6 Ways to Relax Before an Audition

meditation

No matter how many years you’ve been acting, going into an audition is always stressful. You’re worried that you’re going to forget your lines, or screw up in some way, or that they just won’t like you.

But if you want to have a good audition, you can’t let those fears and anxieties get to you. The more relaxed and focused you can be heading into an audition, the more likely you’ll be able to really shine.

Here are a few simple tricks for relaxing before an audition:

  1. Show Up Early
    Rule number one for having a relaxing audition: Arrive early. Getting stuck in traffic is only going to make all of your frayed nerves even more tense. Give yourself plenty of time to figure out where you’re going and find a parking space so you can walk in cool and collected.
  2. Listen to Music
    While you’re in the car or on the L, listen to some relaxing music to get you into that Zen place. Classical music or meditative yoga music are both great for bringing your heart rate down, but if you have other songs that are especially meaningful to you and you like to sing along to, that can work as well. You can even create a special pre-audition playlist of your favorite chill songs that you can listen to every time you have an audition. Another tip is to listen to music that you think will help get you into the head space that your “character” is in, which can also be fun and turn the audition into an adventure into someone else’s headspace instead of something that you’re dreading.
  3. Meditate
    The best thing about meditation is it’s free, easy and you can do it anywhere. And it’s a surefire way to center yourself and calm your nerves before you walk into the audition room. If possible, find a quiet spot to sit by yourself before the audition (sitting in your car in the parking lot is always a great option). Set the timer on your phone for 3, 5, or even 10 minutes and close your eyes and try to focus on your breath, letting all of your thoughts go. If you can’t find a quiet spot, you can even put your headphones in and listen to a guided meditation while you sit in the waiting room. Another type of meditation that can be particularly helpful for auditions is to close your eyes and visualize the audition going extremely well. Visualize all parts of the audition, from you walking into the room with confidence, the faces of the auditors brightening upon your entrance, visualize yourself going through your entire monologue (or audition piece) and see the auditors with you every step of the way. Finally, visualize them being completely moved by you and you walking out of the room with confidence. When you take the time to do this before an audition, it can give you the confidence and relaxation to do your best.
  4. Go for a Walk Outside
    Connecting with nature, even for just a few minutes, is always a great way of clearing your head and relaxing your nerves. Show up to the theater a little early so you can walk around the block and breathe in the air. Put away your phone and try to clear your head as you walk by focusing on the moment. Listen to the birds chirping, look up at the leaves. Do not go over your lines in your head. Just take the time to be.
  5. Take Deep Breaths
    Taking a few deep, cleansing breaths is a great way to relax your mind and body in a snap. Start by taking a long, slow breath through your nose and counting to three. Exhale slowly as you relax the muscles in your head, face, jaw, and shoulders. Repeat this several times until your entire body feels relaxed. Another method is to place your hand on your stomach, with the bottom of your hand on your belly button, and breathe in and out through your nose with the inhales and exhales being the same length. If you are familiar with Nadi Shodhan pranayama (aka Alternate Nostril Breathing), this can be a great way to calm the nervous system and to relieve anxiety. If you aren’t familiar with it, check it out on YouTube here. Anyone can do this exercise whether they are yogis or not!
  6. Stretch
    In auditions, you want your body to be as loose as possible, so it’s important to let go of the tension in your muscles so they don’t interfere with your performance. Loosen up by doing a few quick stretches before you head into the room. You can interlace your fingers and stretch your arms overhead, palms facing upward. Hold the stretch for five full breaths and then drop your arms to the side and roll your head and neck around. Or stand with your feet about hip-width apart and ever-so-slowly fold your torso over your legs, letting your head hang down for five full breaths. You can even shake your head back and forth while you’re folded over to let the tension melt away. This is a spinal roll-down, and to get the full benefits, do this several times in a row, feeling the space created between your vertebrae as you go. If you are familiar with a yoga sequence called the “Sun Salulation” (also known as Surya Namaskara A or B), this can be a great warmup tool for actors because it revitalizes the body and gets the breath flowing. You don’t have to do a lot of Sun Salutations to notice a difference— just a few of them will get you feeling immediately better and ready to rock your audition!

Want to Improve Faster? Have Better Self Talk

better self talk

When you talk to yourself, what voice do you use?

