Everyone has some audition nerves. It’s completely understandable. After all, you’re standing in front of a group of complete strangers who are judging your looks, personality, voice and talent. Add the fact that a job you really want hangs in the balance, and an audition can take on almost Greek proportions in your mind. But it doesn’t have to. There’s a simple reason and a simple solution to the problem.
The reason your audition nerves flare up is your awareness that you’re being judged makes you focus is on yourself during the audition. You think about how you look and how you sound and you adjust as you go to make sure it’s going well. It’s like you’re standing outside of yourself scrutinizing everything you do. It’s a huge waste of energy. Sanford Meisner said “Actor’s have two problems. They’re self-conscious and they don’t listen.” That’s the problem and the solution.
The problem is, self-consciousness prevents you from listening to and getting what you need from your scene partner. Letting your audition nerves take you inward, to watch yourself and how you’re doing, is self-defeating. This applies equally to singing and acting auditions. If the stakes in your scene are high, your full attention will be off yourself and on how your scene partner responds to your attempts to get what you need from them.
If, for example, you were trying to stop someone from leaping off the Golden Gate Bridge, your full attention would be completely on them; listening intently to their tone of voice, watching their facial expressions, their body movements either toward or away from the ledge because their life depends on it! In those circumstances could you ever imagine thinking “Maybe I should’ve worn the blue shirt.” “Do I sound O.k.?” I hope they like me!” Of course not. The scene isn’t about you, it’s about them. If you’re talking someone down from a bridge and your attention is on yourself, they’re gonna jump. And, if your attention is on yourself in your audition, you can kiss that job goodbye because your nerves and insecurity will be on full display.
The simple solution is in knowing that it’s not humanly possible to think of two things at the same time. We focus on one thought then the other because we can only actively think of one at a time. That’s great news because it’s the key to channeling the nervousness you feel in a more constructive way. When you feel your attention shifting to yourself, the quickest way to turn things around is to put your attention back onto your scene partner. Ask yourself “What do I need?” That’ll bring your attention back where it belongs - to listening and doing everything you can to get what you need in the scene.
By getting your attention off yourself and onto what you need from the other person, you can’t think about how you’re doing, if they like you or how you sound. You’ll be too busy going after what you need. By being fully engaged with your scene partner you’re not able to think about your nerves and they will disappear.
It’s simple right? Train your focus in this way and you’ll be booking more often before you know it.
Try it and let me know how it goes for you! If you want to learn more about how you can nail your next audition download your copy of my free ebook The Six Secrets of a Working Actor here.
All my best,
Philip Hernandez is a respected acting teacher and singing coach in NYC. He is also the only actor in Broadway history to play both Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in Les Miserables. He created principal roles in Broadway’s Kiss of the Spiderwoman and Paul Simon’s The Capeman. You may also know him from his many television appearances: The Blacklist, Gotham, Blue Bloods, The Path, Bull, Nurse Jackie, Elementary, Person of Interest, Law and Order, Hostages and Damages to name a few. For information about acting lessons CLICK HERE or singing lessons CLICK HERE.