Tips to Avoid the Mind Games People Play at Auditions

I give this speech to my students when they’re going in for a big audition, be it college auditions or local productions; anywhere the stakes are high and there are kids involved. There’s a certain kind of coping mechanism some people use to deal with the stress of auditions that involves subtly undermining the confidence of everyone else in the room. Girls are worse than boys, preteen through teen girls seem to be worse than adults. It goes something like this:

Girl 1: Hey there! So when’s your appointment?

Girl 2: About 20 minutes. When’s yours?

Girl 1: Any minute now. What are you singing?

Girl 2: In My Own Little Corner, from Cinderella.

Girl 1: Oh. Huh. Well, okay. It’s just that so many people sing that. I think I heard three girls sing that through the door just today.

Girl 2: Oh, really?

Girl 1: Yeah. Plus it doesn’t show much. My agent told me I should take it out of my book. Do you have an agent?

Girl 2: Oh, no. (trying to be friendly) What’s that like?

Girl 1: It’s pretty fun, you know. Going to auditions all the time. My mom gets me out of school. I did a commercial last year. Have you ever done a commercial?

Girl 2: No. I did have a part in the musical this year. That was nice.

Girl 1: Oh, yeah? What show?

Girl 2: The Sound of Music. I was Liesl. It was really fun.

Girl 1: Sound of Music? Yeah, that’s like a really old show, right? Our middle school did Rent. I played Maureen.

You get the idea. Everything girl 2 has done is pretty lame. Girl 1 is WAY more experienced, and is super better at everything. Later in the conversation, Girl 1 will probably start talking about how she met Stephen Sondheim, and how she goes to this summer camp with Broadway stars, and shouldn’t Girl 2 pick an outfit that flatters her figure more, and is that really her headshot?

Girl 1 probably doesn’t realize she’s being an obnoxious jerk. She’s just telling the truth, (to her own way of thinking) she’s giving good advice nobody gave her when she was green. But in reality the whole thing is subconsciously a passive-aggressive ploy to shatter the self confidence of the competition and walk in feeling like a champion. So point 1 is this: If any of that sounds like something you ever said to another actor, you need to do some serious thinking about your attitude.

Now, I’ll give you three approaches to dealing with this from the other end. One is to cut it off at the pass. The second is a set of conversation re-directors that will stop this thing from proceeding. And the third is a set of things to tell yourself that will give you a better perspective.

First, to stop the head game from starting at all:

If you’re allowed to, and you’re not at school, get a set of Ipod headphones, put them in your ears, and run the other end into your pocket. Nobody talks to somebody who is listening to an Ipod. Close your eyes and go over your material, your actions and beats, and get your focus on.

Second, to redirect the conversation so that it doesn’t head in the wrong direction:

If you wind up in one of these conversations, don’t allow yourself to be pulled into the bragging game. Don’t give your resume to another actor. It’s totally pointless in terms of the audition you’re preparing for; these other actors don’t actually care what you’ve done, and can’t get you the job anyway. If someone starts telling you how awesome they are, say, “Great. That’s awesome!” and leave it at thatwithout adding anything about your own experiences. You can try to ask them non-theatre related questions, like where they go to school, or what music they like to listen to; anything except performing. And if these things aren’t successful, end the conversation by politely letting the other person know: “Listen, I really need to focus on my audition, and I need this time to think about what I’m doing. Break a leg in there!” If you don’t play the game with the person, you’re no fun; the insecure actor will go derail someone else’s audition.

Third, reaffirm in your mind the truth of the situation.

The other actor’s experiences do not make them more likely to get the part than you, especially if you’re both kids. A really great performer doesn’t need to play head games with the other actors. If anything, a display like that reflects a desperation that the actor doesn’t think she has what it takes. Your lack of an agent or the fact that you didn’t go to a fancy camp simply means you haven’t done those things yet. That’s it. Your qualities may be exactly what they’re looking for in there. The other actors are irrelevant to you; your only job is to do what you’ve practiced and turn in your best performance in the audition room. So block those other actors out and go over your song again!

And break a leg!



Originally Posted by Peter Hilliard

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