Auditions. They’re like the mythical creatures that Eddie Redmayne keeps in his suitcase, the minute one leaps out you’ve got to be ready to drop everything, take it down and make it your own. Unlike Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them which you can watch from bed without a care in the world, auditions (especially for bigger projects at short notice) can be really tricky to navigate. The simplest solution is to keep yourself audition ready at all times, so when the call does come through, you’re ready to grab it by the horns and stuff it into your suitcase of dreams. Your dreamcase. Okay, I’ll stop – let’s get into how to stay audition fit!
The first thing to try and keep as sharp as possible is your voice. The great acting guru Larry Moss says to almost every actor he works with at his regular masterclasses, “are you in voice class?” Working on your voice every day, or as regularly as you can is going to really help to keep you audition fit. Also, finding a voice workshop near you that you can attend when time and funds allow is also a fantastic idea. You can learn new tricks, make new friends and work on some text that you love! What a time to be alive. In Sydney, the Hub Studio does regular drop-in voice classes every Friday. Why not have a look in your town and see if you can find a great class?
This is the big one, regular scene work will make such a difference in your audition process. I think of my acting like an old car from the 1920’s – you know the ones with the crank handle at the front? Every time I have to get it going it’s a real struggle, I’ve really got to put a tonne of effort into getting it started. Once it’s started up, ooh boy does it rumble but getting it up and running is a struggle and a half! What I mean by that elongated metaphor is that regular practice keeps it running, and means you’re used to working on scripts and know what you have to do to be prepared.
There are a bunch of ways of going about this. You could meet up with a few friends on a regular basis and put some scenes down on tape. Or you could join a local scene club – in Sydney, the Scene on Screen, The Hub Studio, The Actors Station and Sydney Actors Collective all run regular scene test workshops where actors get together with a moderator or director to work on scenes and get regular self-test tapes to send to their agents.
If you live in a regional area or some part of the world that isn’t so great for actors resources or again you just like working from home, then why not check out the StageMilk Scene Club. It’s’ completely online and you get a tonne of extras like a Digital Theatre subscription, access to a digital play library, a new project every month and you get personalised feedback on your work from one of our team of industry experts! The first month is only $7 USD, check it out for yourself.
This is the elephant in the room and more often than not the biggest enemy an actor has in the audition room is themselves. Recently, I have done some work on the other side of the casting table, and it was extraordinary to watch great actors, friends of mine and sometimes both, sabotage themselves in the audition room due to stress. Whether it was a great actor who turned up significantly late and extremely stressed to his audition or another actor who made a litany of excuses and apologies for not learning their sides, stress can really detract from your performance.
Part of your preparation should be on the logistics of your audition. How are you going to get there? How much time do you need to prepare? What are the most important things for you to have the best experience in the room possible? If you need the script in hand, that is usually fine, just ask the casting director on the day. It is not a memory test, they want to see you act! If you find auditions stressful (who doesn’t!?) Focus your attention on your preparation and what you need to do to mitigate your stress response. From planning your trip there, to preparing appropriately for the role to what activity have you got lined up afterwards to return to normality and let go whatever went down in the audition.
Speaking of the tricky nature of being an actor, ordering your priorities can be extremely tricky. Family, relationships, work, life and finances can all get in the way of you having the perfect preparation for an audition. Sometimes you have to make the hard call of getting a friend to cover for you, chucking a sickie, leaving the kids with grandma or in the worst cases saying no to an audition and putting down a tape instead. This is a unique challenge for actors, very few other careers require you to sacrifice as much as often to make it work. The question of balancing priorities is going to be a tough one and different for every actor, my only advice would be this – by staying audition fit, by working on your voice and scenes and having a handle on your stress response you will be able to rapidly cut down on your required preparation time.
Acting is just a job though and that is important to remember if your mental health is suffering because of constantly having to balance priorities in your life. It’s really important to take some time away from acting and refocus yourself on what is really important to you. There are some great organisations out there that can offer assistance in difficult times, like Headspace and Beyond Blue which I highly recommend you look into if you are feeling overwhelmed.
That is just a few of the ways you can stay audition fit! Keep working that voice, smashing out scenes on the regular and look after yourself. The more you can recreate those audition parameters and perform well in them, the less stressful auditions will become. Priorities will always be a challenge and navigating them is part of this crazy existence. But if you work hard at it, you could be the next Eddie Redmayne with your own suitcase of wonders!