Mistakes can be great teachers when it comes to professional skills.
Actors audition. A lot. Auditions tend to be a combination of interview, presentation, Q&A session and anxiety-inducing game show. (Who KNOWS what will happen next?!) I've spent years of my life working on the art of auditioning, and I continue to do so. It's a soft skill like any other, and it calls for continued effort.
After an audition, there is no courtesy call to say you didn't book a job. There's no email to say that casting is over, and you should stop sitting by your phone. You're left to your own devices when it comes to looking back at the audition and analyzing what went wrong- or right.
While it's not always helpful to dwell on things in a post-audition situation, sometimes the big lessons are there to be learned. Personally, some of my biggest missteps have been game-changers for me- I've actually come to appreciate these mistakes. The great thing about crashing and burning is that we all do it, regardless of our chosen profession. So, here I offer up some of my biggest "yikes" audition moments, and the professional skill improvement they inspired, in the hopes that you may be able to look back on your own comedy of errors and do the same:
1. When impressing is all: Chaos can ensue when impressing our audience is our only goal. A few months after I graduated from college, I got a call from a new agent I was working with to audition for a role in a production of Stephen Sondheim's "A Little Night Music". It was being done at a theatre with a great reputation, and being cast by an important casting director. I was given a (very difficult and EXTREMELY wordy) song to sing and, with the bravado of a younger self, decided that I knew it pretty darn well and that I would blow them away with my ability to sing the song without referring to lyrics or music. Suffice it to say, I did not know the song well. At all. I blanked on the melody AND the words- and not a few of the words, MOST of them.
I look back on that moment and realize that if I had held on to the music for reference (as you are allowed to do!), instead of trying to impress with my superhuman memorization abilities, I would have felt confident enough to do what I was supposed to do- think about how I wanted to change my audience with the content of the song.
2. Anxiety overload: Many times at an audition, you're unexpectedly asked to return for a dance call, where you are put through the paces of the show's choreography to see if you can handle it. One such time, I found myself at a dance call where the choreography was slightly over my ability level. However, my bigger problem was the crippling anxiety that overtook me. Forget doing any of the steps- all I could do was walk back and forth in the same direction as the actors who were actually achieving the choreography. Ouch.
The sad thing is, I probably COULD have worked it out- had I taken a moment to pause, breathe, and center myself, rather than let stage fright and anxiety take over. No doubt, my nerves had gotten the best of me, and it cost me the job.
3. Your body is your instrument: A few years back, I got a call to go in for another role I was dying to play in a production of the hysterical musical "Spamalot". It was an early morning audition, and I was being asked to sing some difficult material. Instead of turning in early the night before so I could be bright-eyed and comedically bushy-tailed, I had "a lot to do"- I stayed up late listening to the music again, talking about the character, etc. Come 10am the next morning, I was exhausted. And I bombed.
While preparation is KEY, so is rest. We talk a lot about proper vocal care- plenty of water, sleep, and resisting vocal overuse- as well as warming up your body before you present. Your body IS how you are communicating your message, and it is impossible to communicate effectively with a body that's ready to quit. Needless to say, I've made a conscious effort to schedule rest, so I can be at my best when I need to be.