so, discover how tough you are.

You also don't have to move to New York. Many actors choose quieter and easier places to live, like Chicago or Seattle, both major theatre towns, before moving to one of the coasts. Wherever you choose to pursue acting, if you are devoted as you say, you will have to reconcile your desire to perform with your reluctance to be uncomfortable. The most moving and powerful performers seem to place more value on their quest for truth and good opportunity, than on comfort. The unstable risks performers take to deliver top rate performances include exposing deep and often "undesirable" parts of themselves, and a willingness to be naked (sometimes literally). And sometimes performers must sacrifice financial or familial comfort for periods of time.

By accepting the discomfort of the lifestyle, you can make a certain peace with it. I would encourage you to build the strength for that. For many actors, cultivating this strength has proved extremely rewarding.

Furthermore, I do not adhere to the myth of the starving artist, though I believe it is useful to those who truly embrace it. I believe your life as an actor can and should be balanced, without perpetual chaos. In fact, better to create for yourself a simple, structured life and leave the drama for the stage.

Your college experience will be helpful when searching for employment to support your acting. You can create your own job. You can see what it's like to waitress. There are many ways you can create a life to support yourself financially, emotionally, and artistically. So, my advice is: get over it and go for it. Sounds like you have too much to lose if you don't.

Question
I am an aspiring actor and have been told by numerous people to attempt to pursue an acting career on or Off-Broadway. I have been in four high school productions . . . I would really like a shot at becoming an actor in New York, and I think I deserve a chance because acting is what I do. I want to find out about auditions that happen in New York, but the newspapers around here only list auditions for local community theater, which I auditioned for, and was put in a waiting pool. I would like to have an audition in New York where I can be told "Yes" or "No" after my audition so I'll know whether or not I made it. I really don't know how to go about it though, and I need help, please tell me what I should do.
Craig Lipscomb

Dear Craig,
I included your question in the column to dispel this myth about auditions. For the record, there are virtually no auditions where you are told "Yes" or "No" after you audition. At least it is a very rare occurrence.

The way it works in many auditions, is that you give your audition and they generally say, "Thank you very much," or "Very nice" or "that's was lovely, what was your last role?" or "Next!," and you leave. Then, you wait.

Now, in today's day and age, in which we basically don't have to wait long for anything, being an actor has an added challenge. You have to wait. It is part of being an actor, part of the business. If you're not waiting for the post-audition call, you're waiting for a good audition, waiting tables, waiting to get a good agent, waiting for the good agent to call you, waiting for the negotiations between your agent and the producers of the pilot you might shoot to be over . . . So you might as well get used to it.

After the first audition, you may get a call that evening or the next day or the day after that, saying you are called back to audition again. You may not get any call. This means, move on.

If you are called back, you audition again, this time usually you read scenes from the script with other people who they are thinking of casting. If it's a musical you will most likely sing songs and dance as well. You may read with one person once. You may read several scenes, several times with different people. You may read once, then be asked to wait around, and after waiting an hour you are told to leave. Usually, before you go they'll tell you around when you should hear from them by. Some will tell you they'll call you either way. Then, you may never hear from them again.

Know that this is part of the rigor. Like the discomfort in the answer above, it will behoove you to get used to living with waiting and not knowing. Not knowing how you did, what they thought of you, if you will have to cancel your evening waitshifts at last minute's notice to start rehearsals . . .and on and on.

Audition information for the NY area can be best obtained by purchasing Back Stage magazine. You can also visit Back Stage Online at www.backstagecasting.com.

For a fee, you can join The Callboard, at www. thecallboard.com

. Best of luck.