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Confidence, comfort and opportunity
I believe that the most important quality an actor can have in an audition room is confidence. Remember that the director wants you to solve her problem, she wants to trust you with her baby, she wants to have confidence in you.

So if you enter the room with confidence you are more likely to be confident in your audition—and give a strong one. If you leave the room with confidence you are more likely to leave a favorable impression with the director. 

The best way to build that confidence is to learn how to give a dynamite audition under adverse conditions. And to most actors auditions are almost always adverse.  

Your job is to reframe what auditions are, and what they mean to you. Your goal should be to get to the point where auditions are as creative, exciting and comforting as your best acting experiences. 

In fact, auditions should become your best acting experiences, or at least close to your best acting experiences. If they don’t you won’t book as often as you should.  I have had auditions, especially for film and TV, which I felt were as good if not better than the work I did on the job. Of course, I always want to do my best work on the job, but if I don’t do great work in the audition I won’t get the opportunity to perform the role. Ultimately, what matters is that you give your best possible performance at every audition.

So, how can auditions become your best acting experiences? Here are some suggestions.

Take the pressure off of yourself. How? One way is to realize that, in most auditions, you are one actor auditioning for one role.  The auditors, on the other hand, are seeing many actors, one after the other, sometimes for hours on end. You may feel self conscious, on the spot and singled out, but the auditors aren’t making you feel that way.  The only pressure being generated in the audition room is coming from you.  What you are experiencing as pressure comes from what you think they think of you.  And it’s important to know that they want you to be good! 

Can you remember a time when you worked with a kind, supportive acting coach, someone who liked your work and just wanted you to get better? Well, I suggest that you start thinking of auditors as if they are that acting coach. Although this may sound like just a mind game you are playing with yourself, I believe that most auditors are supportive of actors in auditions. If you can convince yourself of that you will reduce the pressure you feel by a lot.  Of course, after seeing the same scene read over and over anyone can become cranky, but usually the auditors are clearly on your side.

Another way to reduce pressure is to give yourself as many “harbors” as possible. I coined this expression several years ago when working with actors on audition monologues. However, it is equally helpful in scenes. 

Harbors are points of reference that you can use in an audition to ground yourself in the reality of the scene.  They also help provide a measure of emotional safety. That’s why I call them harbors.


I work with both external harbors and internal harbors. An example of an externalharbor might be a piece of furniture or an object, located opposite of where I am standing.  Very quickly after entering the room and greeting the auditor, or during this process I will choose an object and endow it with some significance.  My goal is to make it a part of the place where the scene is taking place.

For example,if I am auditioning in a casting director’s office and there is a painting on the wall opposite me I might decide that it is the painting my wife gave me on our tenth wedding anniversary. In the audition scene my wife and I are breaking up, and I can use the painting to remind me of what we had together. Looking at the painting also gives me a something absolutely real to work with and somewhere else to put my focus rather than solely on the reader (who is often the casting director) playing my wife. Something I stress to actors in my audition classes is not to keep their eyes glued to the other actor at all times. It’s not life like. So, by giving yourself a real reference point that is relevant to the scene you will give yourself a larger reality, create a sense of privacy and take some of the pressure off.

Sometimes you won’t be familiar with the space you are auditioning in, and won’t know if there is a painting there. So I suggest that in your preparation you give yourself a number of possibilities for things (paintings, furniture, desk items, etc.)that could be present in the place.  Then, when you get in the audition room you can decide what to use for your external harbor. Choosing your harbor should happen quickly, when you first enter the room or just before you start to read.

If you are auditioning in a space for the first time here is a suggestion for getting a head start on creating your harbor. When the auditor or assistant opens the door to the audition room (for the next actor to enter), be standing near the door and take a peek inside. By taking a look inside the space it won’t be so foreign to you when you enter for your audition. Also, it will give you an idea of where things are and may give you a headstart on what to use as your external harbor.

Another technique for reducing pressure in auditions is to think of your audition as both fun and opportunity. For example, when I lived in Los Angeles I auditioned (and worked) several times at Universal Studios. Remembering those experiences now I realize how exciting it was just to walk onto the Universal lot! So many classic films have been shot there, including Psycho, and the famous house used in the film was still being used for shoots until just recently. It was such a kick for me to walk past that house knowing about its incredible history. Not to mention the famous actors and directors you see just strolling around the lot.

The opportunity part is pretty obvious I think. I remember a callback I had for a large supporting role in a very well respected episodic drama. I was so excited thinking about being a part of such a quality show. Likewise, my first Broadway audition and callback on the stage of the Neil Simon theatre was also a thrill.

I believe fun and opportunity are two of the reasons actors get into the business in the first place. However, sometimes we forget how lucky we are to have these wonderful experiences. 

So I urge you to appreciate and enjoy all those moments, while they are happening. When you get an audition or callback just stop for a moment and experience appreciation for the opportunity. 

Even if you don’t book the job you can have a wonderful time trying.

Last Updated: March 14,2014. For problems with this site
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