How to Handle Audition Nerves

Photo Source: Doug Hac

Do you ever flub a line or get lost when you're auditioning?

Your palms get sticky; your throat gets dry; you start seeing black spots floating in front of your eyes; and you suddenly can't hear! Fun, right? Actually, no, it's not fun at all. It's a horrifying feeling when that happens, and I'm going to tell you how to win over the room when this happens. Yes, you heard them over.

Here's what's happening when you're auditioning or performing live. I liken it to a tightrope walker. When the tightrope walker is up on the rope, the whole audience is rooting for them. They are on the edge of their seats with anticipation and are subconsciously praying for her to do well. When the tightrope walker missteps and loses their footing and almost plunges to the ground (or rather the net), the entire audience gasps. But, when the tightrope walker gracefully and masterfully recovers and rights herself back on the rope, the entire audience springs to their feet and applauds.

Likewise, when you're in an audition and go up on your lines, it's how you recover that can either make or break you. If you dissolve into a puddle on the floor with "I'm sorry"'s or "Can I please, please start over again?" or "Damn, I screwed it up again!" you've essentially just lost your audience. But if you can gracefully dip down and check your sides (because in your preliminary auditions you'll still be holding your sides and turning the pages along with your scene), find where you are, look up, and continue, you've just won us over. It's as if you've almost fallen off the rope, corrected your footing, gotten back onto the rope, and pulled off your trick. We'll follow you anywhere.

If you've just started your scene and you feel you are way off-track from what you'd prepared, say, "I'm going to start again," compose yourself, and immediately start again. When you start saying, "I'm sorry, can I please start over? Please?!!" you've lost us because you've lost your power. Remember, this is your audition. Take charge. Take control of the room. I don't mean you should act obnoxious or needy or demanding. There's a fine line between being charming and in control in an audition and being a diva. And please, don't do this when you're 2-3 pages into your scene!

We want you to succeed. How you behave in an audition is indicative of how you may be on set. A true pro wouldn't fall apart because they forgot or screwed up a line. Hey, we're all human. ALL of us. It's just a line. You didn't run over my dog. It's not the end of the world. But, how you handle it is everything. Everything.

Known for her work in film and television, producer and casting director Marci Liroff has worked with some of the most successful directors in the world such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, Mark Waters, Christopher Nolan, Brad Bird, and Herbert Ross. While working at Fenton-Feinberg Casting, she, along with Mike Fenton, cast such films as “A Christmas Story,“Poltergeist, “E.T. – The Extra Terrestrial, “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,and “Blade Runner.After establishing her own casting company in 1983, Liroff cast “Footloose,“St. Elmo's Fire, “Pretty in Pink,“The Iron Giant,“The Spitfire Grill," “Untamed Heart," “Freaky Friday, “Mean Girls, “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,“Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” “Vampire Academy,and the upcoming “The Sublime and Beautiful,” which she produced as well.

Liroff is also an acting coach, and her three-night Audition Bootcamp has empowered actors to view the audition process in a new light. The class spawned an online course available at Udemy entitled "How To Audition For Film and Television: Audition Bootcamp."

Visit Liroff online at, follow her on Twitter @marciliroff and Facebook, and watch her advice videos on YouTube. You can also read her blog.