How Auditioning Is Like Jury Duty

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Ah, jury duty. Sitting around a crowded room waiting for your name to be called, waiting to find out if the next few weeks of your life will be overtaken by a new role. Wait. This sounds vaguely familiar…

While I recently sat in the jury lounge waiting to be called, I had flashbacks of being at EPAs with performers’ names being announced to stay for callbacks. I sat there thinking, “Call my name! Pick me!” which was odd, since most people would clearly prefer not to be picked for a jury. But I'd been chosen twice before in my life, and I actually like jury duty. I’m one of those rare folks who are fascinated by the system and would love nothing better than to sit on a trial. I started to wonder—what is it about me that makes me an ideal pick? And then a thought hit me so hard that I was taken aback:

If we loved auditions instead of finding them grueling, would actors get callbacks more often?

My name was called to go to our courtroom and I, along with 49 others, were asked to sit in the gallery. By the end of “voir dire”—the questioning process—only five people had been selected. Guess who one of them was? That’s right, me.

So how can I get similar results in the audition room? I have some theories.

I’d been through the jury selection process twice before and knew what I was doing. I knew exactly what voir dire was and what results they wanted. I knew I’d be an excellent juror and they’d be lucky to have me, but I also knew I’d be perfectly fine if they didn’t select me. In other words, I had no vested interest in one outcome over another. Perhaps they were attracted to that natural confidence?

Because I was confident, I was able to really let my personality out and I imagine that I had an air of relaxed friendliness. When you are relaxed and friendly, it encourages others to be relaxed and friendly. People like being around those who create ease in the room—what a difference that can make when so many people are afraid to be themselves. Maybe they thought I would bring an air of levity to the courtroom?

I got asked some very tough questions and I answered them calmly and succinctly, which could have made me seem honest and trustworthy. Of all three attributes, I imagine this would be the most important.

I know what you’re thinking: What do confidence, likability and honesty have to do with being a good actor? After going through this process I am starting to see that these are all part of the intangibles of human bonding: Will the person be reliable and fun to work with under duress? Will they contribute positively to the mood in the room, especially when working in difficult circumstances? And, let’s face it, likable people are more likely to get ahead than unlikable folks.

So if we can find a way to do that in the audition room, wouldn’t we be more likely to succeed?

I always tell my students, “When you audition, don’t go in trying to prove you’re the only person for that role. That isn’t in your control. Go in showing them that you would be an excellent choice for the role. Aim to get into the ‘yes’ pile of headshots that the casting director deems, These actors were very good, and I would like to work with them…today or some day.’Remember that when you audition you’re not only auditioning for today’s role, but every other role that this casting office has on its radar. If you bring confidence, likability, and honesty to your auditions, you’ll see your callback ratio start to rise, and you’ll feel so much better in the process.

Put these three tips to work by browsing our theater audition listings! And for more great audition advice, watch the video below!

The views expressed in this article are solely that of the individual(s) providing them,
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.

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Erin Cronican
Erin is a professional actor (SAG-AFTRA/AEA) with over 20 years of experience performing in film, TV, plays, and musicals (NYC, LA, tours.) She also produces and directs with the Seeing Place, a critically acclaimed non-profit theater in New York City. Passionate about sharing her knowledge, Erin Cronican is the co-founder/coach with the Actors’ Enterprise, as well as the co-founder of the NY Actors Tweetup. Follow her on Twitter @ErinCronican and Instagram @Erin_Cronican.
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