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10 Self-Sabotaging Audition Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

I'm a Midwesterner who's passionate about art, theatre, fitness, and writing.

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Auditions: The great affliction of every performer. Although auditions can be tedious, time-consuming, and nerve-wracking, they can also be really helpful when trying to gain experience and hone your skills.

Sadly, much of the casting process of a production is dependent on factors that are outside of an actor's control: physical appearance, age, chemistry with other actors, and other things. At times, it feels like we'll never win.

But don't lose hope, actors! There is a bit of a science to auditioning when it comes to the things that are in your control as a performer. Taking the time to analyze these things and working on them will have a huge impact on your success with your auditions and will have you catching the attention of directors left and right.

Here are 10 commonly made audition mistakes and how to tackle them so that you can stand out from the crowd and finally land your dream roles.

1. Not Preparing

It may seem obvious, but if you want to excel at your audition, you have to prepare ahead of time. You have to spend weeks practicing your song or perfecting your scene, rehearsing over and over again.

Many actors think they can get away with throwing something together at the last minute and winging their audition, but trust me, casting directors can see right through that. This shows them that you didn't take the audition seriously, and ultimately, tells them that you're not responsible. Nobody wants to hire someone who is irresponsible.

Show them that you're not only a good performer but also a diligent worker!

2. Not Familiarizing Yourself With the Show

It's very common for casting directors to ask you, during your audition, to sing a song or read a scene from the show you're auditioning for. Don't be the person who has to decline the chance to show more of your talent to the directors because you aren't familiar enough with the show.

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Take the time to listen to the cast album a couple of times, spending extra time listening to the songs sung by a role that could suit you, if you're auditioning for a musical. For any show, study the synopsis and become acquainted with the characters so that you could understand their motivations if you're asked to read a scene.

This gives you the opportunity to really shine with your extra audition content instead of struggling through it because it's too unfamiliar to you. It gives you another chance to impress the directors with your hard work when they can see that you would take the time to research the show and learn the music, which is a huge bonus.

3. Skipping a Warm Up

For any performance, warming up is key! But especially for an audition, following a structured warm-up routine is essential.

A solid warm-up for a musical audition should include vocal and physical warm-ups, as well as running through your audition material a few times.

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Helpful vocal warm-ups can include humming and singing vowels up and down the scale, and a physical warm-up should involve movements to get your blood flowing through your muscles, like jumping jacks or high knees, and a full-body stretch. Your warm-up shouldn't be too intense--you don't want to tire out your vocal cords or your body before your audition. You just want to feel ready to go and you want your audition material to feel fresh in your memory.

As a bonus, following a regular warm-up tradition that is familiar to you can help calm your nerves on audition day as you relax into your set routine.

4. Not Staying Hydrated

And I don't just mean bringing a water bottle with you when you go to your audition. That's still helpful, but drinking extra water the whole day leading up to your audition will improve the quality of your voice more than just taking a few sips right before singing will.

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Drinking lots of water hours before performing will allow your body to take that liquid and lubricate your vocal cords from the inside, dramatically improving your tone. Stay hydrated!

5. Not Being Friendly

As I mentioned before, when you go into an audition, casting directors are interested in more than how well you can perform. They want to know what kind of person you'll be to work with.

Show them that you are the kind of person they want to spend hours in rehearsal with! Treat them like people, not just like judges. Ask them how they are, smile, and thank them when you leave.

You should also make friendly conversation outside the audition room. It's a great way to make good connections with your future cast mates and it gets your mind off of the audition if you're nervous.

6. Not Showing Enough Variety

When you do an audition, the casting directors want to see all of your many colors as a performer. They want to see depth of emotion, and they want each piece that you perform to take them on a journey and tell a well-rounded story.

How are we performers supposed to accomplish such a challenge? Make sure that in whatever piece you're performing, you showcase a range of emotions. Make sure that you start in one place and end up in another. Don't perform your whole song with the same main expression the whole way through, and don't perform a monologue that ends at the same energy level that it started at.

As another way of showing variety, pick a song and a scene that have very different emotional slants. Pick a song that is more heartfelt, and perform a scene that has a few more comedic elements. This will show them that you have real skills, and can help them to consider you for more roles in their show.

7. Not Making Bold Choices

Casting directors see tons and tons of actors all auditioning for the same roles and, usually, all reading the same scenes. To stand out from this enormous crowd, you have to make bold, creative choices.

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Maybe emphasize a word or line of your song in a way that hasn't been done before, or play around with the volume and intensity of the lines in your scene. This will make you more memorable in the minds of the directors.

Of course, make sure that your bold choices are relevant and helpful to telling the story. These choices are meant to enhance, not to distract!

8. Letting Your Mistakes Get the Best of You

Everyone makes mistakes, especially when they're nervous. Casting directors know that. They want you to succeed, and when you make a mistake, they want to see how well you can recover and move on.

If your voice cracks in a line of your song, or if you mess up the words of your scene, or you forget the steps during the dance call, remember: the show must go on! Do your best to recover and keep going.

Don't stop and apologize, don't ask to start over, and don't let it show in your face that you're frustrated with yourself. Stay in character and press through. They'll see the best parts of your performance and are generally forgiving of small mishaps.

9. Letting Effort Get in the Way of Storytelling

You may have the strongest belt or the highest kicks of anyone at the audition, but if you're too focused on belting those notes or flicking those kicks, you'll fail to do the most important thing, which is telling the story.

Use your voice or your dance ability as tools to express what the character is going through and to improve the scene rather than just trying to showcase your talents. The story should always take first place, and talents should come second.

10. Forgetting to Have Fun

Auditions are intense. It's very easy to get so overwhelmed by all the competition and the stress that we forget why we are performing in the first place -- because we love it. Because it gives us a thrill we don't get from anything else. Because it makes us feel alive.

Remember to be present in every part of the audition process, and let your passion for performing show. Genuine passion is powerful to see, and it will make the audition experience much more enjoyable for you, even if the directors decide the part isn't right for you.

Every audition is a chance for an actor to work hard, make connections, and improve themselves. At the end of the day, what matters is that you don't give up. Happy auditioning!

© 2022 Ashley Light

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