by Abigail Charpentier
Ask any actor and they will tell you one of the most challenging aspects of their chosen career is auditioning. While the payoff is very rewarding, it can be straining for performers to get to that point. Every audition is different and each person experiences it in their own way, but their approaches are similar.
One of the most predictable things about auditioning is the nervousness before entering the room. Although this may not go away, each person can find ways to make these jitters less extreme. Often, this involves preparing and creating a positive mindset.
Before an audition, Mark DiConzo tries to spend as much time with the material as he can. Whether the audition is for a role in the theater or on television, he uses an app called “Linelearner” to familiarize himself with the script sides. After recording the entirety of a scene, he can mute his lines, adjust the playback speed and listen to lines while commuting around the city.
“The more I can have the script or music committed to muscle memory, the more I am able to be as organic as possible in the room allowing any physicality, blocking or acting choices to be fully committed and believable,” DiConzo said.
Besides from doing his homework, he tries to make sure he’s had enough sleep, is well-hydrated and in the healthiest possible physical and mental state. He goes to the audition and gives himself a pep talk: “You know that you’ve done all the work, you know the lines, you know the music, you know the choreography, now be you and crush it!”
He then goes into what he refers to as the “breath phase,” where he tries “to remain, centered, calm and focused on one thing: being the best possible solution to the problem in the room.”
Aurelia Michael focuses on creating a positive mindset before an audition. After she spent 10 years as a hip-hop dancer who attended auditions that weren't exciting and did jobs that weren't fulfilling, she stepped away for several years. Now, she does morning meditation and affirmations to reminds herself “that my job is to audition and booking the job is my vacation.”
She tries to prepare everything before the day of the audition, from the song to her outfit to her bag, which allows her to focus on “the calm before the storm.”
“You have to know who you are and focus on bringing to the table what you have and not apologizing for what you don't,” Michael said. “Before entering the audition room I remind myself that this isn't about booking a job, but about sharing my gift with another human being. As opposed to ‘What can you do for me?’ I enter the room with ‘What can I share with you?’”
Michael Millan believes that it’s important to coach every audition you get. Not only is this a chance to go over lines and direct yourself, but a great way to get a second opinion and run through different choices. He also suggests finding a supportive community of fellow actor friends around that can help you go in the room feeling solid and steady.
“I recently moved to Los Angeles and was so surprised to quickly meet other actors that were more than willing to work with me on upcoming auditions,” Millan said. “You just have to put yourself out there and deal with the somewhat awkward feeling of emoting in front of your friends in your living room.”
Although preparing for auditions can take a lot of effort, it is only part of the struggle. Whether it is a single audition or a set of callbacks, they can be both physically and mentally draining.
Collins Conley recalls her most difficult set of auditions was for Mean Girls. In January and February of 2017, she went through nine rounds of auditions and callbacks that began with challenging dance calls, followed by reading scenes for multiple characters and finally learning music from the show.
Conley described the Mean Girls Lab original ECC on January 3, 2017: Around 400 girls were brought in and said their name before doing a heel stretch. All but 100 girls were cut by using only that information. After that was the full dance combination. It started with that heel stretch, but adding a promenade while in that position and ending with a triple inside turn to a center split.
“It was one of the most fun dance calls, but also one of the most difficult technically that I’ve been asked to perform, and I did that dance call five more times over the course of the next month,” Conley said.
Between those dance calls, she was asked to sing from her book and prepare 20 pages of scenes. At the final callback she sang her song, at 10 am, multiple times, while applying notes from the music director and then learned a song from the show while in the room.
“It was a grueling month that demanded a lot of me and pushed my talents to the limit,” she said. “It was definitely the most difficult audition process I have ever been through, but getting the call that I got it 24 hours after that last callback was the most exciting payoff!”
Millan’s audition for A Chorus Line, although a “wonderfully humbling experience,” was his most difficult. At the beginning of the audition, the choreographer came in and asked if anyone didn’t already know the opening choreography. Millan and the handful of others who were unfamiliar were taken to a separate room to quickly learn it, while the rest of the dancers waited.
“It was the first time that I realized that I had a lot of work to do and that I maybe didn’t know everything,” he said. “That I was stepping into a community of people that have all been working at this dream for years and years at 100 percent and that I was just getting started and had a long way to go.”
DiConzo has always pursued television and film auditions in addition to Broadway and theater. Recently, he was up for a guest star role on Blue Bloods and there were three rounds of auditions along the way. Each audition there were fewer and fewer other actors but more people, lights, cameras and intensity along the journey.
“It’s always difficult for us as actors to not ‘hope I get it,’ but as we inch closer and closer to booking, emotions do start to come into play,” DiConzo said. “In this case, I found it progressively more difficult along the way because there was no squelching my hoping of getting it.”
Landing a guest star and recurring role on TV is a dream of DiConzo, so it was difficult to not let that pressure on himself take precedence. When nerves start surfacing in addition to self-doubt, he reverts to his “breath phase” so he can try to do his most centered and focused work in the room. He ended up booking the guest spot. It has further invigorated his next career goal of landing a guest recurring role.
For many, like DiConzo, booking the part is the most rewarding part of auditioning. However, many things can be taken away from these experiences – like overcoming the challenging of quick preparation turnaround.
“Auditions are always a challenge and sometimes the materials stretch far beyond what we may think we are our capable of, but that’s the joy of it all, going in prepared, confident and proving new things to yourself while trying to be the best possible solution in the room,” he said.
For Michael, the best thing about auditioning is being able to be herself.
“There have been times where I tried to be what I thought casting wanted, and that never works,” Michael said. “So sometimes, I don't land the part, but I did live in the moment the way I wanted to. Sometimes it won't work, but when it does the victory is so sweet.”
Conley, who spends most of her preparation time taking dances classes and touching up her skills, enjoys learning new choreography through auditions and working with talented people.
“Auditioning has been a way for me to keep training and growing by pushing myself in new styles, learning to pick up choreography quickly and being able to execute it well with minimal rehearsal time,” Conley said. “Gaining those skills, seeing myself grow with every audition and then walking away from the room when I know I nailed it is a wonderfully rewarding feeling.”
For so many like Millan, auditioning serves as a platform not only to find work but to grow as a person and performer.
“I think the most rewarding thing about auditions is feeling yourself grow. It’s an opportunity for you to be better than the last time, and I think as long as you are growing as an artist and learning from your mistakes, you’re growing as a person and there’s nothing more rewarding.”