The Audition Waiting Room – A Brief Guide
Waiting to go in for an audition can be excruciating. Knowing what is likely to happen as you enter the lion’s den is a great way to take control of the experience. Here I offer my advice…
You have presented your CV and headshot, the director/casting director has called you in for a reading or audition and then it feels like forever that you are sitting there waiting. Tick tock.
However, the waiting room for your time in front of the panel does not have to be awkward at all. If you want it to, the waiting time can be a fantastic opportunity. A chance for you to learn and develop. It can be an experience that you take advantage of. Like so much in this profession, every chance to enhance our own productivity and mindset as an actor should be seized.
Waiting outside a closed door where your casting fate may be decided in just a few moments requires specific skills. It is important that you understand what you should (and by contrast, what you should not do) while you wait.
Depending on the acting job you are up for, the location of the audition can be one of extremes. Some will take place in closed office spaces, others in a hired theatre venue and others may be in a large room in an industrial estate. As such, the waiting room can be equally as varied. Often these will be busy spaces, and can get quite noisy. Actors will probably be milling around, they may be rehearsing their lines and pieces in a corner, and some will even be networking and/or chatting with each other.
How you choose to respond to such a space will be ultimately down to you, but below I give some tips as to how to conduct yourself during the waiting game. Above all else, and I will repeat myself often on this, the audition is the key. The waiting should all about being preparing yourself for it.
Remember, the fact that you have been called for audition means you have achieved something remarkable already. You have already proven that you *might* be what the auditors are looking for. But this is not a time to become complacent. The role is not yours until you have proven it in the audition room. All the time that you are waiting should be about getting into the headspace of rocking the audition and getting the job!
Distractions in these waiting holds are many. Not least will be the general humdrum of the environment itself, but there will be a multitude of other niggling thoughts and distractions that will pull your mind away from its primary focus. It is vital to learn how to overcome these. The nice thing is that you can, and it does get easier with every new audition.
The Biggest Distraction – Mirror Images
Unless you are particularly narcissistic, I do not mean literal mirrors. Usually you will not be the only person called for audition based on your headshot. This means it is highly likely that the waiting room will be filled with similar looking actors (if not complete doppelgängers). This can be incredibly distracting (and sometimes downright disconcerting). If you are anything like me, seeing a variety of yourself waiting for audition can make you feel uneasy/uncomfortable. This is when you suddenly become hyper-aware of the competition stakes.
Regardless of how competitive you feel you are, this is a dangerous moment for focus. It is at this point that creeping doubts about your suitability for the role may manifest. You excuse yourself as to why you might not get the part before you have even tried out for it. Negative mindset = negative effort in the audition itself. Be careful!
It is imperative at these moments that you shake off the feeling of competition. Remember: getting lost in the notion of competition sets you up for a self-fulfilling prophecy. By deciding you are not absolutely right for a role means you will not audition as strongly as you could. You cannot let these doubts consume you.
Keep focused on what makes you “YOU”. Nobody can possibly compete on the individual qualities that make you. Others may look like you, some may even have similar training, similar casting experience and similar CVs. But not one of those people in that waiting room can declare to be YOU. With that in mind, you are only competing with an image – and you can knock that out of the park once the audition panel meets you. Be confident in this fact. Don’t compare yourself to others in the room – just remind yourself that you have been called in too because of what you can offer the creative team.
Courtesy & Smiling
“We’re all mad here…” said the grinning Cheshire Cat in Wonderland to Alice – but a manic ear-to-ear set of pearly whites are not what we are going for here. Nor do you want to be overly familial. You want to be friendly, warm and positive.
Do say “hello” to your fellow actors as you enter the room. Of course, it is important not to distract them unnecessarily as they find their place in “the zone”. But do acknowledge and appreciate the people there.
This can be incredibly important. In certain situations, especially for touring productions, it is possible that your audition has already started. The casting assistants and creative team support who enter and leave the audition waiting room may also be paying attention to group and individual dynamics as they pass through. Remember: a major element of production work is ensemble, and there is a high chance that your efforts in calming others by being friendly and present may just be recognised and considered in a final casting decision.
Regardless that Joe Bloggs whom looks like you and sounds like you is currently sat opposite you, DO NOT allow that creeping competitive streak break through. This is not about them. It is all about you. Other actors are going through this precise same experience and may be suffering high levels of anxiety (a major curse of the profession). Be nice and your own positivity will shine through.
If You’re Nervous – Don’t Torture Yourself
Nerves and wanting to impress go hand-in-hand. Nerves indicate that you care enough of what you do to be conscious of not ballsing it up. That’s hugely needed in the actor’s craft – but this does not mean you should strive to make yourself even more nervous (translation: utterly terrified that you have done everything wrong in your audition preparation). Trust yourself, trust your instincts, trust your preparation. There are a million reasons as to why the casting team may not ultimately cast you. But sat there in that waiting room is not the time to assess those possibilities. You are there, stay focused. Second-guessing anything at this stage will only lead to you crushing your own desire to get the job done well.
This is especially true if you encounter the quiet audition waiting room. In these instances you may find yourself within hearing distance of another actor delivering their audition to the panel. You may be tempted to listen in, and for some people this can be a major incentive for “getting into the headspace”. Personally, I find this one distraction too distracting. By listening to my peers undergoing their brief moment in the Hunger Games arena, I end up doubting my choice of monologue or worse: actually comparing my ability and skill against theirs. This does not for a positive experience make. Instead (and this is my advice), get up and go for a walk. Go to the bathroom and splash your face with a little water. Anything at all that takes you away from that disastrous path of self-abasement.
Practice? You Have Already Done That. Just Relax.
Similarly on the unnecessary nerves front, I highly recommend you do not spend your waiting time running over your lines. I recommend this same advice when actors are about to go on stage. Running lines only provides an opportunity for you to arrive at a panic mode. You’ve already put in the rehearsal time. You’ve already spent hours honing the delivery of the speech to ensure it tidily fits into two minutes while portraying oodles of character. You’ve already blocked the sequence to tell the story as best as you can. If you are still needing to work on this before audition then you are NOT prepared. In exactly the same way that if you are about to go on stage and are still reliant on a script to “quickly check” your lines then you are not prepared for the show (worse still, you definitely will not be in the mind of the character). Running lines means you suddenly become hyper-aware of any cock-ups. You realise there’s a word you cannot remember (probably due to stage fright rather than an actual mental blank). This then sets you off down a spiral of certainty that you don’t remember anything. The nerves take control. Sounds like the perfect place to be at as you are about to go and present yourself to a top casting team, right?
Of course it isn’t. Instead, you need to relax and trust that you know it. And you do. And in front of the panel you will. And any mistakes will be dealt with in the moment just as you will on stage. Do not give in to the added pressure of running lines. Instead, focus on your character and get yourself mentally ready for the shoes you are about to step into. Be present and be clear.
Breathe. Enjoy the process and you will fly. And as soon as you are done in front of the audition panel, let the moment vanish from your mind. What is done is done. There is still no point in fretting.
If you are to leave the audition via the waiting room, remember to give one last reassuring flash of a smile to any white-faced eager actors awaiting their turn. They’ll survive, just as you did. And if you can alleviate a little of their nerves on the way out? Well, that’s where networking begins and you attract positive behaviours towards yourself. Diva begone, actor begin!
Best wishes for any auditions coming your way soon.
Also published on Medium.