Your agent tells you “beach casual,” and everyone else is wearing “upscale business.” Your girlfriend dumps you the night before your 8 a.m. callback. You prepare diligently, but the casting assistant hands you new pages as you walk into the room. Even in the best of circumstances, auditions can seem almost deliberately crafted to throw you. No matter how carefully you’ve prepared, things don’t go as planned.
This will be your nightmare—until you wake up to an encouraging reality.
With ample preparation, you’re ready to riff on the conditions at play and do your best work for the moment, even when that looks nothing like you thought it might. For all you know, your red, post-breakup eyes may make you seem attractively vulnerable. Your accidental beach clothes might provide you the opportunity to show you can laugh at yourself. Auditors, like audiences, aren’t interested in still lives—they want to see you listen and respond; they want to see you act. When you stop counting on a prefabricated package, you can embrace and exploit the nuanced audition situation right in front of you.
Scott Kaiser, director of company development at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, who sees hundreds of auditions every year, puts it this way: “The conditions are never going to be in your favor. The audition circumstances are never going to line up so you can do your best work. It’s never going to be ideal. Embrace that as the norm. When you do that, you stop beating yourself up. When you stop beating yourself up, you can do your best work.”
Jackie Apodaca is an associate professor and the head of performance at Southern Oregon University.