Many actors who I start to see in class or in casting scenarios are what I call “neck-up actors.” They may have made strong choices and on some level be doing good work, but it’s all being produced from the neck up. The only consideration they’ve given their body is that they shouldn’t move it, and as such they are lifeless and disconnected from the neck down.
This “neck-up” syndrome is quite common in film and television auditions where you are asked to communicate your choices without the aid of movement, sitting very close to the casting director, and often on camera in a tight frame. Stillness is, of course, essential, but without proper consideration of the body, stillness can quickly turn to stiffness and the actor can appear frozen and lifeless.
Working actors have a different look to them in auditions. They realize that they are auditioning for the whole person, not just the head, and even though they’re not moving, they seem alive from head to toe.
In order to achieve this energized stillness, you need to work specifically and thoroughly. Choices need to be made and explored for the character's physical as well as emotional properties; you really need to know how each choice feels in your body.
Following is an abbreviated version of the mind/body connection that I teach. There is more than this, but it will give you an idea of how to begin.
Say you have made the choice of anger for part of your audition. Read that choice out loud, and feel where the sensation of anger occurs in your entire body: heart, chest, forehead, stomach, etc. Is it a constrictive or an expansive feeling? Tense the parts of the body that are constricted by the choice, relax the parts that feel expansive. Really feel it. Note the temperature of your body as you experience the anger. Are you hotter, cooler, or the same? Be very specific and stay with the physical sensations as long as possible so that your entire body becomes familiar with the feeling of anger.
Now, continue to work through each choice this way. Where is the sensation felt the strongest? How does it feel? What is the temperature? Think of other questions. Really investigate the body’s reaction to each choice, experiencing fully not just the emotional energy of the choices, but the actual physical manifestation of that energy.
When you have finished exploring, relax and read the piece out loud in its entirety, sitting or standing very still. Since your choices are now felt in your body, as well as your mind and heart, you will most likely feel an energetic current running through you as you work from choice to choice. This means that you are now connected to your choices externally as well as internally, and your work will have the support and power of your entire instrument. You will be electric in your stillness.
Now you know that when you go to your audition, you won’t be the talking head actor who falls into a frozen stiffness and looks as if he is reciting lines. You will be the actor who sits directly in front of the casting director, with a camera three feet from your face, delivering the full emotional and physical life of each choice, with an energetic stillness that embodies the character and envelops the role.
Craig Wallace is the creator and award-winning teacher of The Wallace Audition Technique, an audition preparation system that he developed based on his years of experience as a studio executive, talent agent and casting consultant. In his 14 years of teaching, he has seen the careers of hundreds of his students take off. He is also the author of the best-selling book, “The Best of You – Winning Auditions Your Way.”
Craig is currently teaching his audition technique classes and his Meditation for Actors classes in Santa Monica, CA. For more information visit www.wallaceauditiontechnique.com.