One of the biggest challenges actors face is overcoming nerves in the audition room. In the martial arts, we are taught to use our opponent’s strength to our advantage. The same goes for audition nerves. Your nerves must motivate you to take the necessary steps to relax, understand your character, and know your intention in your audition scene. This will give you all the confidence and power you need to beat your nerves and banish them forever.
When you feel that warning signal of nerves—fluttering stomach, headache, shortness of breath, confusion and fear, lack of confidence—take a moment and breathe. Take as long as it takes to calm you. Breathing relieves tension; it oxygenates your body and calms your mind. It centers you and reconnects you to your body and gets you out of your head. Breathing allows you to be vulnerable so you can be more accessible to your thoughts and emotions. Breathing and relaxation is the first, and most organic, line of defense against nerves.
Then, know your character by creating your character biography. Be imaginative, sincere, and honest. Pick life-changing events from your character’s childhood, young adult years, and the present: a fight, a rejection, a triumph, a broken heart. Write these events, results, and emotions down. Explore them, feel them, know them inside and out. Be creative and detailed. Combine real events from your own life for a deeper understanding of your character and a stronger connection to it. Knowing your character allows you to live that character. Knowledge is power—in this case, power over your nerves.
Finally, decide your intention—your driving force within the scene. Choose what your character wants and how to go about getting it. Set up at least three specific tactics to achieve your intention using verbs and adverbs: “I want revenge.” “I need to break the bad news to her.” “I will act aggressively or playfully or mysteriously in order to do that.”
Armed with these three simple but powerful steps, you will gain all the confidence you need to overcome your nerves and to be totally present and at your best in the audition room. You will be too actively giving and doing to let insecurities and people-pleasing negativity take over.
Additional tips: If you have trouble making confident eye contact with the reader, substitute who you are speaking to.
- Drink plenty of water.
- If you have shaky hands, carry something with weight, like an iPad.
- If your voice is wobbly, throw in a little laugh to relieve the anxiety.
But the biggest nerve-buster is confidence. Relaxing, knowing, your character and your intention will give you that confidence. Embrace the power that comes from it. Good luck. And breathe.
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