This is something that comes up in lessons frequently. One of the central ideas of the Alexander Technique is that of Direction — how the way we think about our body activates habits that shape the way we move. Making this thinking more conscious can substitute positive movement for movement that works against us.

Alexander Technique teachers specifically craft the phrasing of these directions — from the traditional (‘allow the neck to be free’) to negative direction (allow the neck to unclench) to Freedom Directions (my neck is free to be relaxed). The words we use do affect us, but there is more to it than that.

Lately I’ve been more focused on the tone students take with themselves with their inner-voice. I often go through a phase with a student where they are forceful with themselves — like they are trying to order their neck into freedom. This invariably results in more tension. Slowly, a student learns how to make their thinking lighter and gentler, and as such they stop trying to manipulate their body as if it is a tool that is separate from themselves but to speak to themselves kindly as if affirming a state of being, rather than judging or trying to change. This is a profound shift that subtly unwinds habits and gives us the space to grow.

The applications of this to life are boundless. Though I am not an advocate of being sunny with yourself all the time (you have to be honest, and the pressure to be constantly positive can block the release of feelings that are important to let go of), it seems clear that when you speak against yourself inside your head it only stimulates you to do more of what you have been already doing. 

Forceful self-criticism tends to make us less likely to take risks, which makes change impossible. This has been particularly apparent in my work with artists — many of us get so focused on our craft we stifle our inner artist under a mountain of self-monitoring and “shoulds.” I find that when giving universal positive regard while simultaneously being honest with who I am coaching — giving accurate feedback, but nurturing a positive tone for the artist to take in their growth — the effect is that they stop associating self-knowledge with criticism and start to associate it with opportunity, and their inner-artist feels safe to come out and to do the work for them.

Think of how you approach a goal in your life: posture, weight loss, a promotion, an athletic goal. How do you talk to yourself about it? Are you whipping yourself towards it like you are your own enemy, separating yourself out, or are you speaking to yourself positively and nurturingly? As much as Americans tend to have an aggressive stance to self improvement, you might find that better self talk will allow you to change faster and for the better.

Interested in learning more about how your ways of movement affect your performance? Sign up for the Alexander Technique with Jeremy Cohn, starting either July 25 or July 30!

Mastering the Business of Acting

Being a successful actor is about more than just knowing how to memorize your lines and connect with your scene partner. Talent and skill is important, but if you want to start booking parts, you have to also understand how the business of acting works.

That’s why Michael McKeogh, a well-known, Jeff Award-nominated actor in Chicago, is offering his new “Business of Acting” class at Green Shirt Studio. With tips on everything from how to market yourself with headshots and social media, to who to know in the Chicago theater community and how to network to get ahead, this class will give you the tools to take your acting career to the next level.

So what are some of the biggest secrets to having a more successful acting career? We sat down with McKeogh to get his top 5 tips.

Q: If you’re just starting out as an actor in Chicago, what’s the most important thing you need to do to start getting cast in shows?

A: Seems kind of obvious, but audition, audition, audition! You can’t get cast if you don’t put yourself out there to be seen. I can’t stress it enough.

Q: What’s one of the biggest mistakes people make with their headshot?

A:
 One of the biggest mistakes that people make with headshots is choosing photos that don’t really look like them. But in addition to that, when picking a headshot, try to find one that also hints at your energetic essences. The pictures not only represent what you look like, but also what you are like as a person.

Q: What is the most important thing people need to do to get an agent?

A:
As my dad would say, make sure you have all your ducks lined up in a row. Before meeting with an agent you must have a professional headshot and be prepared to perform material that showcases your most “available” self.

Q: How important is networking to getting ahead?

A: Here is my two cents on networking. Think of network as a noun not a verb. If you are in an acting class, you have a network. If you go to school, you have a network. Networking isn’t about schmoozing and self-promotion. It’s about community building. So ingratiate yourself in your community. Organize a group outing with actor friends and go see as much theater as you can from as many different companies as you can. Get to know the type of work that specific companies like to do and their artistic missions, so when you do meet people who work there, you have something to discuss that isn’t rooted in self-promotion.

Q: What are some other ways that you can put yourself out there?

A: Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. Write letters to casting directors when they announce their season and tell them how excited you are for their season and that you’d like to be seen, specifically for certain roles.

Want to learn more? Sign up for Michael McKeogh’s Business of Acting Class, starting July 22!

