Performing and auditioning are two different beasts. From almost the beginning of my acting career, I’ve been completely at ease when performing. I don’t get butterflies. I don’t feel uneasy or nauseous. If anything, there are times when I find I am *too* calm before a show and have to find artificial ways to amp myself up rather than risk a low-energy performance. Auditions, on the other hand, have generally been the bane of my theater existence. For whatever reason, I find that from the moment I walk into an audition until the moment I leave, my stomach is in knots and I have a difficult time maintaining a steady, normal breathing pattern. Some nights are worse than others, usually dependent on how badly I want the role and how many people in attendance I am familiar with. My best audition ever was the night I walked into Curtain Call Theater only casually knowing the director (and her playwright husband) and only mildly interested in the show (coming as it did in the aftermath of a failed audition that I *desperately* wanted). I cracked one out of the park that night; relaxed and unconcerned and auditioning like I was performing. It was a rare night.
Last night? Last night was on the other end of the spectrum. I *really* like the piece, and while I’m not quite at the level of “desperate” in my desire to do it, it’s still one that I’m fired up about. Couple that with the fact that I have known and respected the director for years and yet was auditioning for her for the first time. And add to *that* the fact that I have worked with and consider friends every member of the audition committee (one of whom reads this stupid blog)… *and* that I knew another five or six guys who were also auditioning, and well… you can pretty much guess at my level of angst. I think I went to the bathroom three times in the first half-hour I was there. My nerves were shot.
It’s because of all of those things that I find it somewhat strange that I feel as good about my audition as I do. Not good in the “I’m confident that I’m gonna get cast” way, but good in the “I read the way I hoped to and my state of physical and emotional unease wasn’t a hindrance” way. It’s the first audition I can ever remember where I felt the usual uncomfortableness and yet I didn’t feel that it hurt what I was doing.
It was almost surreal.
I could barely watch the first seven guys get up and do their monologues, shifting in my seat and rubbing my eyes and forehead ad nausea just so I wouldn’t have to focus on them. And yet the moment I started to speak my monologue it all went away. I wasn’t self-conscious, the knots came untied, my breathing was relaxed and slow. For whatever reason the four or so minutes that usually turn me inside out became just like another performance and I felt as at ease with what I was doing as I would had I been rehearsing the scene for months (as opposed to the ten minutes I gave it beforehand). Of course the moment I returned to my seat it all flooded back, and that’s the way the rest of the night went: queasy discomfort during the other auditions and calm enjoyment during my own.
In a strange way, the whole thing ties back to that ride home from festival almost two years ago. Earlier in the evening I had won an award for Best Actor at the festival, and I remember that drive home for the incredible feeling of relief it brought me. For years I had felt that I was a solid (if not damn good) actor, but I had simultaneously been unsure if anybody else held that opinion. It’s hard to put any weight in the compliments of friends or even strangers, because they’re not likely to tell you that you weren’t any good. If they didn’t like your performance, they usually just won’t mention it, which is how it should be. And while winning an award doesn’t necessarily translate into something being the unequivocal “best”, what I does (at least, I found) is confirm that it is good. Which is all I ever really needed to know.
The direct result is that I’ve been confident in my acting ever since. I have my good days and my bad days, my good shows and my bad shows. But what I don’t ever do is imagine I’m making a fool of myself. In the two years that have passed since then, I haven’t really had a “high stakes” audition until last night. As it is, I’ve only had a handful of auditions period, and with one exception I didn’t particularly care if I got cast, so the self-imposed pressure to do well was light, if existent at all. And the one time I did care, the were so many mitigating circumstances going in that my actual audition didn’t seem to carry the weight it ordinarily would. (Which is bullshit, I realize, but it effected my mentality at rate). Last night was the first time I can say that the effect of having that confidence made a noticeable difference. I got up there, I did my thing, making choices that I was perfectly willing to live or die by, and then I let it go.
I’m not sure what happens from here. My suspicion as I type this is that I’ll be getting a consolation call sometime in the next 24 hours telling me “close, but no cigar”. I’ve learned to trust that feeling because more often than not I’m right. But in the end it doesn’t really matter, because while not getting cast would be a disappointment, the experience of auditioning was an important one for me. And in the end, that’s all life is. Experiences.