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Auditions are a strange beast. As a performer we long for them, we spend months dreaming of a call or a response to an email, and yet, when we finally receive the carrier pigeon, we find ourselves in a state of fear.
Having spent a decade in this boat-come-dingy, it’s clear to me, we pile too much pressure on ourselves. We’re very much our own worst enemy before we’ve walked out the front door, let alone into the audition room. We often forget the people in that room want us to do well. It’s true that sometimes they find it impossible to raise their head above a laptop screen, or struggle even to remember your one syllable name… but it's easy to forget, they want you to nail it.
It can also be hard to appreciate the complexities of production, whilst you’re the one being asked to improvise with a hoover. I recall the first audition I had after drama school where the director stopped me halfway through a scene to ask if I was mentally handicapped. I couldn’t stop laughing because of the ridiculousness of the situation.
As performers we place ourselves in crazy scenarios continually. It’s how we adapt to those scenarios that makes us stronger, and subsequently successful. One tip is to use auditions as future anecdote opportunities, as opposed to cringing at the horrors. I’ve found talking with friends and family is the best therapy.
I have a crocodile skin. It didn’t come easily. And there’s certainly lot of bruises to show. But what is key to remember is that what we do isn’t normal. We find ourselves in a world where people choose self-check outs over a free cashier. We text rather than call. Yet performers charge through this norm, putting themselves out there and often without feedback, guidance or support, and certainly no polite email to say, “Thanks but we went a different way.”
The truth is, we don’t acknowledge how impressive we are. To go through large periods of nothing before we’re told to bungee jump off a cliff is unthinkable to most people. When the time comes, and we’re taken off this world, we can be proud that we went for it. We tried. We gave it our best... and someone thinks I’m mentally handicapped.
Find out more about Rob Macpherson
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I auditioned 6 months later for a number of schools and had more nightmares along the way. Though things were getting better. Practice makes perfect they say. On one of the auditions I started to enjoy the experience and slipped right into character (just as I did at home on my own). It was a psychological gesture from the Checkov book that did it. A week later I got a letter saying I’d got a recall audition. I did the same general stuff at the recall and a week after that I got another letter to say I’d been accepted into the 3-year acting course at the Oxford School of Drama. I also got recalled to Guildhall and East 15 acting schools. Bully for me!
However, the moral of the story is, I could’ve saved time and money by having private tuition from a qualified coach who had experience of these things. A lack of knowledge and experience conspired to deliver the truth about my acting abilities at my first audition. A good drama coach would’ve seen through me in a second. No doubt, after some serious tuition, they’d have arranged for me to perform my speeches in front of a class, to get used to the setting and pressure this entails. My one-off, flying visits to drama schools all over the country to face a firing squad of stone faced tutors and accessors was a particularly intense way of doing things, with little or no feedback other than my intuition. Actors are always learning. And even the best benefit from quality training in an environment which allows them to experiment and see, without the pressure of failure.
You'd be forgiven for thinking that was the end of my particular journey. But it wasn't. I didn’t give up and say, “Maybe acting’s not for me.” No. I was made of sterner stuff. Or perhaps I was simply too stubborn and arrogant to admit defeat. I was a Taurus after all. Yes, I’d endure more, fuelled by the magical belief... somehow, I could do it.
My mind was made up. If it took forever, I’d get into drama school. I bought a book entitled, “To The Actor” by Michael Checkov. I studied and practiced the method. I showed my new and better chosen speeches to members of my family, and performed them as a character created from inside; something with foundations and a living, beating heart. I knew how Mercutio walked; how he tilted his head and swaggered and smiled his dirty little smile when he talked about women. I knew he was a reckless artist of the sword and had a glint in his eye that meant mischief to his enemies. I was re-born. And to the battle field I returned having licked my wounds and found both a sword and a shining coat of armour.
I remember the first time I delivered a speech, not only in front of the tutors of a well established drama school, but also the students of the year above, who’d been invited to sit in and watch me dry up from the inside like a worm injected with salt. I hadn’t any previous acting experience but thought I had enough charisma and self-confidence to wing it into a 3-year acting course.
The first thing I noticed as I walked into the room were the faces. Eager and curious. Some smiling. Some simply enjoying the break from their studies. One or two with a raised eyebrow must have sensed by my body language I was out of my depth. My hands were trembling as I folded my speech paper in half and put it into my pocket. The only problem was I couldn’t remember the first line of either the Shakespeare or the contemporary. That had never happened before. A plug hole opened in my stomach and all charisma and confidence began draining out of my body.
I was told to begin by the middle-aged, grey-haired tutor, whose voice was classically English, and at that moment, terrifying. Having no concept of the method, I couldn’t get into that place I’d been when I’d practiced on my own in my room. I tried to feel an emotion. The practice of which was even more ridiculous than it sounds. I put one hand in my pocket and scratched my head with the other. I took out my speech and read the first line. I put my speech back into my pocket and began to recite like a five-year old child in a nativity play, going at the same exaggerated pace as the droplets of sweat which ran down my cheeks to leap in suicidal relief onto the stage floor. All my saliva had gone. Rough craters appeared on my tongue, the back of which kept sticking to the roof of my mouth, making me sound as if I’d just been to the dentist to have some teeth removed.
As my body flushed in red, it also began picking up the general vibration of the room, feeding it into my brain as a kind of heightened sense. Pity, disgust, and the type of embarrassment which makes eyes screw up and mouths widen to show teeth, hit me like an invisible force field. And there was more… something else… yes… abject pleasure from that smiling swine with the glasses. I noticed three girls with their heads in their hands. Snakes squirmed in my stomach as I stumbled through an ill chosen Shakespearean monologue which incurred a two person slow clap and a nod from the tutor who told me to start my contemporary speech without further ado. This monologue happened to be from the film “Jaws”. I was now the wild and eccentric Captain Quint. What in God’s name was I thinking? I was twenty-two years old and had never caught a fish in my life. In a confused jumble of words, I missed lines and finished early. I was given a seething silence from the audience and a, “Yes, well… thank you for that,” from the tutor who’d already folded his arms and crossed his legs and dipped his head to stare into his notes and then rubbed his temple in despair with two fingers. Yes, I was watching. I saw them all during my torture, because I was as far from Captain Quint as a hawk from the moon. Dismissed. Sent home, never to be seen or heard of by anyone there again.
Acting Out Drama School are looking for short articles in Acting, Drama, Singing, Performing, Public Speaking, Theatre, Film or anything related to the Performing Arts or our School.
Working Alongside Ethos Writing, a professional writing agency, we are offering Acting Out Drama School students the chance to have their material published on our Brand New Website.
It's easy, it's professional, it's free for all our students.
This means any student who is successful will become a published writer.
Students write short articles between 250 and 800 words max, about drama, acting, singing, public speaking, film, theatre, performing arts, auditioning, actors etc.
Students should research their chosen topic and give one or two relevant facts/quotes (if possible) [citing where the quote or fact came from].
All articles are to be submitted to email@example.com
They will be read by Ethos and if they find them interesting/relevant/good enough they will be edited and published on the Acting Out Drama School's Brand New Article Page!
This means any student who is successful will be a published writer.
Good for C.Vs and adds character points which make you more interesting.
An example of a possible scene in your new life is below:
You: "I'm a published writer…."
Stranger you want to get to know better: "Wow! That's impressive!"
You: "Yes, it is!"
Acting Out Drama School are delighted to work with you and develop you into a Published Writer! You can submit as many articles as you like, even if you are knocked by a few times.
For more information please just contact us or submit your articles to Ethos today.