How Bad Is a Bad Audition?

As most of you know, I am a career coach and specialize in helping actors address the specific issues that plague them in their careers—issues that are hard to overcome by reading books or attending group classes. One of my students recently wrote to me, and I think that her experience is so prevalent that I wanted to post her question and my answer here.

“I auditioned for a regional company that I have always wanted to work with. They always have a season that I love and feel is perfect for me. When I first auditioned for them, it wasn’t one of my better days, but I told myself I was doing the right thing by auditioning despite the circumstances.

The following season, another casting call rolled around for this theater. I submitted, and they emailed me back saying that they remembered my work and they didn’t want to waste time seeing me again. It made me feel sick. This is something that has never happened to me before. It wasn’t as if I wasn’t right for their company; I think I just made a bad impression at that first audition.

Did I mess something up by going to that audition? This situation has made it difficult for me to get out there to audition for anything at all. Is this concern valid?”

First off, your concerns are always valid. They are real, and tangible. The question is: Are you going to let them make you “play small”? Are you going to let them stand in your way?

I can completely understand where you are coming from. What an awful experience! I have had things like that happen to me, and it feels like someone sucker punched you. There is no real consolation except knowing that it happens to everyone at some point, and it very rarely has anything to do with how wonderful you are as an actor. With as many things that were going on in your life at that time, there could have been just as many things happening in that casting director’s life that made them say those things to you. I am certainly not excusing them; I am simply saying that most of the time, people’s behavior (bad, or even good) has nothing to do with how talented we are.

To get yourself on good footing with them (essentially erasing that bad experience), all it takes is going to one of the EPAs or open calls and showing them a better audition than last time. Don’t wait for permission to audition for them. Go on in your town terms and blow them away with what you are capable of doing. After all, there’s a chance what they said was exactly what they meant: they knew what you could do and they didn’t have anything for you that season. If you see a season that you’d love to do, I’d highly recommend showing up at their auditions.

Now, regarding this experience overshadowing getting back out there now: Anytime you do an audition you run the risk of making a bad impression. Even if you feel like you are at your peak physically, emotionally, and mentally, you may have someone behind the table who just doesn’t appreciate what you have to offer. So, why wait? The risk of rejection is the same whether you wait or go for it, but if you put things on hold, you’re essentially putting your life and dreams on hold until this magical “someday,” which can seem further away every day.

The question is, can you really afford not to take action? (And I think you know my answer for that.)

So, here’s a question for you, fearless reader: Have you overcome a bad audition experience? Leave a comment below and let us know what happened and how you persevered!

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Erin Cronican
Erin Cronican is a professional actor (SAG-AFTRA/AEA) with over 20 years of experience performing in film, plays and musicals (NYC, L.A., regionally), and on television. She also produces and directs with the Seeing Place Theater, a critically acclaimed non-profit indie company in NYC.
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