Theatre & Opera Magazine

Opera University: Auditions 101 (week 3)

Posted on the 07 November 2011 by Pinkall @pinkall
Week 1 - Ego
Week 2 - Self-Promotion
Week 3
The Audition
"Nerves and Uncontrollable Shaking, Fainting, Peeing, and Vomiting"
Imagine that you are preparing for your daughter's wedding.  Amazingly, everything is going just as planned.  The extended family is already running around drunk with table runners draped on their heads, while the groom's aunts are rearranging all the flower arrangements that you have so carefully put together, and following them is your four-year-old niece who is pulling out the petals from all the roses leaving scores of bright green stumps on the sides of the church pew aisles.  I know it's not all good, but be honest, you just KNEW this was going to happen.  So, it's no surprise that it did.
The ceremony goes as planned - in this case, we're assuming you thought they would both say "I do" - and now it is on to the dance.  Upon your arrival to the luxurious Knights of Columbus agriculture showroom at the County Fairgrounds, fixed with the appropriate number of kegs and the best polka band in state, you notice that the cake hasn't arrived.  The problem is that your cake decorator is taking too long to deliver as she is having complicated issues at another wedding party in the parish center downtown.  You must go there, pick the cake up, and take it back to your daughter's wedding party.
You arrive downtown and the decorator gives you the pristine cake, one that will soon be smashed into the face of your daughter and new son-in-law.  You mindlessly hold it, and freak out.  This was a dangerous and scary job, to carry the wedding cake.
What are you thinking?...
You don't have the skill to do this?...
What if you drop it?...
Your palms sweat...what if you trip?....
You will certainly ruin the wedding if you ruin the cake, a wedding that couldn't be ruined by the ring bearing puppy "Boozer" taking a tinkle on two pew ends and Aunt Edna's walker on the way to being dragged to the altar by your flower decapitating niece.
But, you calm yourself down, what's the worst that could happen?...

That's right.  The worst can happen!
And as we prepare to audition, never think the unthinkable is impossible; perhaps it's improbable, but certainly the worst-case-scenario is not worth ignoring. (six negatives in one sentence!)
Here's the problem with auditioning.  I know you are nervous.  I've auditioned a hundred times and still get nervous, but it all comes down to your mental preparation.  If you think all of those negative thoughts, you are only feeding The Beast.  You are only going to make it harder for yourself to do well.  Instead you should be thinking only that you are going to do your very best.
Before you go into the audition, make sure you have your music.  Go ahead, check and make sure 10 times, until your OCD calms down.  Make sure that you look professional - not frumpy, not too sexy - just look your best.  And by the time you go to the Door Moderator to check-in, you should have already sung and warmed-up.  Now, here's where it gets easier and harder.  The hard part is that you have to wait, and the easy part is that you don't have to do anything else, other than wait.  This is the worst part of performing - hands down!  Some keep their mind occupied; I try to fall asleep.  My mind is usually going a million miles an hour, so I try to relax as much as possible.  Now obviously, I don't go to sleep, I just try to get my breathing and heartbeat slower.
My name is called, the door is opening, my hands are sweating, my heart is pounding, but I make a slow and professional walk to the crook of the piano.  I wait until they are ready, slowly and with projection announce my songs, and off we go!
The simpler you can make the process the easier it will be, but you must know yourself.  You must know what your nervous habits are and sometimes it takes other people to point them out to you.  For some, it may be that their hand juts out to the side on high notes, or that they cease making facial reactions and look like Ben Stein.  Going down the list, another common one is that women will fiddle with the bottom of their skirt and inadvertently start pulling the skirt up! There's no need to give them a show!  I know others who get so nervous that they have to vomit in the bathroom before they go on.

What is being nervous?  To clarify (this goes without even saying) that nerves are horribly hard to control when they are already out of control.
Honestly, the best way to overcome this is to (1) be prepared, (2) keep your mind in the moment, and (3) get experience.  If you struggle with nerves, you should be practicing how you handle nervous situations by putting yourself in nervous situations.  Ask people if they will watch you perform to see what nervous twitches you have.  You may be doing things that you never knew about!  And when it comes to your performance, be confident in how you look, walk, breathe, and sing.  And at the very least, fake yourself out, and pretend to be confident.  The more you perform, the more comfortable you will become at performing.
Next time:
(the last post in this series)
Week 4
The Life of an Artist
"Passion = Lots of Rejection, Little Pay, Long Hours, and Happiness"

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