Audition Jitters and How to Beat Them

Shilo Nelson

So you've got an audition coming up. Whether this is your first audition or you've had dozens of them, chances are you still have some pesky butterflies in your stomach. I'm going to start by letting you in on a little secret: no matter what you do, you will probably still be nervous. Let yourself be nervous. You're putting yourself out there, and most likely it's for a role that would mean a lot to you. I'm not going to tell you how to not be nervous, but I'm going to tell you how to remain positive and confident in spite of your nerves.

 Photo by IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by IPGGutenbergUKLtd/iStock / Getty Images

The first step is to be prepared. This one is probably obvious. Practice your song and your monologue as much as you can. The more familiar you are with your material, the more confident you will be. If it's for a pre-existing show, listen to the show. If it's a brand new show, read the character descriptions and come up with some ideas of how you'd like to play it.

Sometimes the only people who see your audition are the people you're auditioning for, but especially for dance auditions you may be auditioning with others. Even if you aren't, you'll probably see people warming up and rehearsing. Remember Cathy in "The Last Five Years"? She notices all of the other girls auditioning and can't help comparing herself to them. Depending on who you are, different things will help different people to not compare themselves with others. You could try not to pay attention to them. Focus on your audition and what you are doing. Everyone has something unique that they can bring to a role, including you. If ignoring them doesn't help, or it can't be avoided, make friends! Sometimes we have a tendency to put other performers on a pedestal, but they're all feeling the same nerves. Talk to the other people in the room. Ask them what part they are auditioning for, what was their favourite role, talk about theatre. You're auditioning for the same show so there's a good chance that you'll have something in common.

Remember that you don't know exactly what the director or casting team is looking for. They may have an idea of what they want the character to be, but sometimes even they don't know what they want until they see it.

When you are rehearsing for the audition, critique yourself (get others to critique as well if you want) but here's the catch: don't just talk about what you want to improve on. It's just as important to recognize what you do well. Often when we're nervous about an audition, we are afraid that we will make a mistake. It can be harder to recognize your strong points, but the more you acknowledge them the more you will start to believe them. Figure out how to highlight these strong points in your audition. Do you have amazing comedic timing? Do you have remarkable range? Maybe you can emote your ballad in ways nobody else can. Find the very best of you, and let the casting team see it.

This may seem silly but smile as much as you can (if you're doing a scene or a song that isn't a happy one, obviously portray that), but while you are waiting and while you are introducing yourself, smile. If you look happy and confident, eventually you'll feel it.

Now, what if you don't get the part you want, or don't get in at all? Let yourself be disappointed, just like you let yourself be nervous for the audition. But don't let sadness take over. Auditions are learning experiences. Once you're through grieving, ask yourself what you have learned and what you can take from this audition for next time. On that note, let there be a next time. What I've found helps me most after not getting a part is finding my next opportunity. Give yourself something else to hope for and don't give up.

This is easier said than done, and it was something that I heard many times before it finally sank in, but it's true that there are several factors that contribute to not getting a part. These factors are often things that you as a performer have no control over. It can be hard not to take it personally but keep reminding yourself that it usually isn't personal. Yes, there are directors who play favourites but that's a different matter. A good director will be encouraging. If they say that they want you to keep trying, believe that they mean it! They may have you in mind as a perfect fit for a future project down the road.

Think of your favourite performers, the ones that inspire you. Remember that they have all been there. They still feel those nerves in the audition room, and they still feel the disappointment of not getting a role. That will always be a part of theatre. It is the hardest part, but it's not the end.

 Break a leg, you can do it!