This past weekend our daughter, Ashlyn, attended the Southeastern Theatre Conference auditions in Atlanta. She will be graduating in May with a B.F.A. degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University. Regardless of whether or not she gets any jobs out of her auditions this weekend, it was a successful couple of days for her.
On Friday she had to get up in a hotel ballroom filled with hundreds of reps from theatre companies from all over the country. She had ninety seconds to say her name and auditioner number, sing a song, and do a monologue. She was in a group of forty. There were strict instructions on where to sit, when to get up, what to do when you got on stage, and where you were to go once you finished.
A couple of hours later she found out that she had callback auditions to theatre companies from Florida, Georgia, New York, Michigan, Colorado, Montana, and California. So now she had to go to various rooms in the hotel to attend the callbacks. Can you imagine walking into a room with a couple of people sitting there and having to “do your thing” all by yourself?
Last October she had to go to Tennessee to do preliminary auditions to see if she could even get into the auditions in Atlanta. Now she has potential job opportunities literally all over the country. As an actress, in this economy, one could certainly do worse.
When I asked her if she was nervous getting up in front of that huge room full of people she said, “Not really.” She said the the callback auditions were, however, different and a bit nerve-racking. But she made it through, and now waits for the results.
Here’s what I have learned from her experience:
- Focus on preparation. Sometimes preparation takes years. Ashlyn’s school, from day one, has prepared her for what she now faces. When the time had come, she was ready. Nervousness didn’t enter into the picture. Preparation means that when the moment for performance comes there is no doubt. You’re ready to go without hesitation.
- Play by the rules. It’s often tempting to “break the rules” and “go your own way,” but had Ashlyn gone longer than her allotted time or done something in her audition that “stretched the rules,” all would have been lost. Playing within the rules is most often to our advantage.
- Deliver the goods. When the time comes for you to do what you have prepared to do, give it your all; don’t hold back; let loose and do what you have been taught and prepared to do. You’re ready. People notice when you hold back. People appreciate it when you give it your best.
- Nervous energy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, Ashlyn channeled her nervous energy to bring focus and vibrancy to her callbacks. As a result, she received positive reactions from those who were auditioning her.
- Prepare more than is necessary. In one callback audition, Ashlyn was asked to sing a pop-rock song from a musical. Out of her hip pocket she pulled a song from the musical, “The Wedding Singer.” Though she hadn’t done it for a while, she knew it and performed it well when it really mattered.
- Be confident, but not cocky. Confidence is a trait in which one recognizes both abilities and limitations, and moves forward with that knowledge. Cockiness, on the other hand, turns people off. Confidence may win you the job (or the sale, or whatever…). Cockiness may lose it all for you. Confidence comes from preparation, playing by the rules, and delivering the goods.
- Rest in the knowledge that you have done your best. When it was all over, Ashlyn was both relieved and ready to get back to school to continue further preparation. No matter what happens, she knows that she “left it all out on the floor” and that there are jobs out there for her somewhere.
These lessons apply no matter what our vocation. I’d love to hear your examples of “preparation” and “delivering the goods.”