3 Steps to a Nerve-Free Audition

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So much has been written on the subject of “what to do about nerves,” as if nerves were some monster that comes out of nowhere and attacks you. In fact, nerves are never random and are simply a reaction to a specific set of circumstances. In that way, the physical and mental/emotional state of being nervous is no different than any other. If you have a way of deconstructing nerves to see what they’re made of, they’re not so ominous. Everything is manageable in its parts.

Say you’re in the waiting room about 20 minutes away from your audition. You were feeling great in the car, but now your stomach is starting to flutter, your breath is getting short and your palms are clammy. Instead of going into denial and trying to run from the discomfort, I encourage you to lean into the moment and examine exactly what’s going on using these three simple steps:

1. Review your work. Nerves often spring from doubt. In fact, the paradigm of anxiety in psychology is one of the simplest: doubt, fear, anxiety. The way a paradigm works is that if you take away the first step, it falls apart. Put another way, if you have nothing to doubt, you have nothing to fear and nothing to be nervous about.

If you prepared your audition using a strong, reliable step-by-step technique that brings out the best in you, you have a safe and sane, step-by-step way to take one last look at your decisions while you’re waiting. You can then see how strong and connected these decisions are and gain the reassurance you need to go in the room and commit, connect, and score.

You’ve now eliminated your work as something to be nervous about. Everything checked out, you’re breathing easier and feeling a little more relaxed. Good. Now let’s continue exploring and remove some more doubt.

2. See the comparing mind for what it is. Our comparing mind can get activated in a big way in the waiting room, creating all kinds of doubt and anxiety. Again, maybe you were feeling amazing on the way to the audition, but now that you look around… that person looks taller and they might want tall, that one looks prettier and they might want really pretty, the one next to you looks totally wrong for this!

At this point it’s important to come back to reality and realize that all of these people are just who they are. The fact that they are taller, prettier, or plainer than you is not a part of their identity—it’s who they are in comparison to you, and that is nothing more than a fabrication of your comparing mind. So, relax and let them be who they are. Your job is to accept your entire self for who you are in that moment because that’s who you’re bringing into the room.

As you see the comparing mind as offering nothing more than old stories and meaningless opinions, you’ll relax even further and breathe even deeper. Doubt is dissolving even further as nerves have less and less to stick to.

Now, one last piece to look at....

3. Accept the human nerves. The fight/flight/freeze instincts hard wired into our reptilian brain are there for our survival. The audition process, which requires being in a new environment with a group of strangers, can feel dangerous enough for the flight mechanism to activate. One way to feel safer is to prepare to the highest bar, which means preparing in a way that is so strong that you feel as if your work belongs in that room and you belong in that project. If you feel as if you belong, your brain doesn’t feel the threatening sense of separation: there’s no “me and them,” there’s just “us,” which calms the flight mechanism considerably.

But, even if you have done everything right, there will still remain a bit of anxiety at being in a strange, new environment. That’s OK. Accept those nerves as part of being human and they will stay small enough to be manageable—and even energizing.

To examine the components of nervousness is to be in control of it. You see it for what it is: just a passing reaction to your immediate circumstance, a state of being that can be teased apart and examined. Not a dragon you need to slay, just another part of you to look at and get to know.

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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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Craig Wallace
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.
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