6 Networking Tips for Actors Who Are Introverts

networking for actors

Though you wouldn’t know it by the cacophony of sounds in the average audition waiting room or chattering theater lobby, there are many actors who are introverts in the world. I know because I’m one of them. A true introvert, I need alone time to recharge and get my bearings, and I far prefer genuine, meaningful connection with a few rather than getting to know a little about a lot of people.

In a business where networking matters, being introverted can sometimes feel like a burden. I’ve often felt jealous of the way my extroverted colleagues can open doors for themselves with their ability to effortlessly socialize.

But being an introvert doesn’t have to get in the way of your acting. Here are a few networking tips on for actors who are introverts:

  1. Get good at asking questions
    After a particularly brutal night of feeling awkward at a theater event, a friend of mine with is an expert networker gave me this solid piece of advice: Conversations are two-way streets, even though my introversion-turned-social-anxiety can make me feel as if I’m the one responsible for keeping things rolling by doling out information about myself, my work etc. To me, that feels exhausting and awkward as hell. So, I’ve learned to prepare a few solid questions and be curious enough to keep people talking about themselves. And when someone asks you a question, give them an answer but then reciprocate by asking that same question back to them. “I’m from ________, how about you?” I am genuinely curious about human beings, so gaining the courage to ask people follow-up questions and try to learn about what makes a person tick hasn’t been that hard and has gone a long way to set me at ease in social situations.
  2. Prepare some answers
    I’m not saying you should prepare a bit or rehearse what you will say in social situations, but you can make your introverted life easier by articulating to yourself some answers to questions you know might be a topic of a conversation. If you’re going to an opening night gala, be ready to talk about the play, the writer, your friends who worked on it, etc. And of course, there are questions that often come up in any first conversation between people. If someone asks, “Where are you from?,” it’s good to know you have more than a one word answer.
  3. Bring a friend
    This is simple and probably obvious. But going places with a friend, someone with whom you share a connection and feel at ease with, can really make things easier. If you can get audition slots next to each other, great. If you can both go to that party, wonderful. You’ll have someone around whom you enjoy and who can open up doors to other meaningful connections.
  4. Be aware of the vibe you’re giving off
    I’m super good at shutting down even the possibility of conversation with my body language and expression. I am so good at it, that I’m often not even aware of the fact that I’m scowling or looking morose in the corner. I’m also great at getting into a shame spiral where I wonder why no one is talking to me, which makes me look even meaner. I swear, sometimes I don’t know the vibe I’m giving off, but I’ve learned over time to check in and try to open up physically so as to not keep people at a distance. People don’t want to approach the miserable person. So, even if you’re internally feeling awkward or anxious, try to physically express a pleasant vibe, even if that means faking it until you make it.
  5. Know when to keep it simple and light
    This is a big one for me. I’ve learned that, as an introvert, I am prone to rushing to deeper connections than people are interested in. Surface-level conversations feel taxing to me, so I sometimes unconsciously steer things toward places that some people find too intense and alienating. Not everyone wants to know the whole truth about your feelings on politics, your family’s particular brand of dysfunction or that sad thing that just happened to you. As much as I am not constitutionally inclined to talk about the metaphorical weather, sometimes that is what’s called for.
  6. Be open to meaning
    Surprise! There are other actors who are introverts in the room. It’s not just you. And there are other people wherever you are, introverted or not, who are willing to connect in a way that feels genuine and not exhausting. If you stay open and ask questions, you’ll find them. Remember that while networking can feel like a business requirement, networking is really just about human beings connecting with one another. Acting is a human business, too.

Interested in learning more about how to make it as an actor? Sign up for The Business of Acting in Chicago, starting July 22!

Meet Our New Voiceover Instructor: Kathleen Puls Andrade

Kathleen Puls Andrade

As actors in Chicago, there are lots of ways that we can make money by doing our art: plays, commercials, TV and movies, and of course, voiceover.

That’s why we’re excited to announce new voiceover classes at Green Shirt Studio, taught by Kathleen Puls Andrade, a professional actor, improviser, writer and voiceover artist who also teaches voiceover classes at Second City and has recorded spots for everything from Nascar to Fisher Nuts, Quaker Oats, Morton Salt, Oberweiss and more.

We caught up with Andrade to talk to her more about how she first got into voiceover, how acting for voiceover is different from acting for the stage, how long it takes to start making money at it and more.

Q: How were you first exposed to doing voiceover work?

