Last night, I did something that took me well out of my comfort zone. For the first time in ten years, I auditioned for a musical. After the surprise of getting a callback subsided, I grew a little excited about the idea of doing something I hadn’t done in a long time. Plus, Maegan was here to help me negotiate what to do for a musical audition — she’s got loads of experience in this field, after all.
But as I sat in the lobby, crowded with dozens of others waiting for their handful of minutes in front of the creative team, the anxiety crept up. Maybe “crept” isn’t the right word — it boiled up from the pit of my stomach, through my lungs, along my throat, and right into my face. At first, I chalked it up to the typical audition anxiety. When I get nervous, I yawn and stretch, and I was doing plenty of both while I waited. This, however, went beyond the typical audition nervousness. I was becoming a wreck, which means that I was also becoming my own worst enemy in my attempt to have a successful audition.
I wish I could say that all my training last year immediately kicked into gear, and that I Alexandered the crap out of the anxiety. Sent it packing: no thank you, not today, I’ve got an audition. I wish I could say that, but I can’t.
It’s not that my training failed me. It’s that I failed my training. This is what Chris told us all throughout the year while we worked with him on the Alexander Technique. Inevitably, after leaving the program, we will face moments of great stress. When confronted with these moments, our task will be to inhibit the habitual response (“Oh crap oh crap oh crap!”), breathe freely and openly, and respond with choice and control.
I did none of that. And I’m a little ashamed of how bothered I was at a simple audition.
Once it was all over, I felt that a great deal of color had left my face. My heartbeat was racing, adrenaline coursing through my veins, amplifying every emotion I felt (often well beyond what was necessary and appropriate). “I’m not cut out for this, auditioning for musicals,” I told Maegan over a whiskey. Where was all the confidence I worked to build while at the ACA? Evaporated, temporal only while in the confines of the studio?
No. I believe it’s still there. But in reflecting on how I reacted last night, I believe that a part of me was sabotaging the rest. Not on purpose, mind you; it’s rarely on purpose that we would do these things to ourselves. I had been given a refined set of tools while at the ACA, taught how to use them effectively, and how to apply the results of their use to my own benefit. But I have to actually use the tools if I want to succeed, and last night I ignored my toolbox at my own peril.
There is much value in taking a breath. I frequently underestimate it, though I always feel better after taking a deep breath. As an actor, my breath connects me to everything I do. It is my lifeline, both literally and figuratively. If I am in touch with my breath, I can be in touch with the moment, present and aware and interesting and motivated. Cut off the breath, and I cut off my connection to the outside world.
When I auditioned for the ACA, Gary asked me why I wanted to go to grad school. “I want to get out of my own way as an actor,” I responded. Now I just need to remember that I am actually capable of doing that. And remember to breathe.