So, you finally get the big audition you’ve been waiting for with the casting director you’ve been dying to meet. What could be better? You dive into the material with enthusiasm and glee, only to find…you hate it. What? This is supposed to be a dream come true—what’s with the nightmare sides? Calm down now, let’s look into this together and find you a way out of judgment and into the material. Here are a few steps that can help:
Accept. You know that it’s your job to bring the words to life, not to judge them or complain about them. You’re the actor; after all, it’s up to you to make the words sound as if they were written for you. All true. But sometimes, you have an unavoidable, negative visceral reaction that hits you like a truck. For some unknown reason, you just can’t wrap yourself around the idea of you as that character saying those words. What many actors do at this point is fret and tear their hair out trying to analyze why they’re having this reaction. In this instance that’s a waste of time—you have work to do. Accept that your relationship with the piece is a bit troubled and get on with repairing it.
Play. If you’re feeling negative about your sides and anxious about what you’re going to do, your mind is probably in a state of confused overdrive. Time to simplify and find the right antidote—it’s actually right in front of you. We know that the antidote for hate is love, the antidote for war is peace, the antidote for anger is compassion—but what is the antidote for creative confusion and misery? Fun!
You can’t think your way out of this problem—the brain is actually what’s causing it. You have to feel your way out—you need to play. Read the piece with a bunch of different emotions, the more insane the better. Read it running around; read it screaming at the top of your lungs. Read it as badly as you can, and laugh at how awful you can be. Get energized and find your way in through fun. If you’re having fun, the piece will start to feel fun and you’re on your way. You’re creative people, right? Your solutions are in how you feel, not in what you think.
Imagine. Many times in your auditioning career, you’ll encounter pieces that you feel averse to because they’re just so far from how you would behave. In a TV/film audition, where we need to see you and the specific qualities you have to add to the role, this can be problematic. How is that going to happen if you have no experience of what it’s like to think or feel the way that character does? I’d suggest using the thing that probably attracted you to this business in the first place: your imagination.
Say the character is a murderer and you have a negative and fearful reaction because you think, “I’m not a murderer, what do I have to bring to this role?” The point is, you could be a murderer. You really could. As human beings we are capable of any and every behavior. For the most part, our brains are wired to keep actions like murder off the list of possible reactions. But, while you may never murder, the fact remains that you have the ability to feel all of the emotions that lead to murder, so the question becomes, “What would make me consider murder?” I teach many different ways to make this happen, but for now, use your imagination and dig deep. If you persevere with honesty and courage, you’ll find the circumstance, the person, and/or the emotion that would flip that switch. When you’ve done that, you have transcended aversion and are on your way to bringing your singular, specific life to the character.
Having a negative reaction to a piece can take you from the joy of possibly booking a role, to the depths of wondering if you should be acting at all. The judgment and shame for having these feelings can take over and make it impossible for you to find your way out of negativity and into the piece. But, as is always the case in creative endeavors, the solution is not to punish and not to panic. The solution is to feel your way back to the joy of creating—the solution is to accept, to imagine, and to play.
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.