When most actors audition, they measure their success by whether or not they got a callback or booked the job. But what if you walked into the room, worked your ass off, felt amazing afterwards, and still didn’t get the callback or book the job? Does that mean you failed? When I first moved back to the city to pursue a career in acting, I was coming from college--an environment where when you put in the work and, for the most part, you get successful results. So every audition I didn’t book in my first year in NYC was a failed audition in my mind. That mentality brought me to a pretty dark and lonely place most days. Auditioning became an impossible and dreaded task. When I started with Actor Therapy, I was forced to reevaluate my ideas of success and my definition of failure.
What does success mean to you? In this industry, it’s incredibly difficult to measure “success,” especially when it’s stacked up against its traditional perception. What I have come to learn over the years is that to me success is the accomplishment of a goal. It’s doing something that makes you feel proud, and and leaves you with a sense of great fulfilment. This idea of success puts YOU in the driver’s seat. It ensures that you have the control - something we’re all looking for as actors and creatives. With that in mind, here are 5 tips that can help you feel in control, proud, and successful after every audition!!
1. WARM UP
Before every audition, I aim to spend at least 30 minutes warming up. I warm up my voice, my body, and my mind. If you’re running from a previous engagement and find that you don’t have time to do an extended warm up, create a shortened version for yourself that you can use in the few minutes before you head into the room. It’s incredibly important to feel centered, grounded, and present before you do the work. This can also help you relax, putting you in the head space you need to be to perform at your best. However, not every person has the same warm up. Find what works for you and make that part of your routine.
2. SET GOALS BEFORE YOU ENTER THE ROOM
Sometimes you’ll walk into an audition room, do your best work, and still not book the job. But here’s the thing: 98% of the time it’s due to something beyond your control: you’re too short or too tall; you read too young or too old; your ass is too big or too small and the costume just won’t fit you. None of these are within your control. NONE. So clear your head of all that negative chatter that happens when you find out you didn’t get it, and start setting goals before your auditions. Take some of that power away from the person behind the table. I like to set at least three goals for myself that have nothing to do with the people in the room. I’ll walk in wanting to a) sing my cut without disconnecting from the material, b) try a new riff I’ve rehearsed, and c) check and control a bad habit like moving without intention. These goals allow me to leave the room with something tangible to evaluate. It also creates a space for real growth and improvement.
3. LEAVE YOUR EXPECTATIONS AT THE DOOR
You can never be sure of what awaits you in an audition room. So please, for your own sake, leave your expectations at the door! All of the audition rooms I’ve walked into have been completely different from what I’ve expected...whether that means there were three people in the room instead of one, or the casting director was incredibly warm and conversational when I was expecting someone cold and direct behind the table. Going in with any expectations can leave you feeling rattled when the reality is slightly different. This can also affect your work in the room by leaving you ungrounded and uncentered. So try to be open to whatever awaits you so as not to be thrown or distracted by the unexpected.
4. LIVE IN THE MOMENT
Whether you’re singing a 32-bar cut of “Good Morning Baltimore” or an 8-bar cut of “I Hate The Bus,” LIVE IN THE MOMENT. You only have about a minute to tell your story, so use your time wisely. If you need to, take a minute to center yourself and access your moment before. They will wait for you, and casting directors love to watch an actor work intelligently. I always take a second before to breathe deeply and close my eyes in order to access my story’s environment. Just the act of walking into an audition room and adjusting to who/what is in the room can be overwhelming. So take a couple seconds to leave that behind, and enter the moment.
5. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
Always be kind to yourself after an audition. Don’t berate yourself for missing that one note; don’t hate on yourself for falling out of the moment when you realized the casting director was on her phone; don’t yell at yourself for not getting the callback. It’s not constructive or helpful, and it will only detract from your learning and growth. Assess what happened in the room healthfully, and create a plan for the next audition. Then go treat yourself for showing up. Be healthy, be constructive, and be KIND. You deserve that!
These are some of the things that help me feel successful after every audition. If these don’t work for you, think about what will work for you! Create a healthy system for yourself so you leave each audition feeling like a SUCCESS.
KIM ONAH is an actress, writer, and singer based in New York City. She graduated from Harvard University in 2015 with an AB in English and Music. Theater credits include Effie White in Dreamgirls, Mrs. Crowe in A Man of No Importance, Joanne in Rent, Dionne in HAIR, Nettie in Carousel, and Martha in Spring Awakening. Kim's interests outside of music and theater include playwriting, composing, and running.