Picture this: You’re in the audition waiting room, sitting next to actors who look just like you but are probably much more experienced. You overhear conversations about their latest gigs and big breaks. You listen to an auditionee warming up their beautiful voice at the terrace. You catch a glimpse of someone else’s résumé and marvel at their affiliations, training, experience, and skills. You observe one of them internalizing a monologue that you think is way better than the piece you mastered. Slowly you wonder whether you really belong here or not.
The audition waiting room is one of the tensest places in the world. It’s a place filled with silent competition, nerves, and insecurities. People always tell you to be in peak shape and skill level when you show up in auditions. But how do you ensure you’re the best version of yourself in a room with such an excruciating atmosphere? Some budding actors couldn’t take it and disappear from the waiting room even before their name gets called.
Here are survival tips before you succumb to the stress in the audition waiting room.
Arrive half an hour early and you may even skip enduring the waiting room altogether. Getting there early will ensure that you’re in true fighting shape. Some auditions hand you the sides or script on the day itself, so arrive early to get as much time with the material as possible. The more you know about the context and general story line, the faster you’ll be able to make sense of the scene that is handed to you in the audition. Learn all you can about the scene, the characters, and the story, then make quick decisions: What does your character want? How does s/he feel about the other character(s)? Where is the scene located? You’ll also have time to use the bathroom and internalize in a comfortable, quiet spot.
Bring headphones with you! There are actors who think the waiting room is a place to brag or network. Others project their anxiety through unnecessary chatter or toxic banter. Listen closely and you’ll soon be riddled with insecurities and fears that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Worse, due to unforeseen circumstances, you may find yourself stuck in the audition waiting room for a very long time. Do not allow your energy to dissipate or your focus to stray because of the distracting atmosphere in the audition waiting room. You may remove yourself from the tension and go down the hall to enjoy some peace. However, don’t wander too far away or you may not hear your name being called.
Doing so will only make you rethink your choices at the most inappropriate moment. Remember, you’ve rehearsed your monologue for weeks or months and formulated your own interpretation of the side for a long time since you’ve arrived. Listening through the door is as distracting as engaging in useless small talk with other auditionees. This destroys your reading and solid preparation. You’ve worked hard on your audition with lots of preparation. Stick to your choices.
There might be a last-minute change to the sides. Sudden announcements like “Everyone just read page two!” or “We’re doing cold reads with new sides” are common to auditions that are behind schedule. If you’ve been away for too long, you will have missed the announcement from the casting assistant. As you come back from the bathroom, the casting assistant may have gone away. All the waiting room actors look at you, knowing you need the new instructions. However, no one may be too kind to inform you. If it took you a while to come back in the audition waiting room, do a cursory check with the session runner or casting assistant as soon as you can. Ask them if there are any changes to the prepared material that you should know about.
Casting directors want to find the best actor out of a group of actors who all look basically the same. Other than acting skills, what casting directors look for is an actor who’s easy to work with. First and foremost, you need to be likeable as a person. When you enter the audition waiting room, don’t completely ignore other auditionees when they ask for help. If someone’s lost or needs a simple question answered, be courteous and give them the help they need. Engaging in unnecessary conversation is different from answering simple questions. Don’t be the jerk who’s too competitive to tell a fellow actor where the restroom is. You’ll set the tone for the whole room, and everyone will appreciate it.