The Actor's Everest
Originally Published by Central Standard Time
I had an audition today and I have reason to celebrate. It’s not because I booked the job, it’s because I forgot about it. Which means I didn’t second-guess myself after the audition. Success!
I am an actor and therefore, I audition for a living. It’s a job and it’s a skill separate from acting. Classes are taught about ‘nailing your audition’, and dozens of books are written on the subject.
Being an actor requires perpetual job interviews. It’s a process that’s both exhilarating, and exhausting. Exhilarating at the audition because it is, after all, a performance. But exhausting because when you’re finished, your brain and ego go bonkers with second-guessing.
“What did their comments mean? Did I give them what they wanted? Was I too friendly? Everyone was wearing black, should I have worn black too? Did they notice I flubbed a line? What made me look at the floor so much? Why did I laugh? What did their silence mean?” This second guessing is like self-flagellation, and the torture can go on for days, weeks, dare I say it, months.
Where does this come from and why do actors do this?
An audition is a kind of free-for-all projection of all your insecurities and fears. So, an audition comes with implicit dangers. You enter the audition room to strangers sitting behind a desk. These people now have control over if you work. They have dozens of headshots and resumes in front of them. They’re icy and unresponsive. They smile gratuitously. They say ‘thank you’ halfheartedly.
It’s so easy for an actor to feel a lack of control being in the vulnerable position of auditioning. So, second-guessing gives you some semblance of control – “if fix this one thing, next time maybe I’ll do better and get the job.” But it’s only an illusion of control. It’s feeding your insecure beast, and it doesn’t feel good. It wastes energy. And it’s the main cause of burnout.
Actors are notoriously sensitive creatures. And because of this, it’s easy to get caught in the toxic cycle of second-guessing your auditions. But it undermines your success, and even, your mental health.
Climbers don’t get to take an elevator to the summit of Mt. Everest. Methodical preparation combined with mental and physical fortitude gets you there. And practice. Lots of practice.
OK. So, what can an actor do to embrace the climb and not dwell on things outside of their control? I found out after too many tortuous auditions in 2018. I took a self-imposed sabbatical from auditions. I said no to auditions and yes to meditation, exercise, and self-care. I knew nothing was going to change for me, so I had to change.
I made peace with auditioning. First, it’s not outcomes that matter, it’s about satisfaction in the audition process. If you attempt Everest you face the challenge, push your limits and learn about yourself. That’s an achievement in and of itself. It made me reframe the tools I brought to the challenge.
I wrote a mantra that I say before stepping into the audition room. It’s about giving gratitude for gifts, appreciation for expressive energy and the joy of getting to share it all with loving intentions. This quiet statement helps me bring my best me to the room.
I carry reminders of those who have always supported me in life. And by doing this, I feel more relaxed. Today I wore a simple necklace that belonged to my Mom. I brought her with me.
I bring in a wonderful secret. There’s something empowering about having a little secret. Maybe it gives my ego something to do while I’m free to be present with the material. Like throwing a ball for my dog, Ego. And if all else fails, the secret amuses me.
This is my Everest backpack. These few simple rituals have been effective for me. I’ve proven to myself that the climb is the reward. And, auditions are a helluva lot more fun now. Which is really reaching the summit for this actor.
Author - Rainee Denham