After decades of auditioning, I’m more convinced than ever that it’s up there in our heads, in the space between our ears, that things have the greatest chance of going wrong. It’s my belief that the biggest mistakes actors make are in how we think about the process. Here are my top three:
1. Trying to Stand Out.
When actors make choices designed to stand out, it means they’re going against the choices that are obvious. But here’s the danger: obvious choices are often the ones that make the most sense. If you audition for the role of a mild-mannered Midwest mom, and choose to play her like a biker chick from Brooklyn, you’ll certainly stand out, but not in a good way. If you decide to give Romeo a limp and a French accent for no reason, the casting folks will certainly remember you, but not admiringly. Each of us has a unique essence. That alone is enough to differentiate your audition from that of others. Do good, smart, logical acting work, and never make unusual choices just for the sake of being unusual.
2. Worrying Over Every Detail.
It’s a common plague among actors. We seem to suffer under the misconception that the audition process is simply studded with hidden minefields—endless opportunities to ruin our entire careers with some small, unforeseen faux pas. We worry about what to wear, what to say, how to behave, blowing lines, people not liking us, accidentally offending, judgment from fellow actors, and on, and on, and on. These are the enemies of creativity. They block good work. And the reality is, auditioning isn’t so dangerous as all that. There’s no magic outfit, or magic acting choice. Likewise, there are very few things that will instantly ruin an audition. We worry far too much. We need to have a talk with ourselves and get things realigned with reality.
3. Mid-performance Evaluation.
Many of us are so anxious to know how people are responding to our auditions that we try to assess as we go, line by line, lyric by lyric. We evaluate our own work while it’s happening, and try to guess the opinions of the people watching. This is a crazy-making exercise in futility. Because if you’re evaluating yourself or trying to read your audience’s faces, you haven’t surrendered to the role, the circumstances, or the story. You’re detached from your own work. It’s like trying to turn around in the mirror fast enough to see the back of your head. What’s more, casting people’s faces are rarely expressive. That’s because they’re busy working. So you can’t look to them for signs of approval. Far better to get swept up in the work, and leave the evaluating to the professionals.