When people talk about stage fright, they often refer to full-blown deer-in-the-stage-lights, flop sweat anxiety. As an acting coach and teacher primarily for child to young adult performers, I more often see a much milder form that manifests itself during the audition. The nerves reduce a talented actor to giving a flat and uninspiring performance. Don’t let nerves sabotage your audition! Follow these five tips to leave your butterflies outside the door where they belong and land the role your talent deserves.
1. Be very familiar with the dialogue. Young performers often worry that they need to say every word exactly as it is written in the script. Take that burden right off your shoulders! Complete memorization may give some actors confidence, but it is not the main focus in the audition. Instead, focus on mastering the lines well enough so that the script, if you need it, becomes a reference tool instead of a crutch. Veering from the script in small ways is rarely a problem in an audition. Talk to your practice partner to be clear that the goal of running lines is proficiency, not perfection.
2. Make a connection. Confidence in what you are doing in the scene allows you to shift focus away from how you are feeling and toward the rapport you are building with your reader. Make eye contact and react to the reader’s cues. You will notice that the more you connect with someone else, the less nervous you will feel and the better your acting will become.
3. Be pleasant, but don’t worry about pleasing the people behind the table. Young actors are often influenced by their desire to please. Whether that impulse is directed toward a parent, the casting director, or an agent or manager, it is best to ease that burden. Reframe your perspective on the audition. Let it be an opportunity to do the thing you love rather than a judgment of you as an actor. Remember that the casting director genuinely wants you to succeed. And never forget that your parents love you regardless of whether you act on Broadway, in front of the bathroom mirror, or not at all.
4. Own your passion and success. Teen and young adult actors are generally more prone than their younger peers to a crisis of confidence. The rough terrain of going through middle and high school and on to college can take its toll. I encourage you to do two things to minimize these moments of fear and keep them in perspective. First, keep a scrapbook, photo album, or memory box of mementos that connect you to the love and accomplishment you feel about performing. Refer to it often and let it be a source of happiness and pride. Second, continue performing in amateur productions when professional jobs temporarily dry up. Consciously notice how acting makes you feel. Use that understanding to reinforce your confidence at auditions and in all areas of life.
5. Decide who comes with you to the audition. Sometimes it’s best to go it alone and sometimes you do your best with the support of a loved one. Many of my students audition out of their parents view. Talk to your parents if their presence is inhibiting your performance and negotiate a safe and mutual alternative.
Auditions can be nerve wracking but also empowering. You are focusing your initiative and drive on learning the art and putting yourself out there to make your dream a reality. Wow, when you think of it that way, auditions are truly a celebration of you.
Master your craft, empower yourself, and enjoy the journey.
Denise Simon is a New York-based acting coach and career consultant who has been involved in the entertainment industry for more than 25 years as an actor, teacher, director, and personal talent manager. For 10 years, she was an associate with Fox Albert Management, one of the leading talent management companies in New York, where she managed such clients as Scarlett Johansson, Academy Award winner Mira Sorvino, Lacey Chabert (“Party of Five”), and Judy Reyes (NBC’s “Scrubs”). Denise has coached hundreds of children and young adults appearing regularly on Broadway and in television and film, as well as educating parents on the business of show business.