The number one reason actors freeze or over-perform at auditions is fear. If you’ve ever experienced sweaty palms, a faster heart-rate, speaking too quickly or too much, forgetting lines, anxious feelings, lack of control or confidence, scattered thoughts, going blank, tensing up, or a loss of focus or presence, you’ve experienced fear in an audition.
When an actor experiences fear, it can have a restrictive effect as fear blocks the body from receiving. The mind goes into protection mode. The body tightens and becomes narrower. Even blood vessels constrict. But your body is your instrument; it must remain open so as to embody the essence of a character and execute redirects from casting.
Notice how open and free you feel after an audition that you knock out of the park. It’s because the engagement in the activity is flowing effortlessly since there are no mental or physical restrictions in the way. You may even forget what you did in there. Just like painters and athletes, this is your optimal state of flow.
At a SAG-AFTRA workshop, I spoke about a trick actors can employ to subvert this fear. When you receive a stimulus such as a threat, trigger, or limiting belief, that stimulus reaches the fight or flight center of your brain within milliseconds. If the perceived threat seems real, your body will react to it by tensing up. In order to keep your thoughts from being hijacked, you must intercept and inform your mind that the perceived threat is not real. To get your body to accept this, it must experience the opposite of fear mode. Here are a few tips:
1. Reverse the verse.
Acknowledge the fear with appreciation. “Thank you for showing up, fear. I appreciate your protection. I am good. There is no harm here.” Then change the dialogue you’re replaying in your mind using positive words. “Because I am safe here, I can take risks. I am excited to share. Let’s go!” Move fear to excitement. Now you have purpose.
2. Center yourself with breathing.
It activates the calming center of your body and delivers messages that the perceived threat is no longer. Close your eyes and take deep, slow, long breaths and release. Each step should take a full five seconds. Repeat until you feel relaxed. Place your hand on your abdomen or your heart to train your body to your breathing pattern.
3. Become attuned to the self.
Select music engineered to place you in the mood you wish to experience using headphones. YouTube has songs you can play as you sleep the night before your audition (headphones not needed). Also, iTunes offers playlists of mental clarity, focus, memory enhancement, and more. Dopamine and blood flow to the brain are increased, motivating you to take action.
Another tool you can use (with some practice and training) is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT Tapping). By using your fingertips to tap on the body’s energy network (meridian points)—similar to acupuncture or acupressure—negative energy doesn’t get stuck and instead processes through and out of the body. Refer to TheTappingSolution.com and YouTube for more information.
Practice these techniques for at least 30 days whether you have an audition or not so that they become part of your automatic audition practices. Fear does not have to remain part of your audition behavior. Exercise new behaviors to replace what is not serving you well. These positive interventions will help you take control and launch your audition from an authentic place.
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