A: My father has a fabulous voice and he decided to get some coaching to do voiceover work back in the day. I went along with him to one of his sessions and I started directing him! We both agree that I was pretty obnoxious, but I’m pretty sure that’s where I got the bug.

Q: What is something you learned when you first starting doing voiceover?

A: I always tell people who are interested in doing voiceover to take a class. My first demo was awful because I thought I knew what I was doing. But I didn’t. After I took a class, I made another demo with the woman who ended up being one of my agents.

Q: What is a skill people need to learn to do voiceover well?

A: When I first started, I learned that you really have to use your hands and body to help propel the words out of your mouth in a certain way. Also, another biggie is to listen more and talk less. Listen to direction, the engineer, the director, writer, etc. Pay attention to what’s happening around you so you can give them your best performance.

Q: What was one of your favorite voiceover sessions you’ve ever done?

A: I did a Quaker spot where they videotaped us in the session. I found out later that they were going to animate according to what we were doing in the recording booth. Anything with characters is always fun. I always have a good time when I’m in a session, especially when I get to do comedy dialogue with other funny actors!

Q: What is the difference between acting for the stage and acting for voiceover?

A: There’s not a ton of difference, but there is a difference. You have to be mindful of technique and what words to tap on and how to get the product name across. You have to ask yourself, “Who am I talking to?” when you’re reading a script. You can do whatever you want behind the mic physically, as long as your face is in front of the mic.

Q: Tell me a little about your class. What kinds of things will people learn in the class?

A: It’s a really fun class. They’ll learn about mic technique, how to analyze copy, auditioning, the business, announcers, video games, dialogues, character creation, and they’ll spend a whole lot of time on the mic! I also encourage students to physicalize as much as possible behind the mic, and I teach them techniques to help them with instant character creation as well.

Q: How would you describe your teaching style?

A: I describe my teaching style as encouragingly and entertainingly constructive. I love to encourage students to step outside of their boxes. I’m direct but in a constructive way. I’ll never tell you that you can’t do something because you never know what’ll happen. I’ll be honest and tell you what I think you need, and if you have certain challenges to surmount but I won’t tell you that you can’t do it. And we laugh a lot!

Q: Many people assume getting voiceover work is easy. How long does it take most people to start making money at it?

A: That’s the million dollar question. It’s different for everyone. I remember going to Los Angeles to have a meeting with a voiceover agent who used to be in Chicago. I asked him that same question. He kind of looked at me like, “How would I know?” Basically, it depends on your skill, opportunities, persistence, a good demo, auditioning times ten, and a lot of luck. It’s pretty competitive now. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn!

Q: What’s fun for you about teaching voiceover?

A: I love watching students blossom and start to understand what it’s all about. I love watching them make discoveries and love to watch them have fun behind the mic. Even if someone doesn’t pursue voiceover, at least they have another tool in their tool belt. It does help make someone a better communicator as well.

Interested in learning more about voiceover work? Sign up for Voiceover Primer for Actors, running Mondays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. from July 10 through Aug. 28!

9 Tips for Choosing a Monologue

Auditioning
Finding good audition material seems to be many actors’ Achilles heel. I began to fully appreciate how actors sabotage themselves after I started holding auditions for my own theater company. Many actors simply choose bad audition monologues for themselves. The reality is, if you are going to audition (especially for theater), monologues are going to be required of you fairly regularly. You can help yourself immensely if you follow some simple tips.
  1. Keep it short
    A monologue that’s between 45 seconds and one minute is great. A minute and 15 seconds is beginning to push it. Two minutes is waaaaaay too much. A monologue audition should work to spark the auditor’s imagination, not be an attempt to cram everything you can do into one piece of text. Just plant a seed.
  2. Find material that is active
    Simply put, your monologue should express something you should need to get right now. This doesn’t mean you have to be angry or panicked, just that you are pursuing something from your (imaginary) scene partner. In this way, every monologue is actually a dialogue, a give and take between you and a silent, invisible scene partner.
  3. Avoid monologues in which you just tell a story
    This is related to #2. So often actors are drawn towards pieces in which they simply tell a story or reflect on a memory. These pieces become inactive 99% of the time and highlight the writing rather than you.
  4. Find pieces that you are personally invested in
    Look, auditioning can be tough enough without having to say words that have no meaning to you. If you choose pieces you love and that matter to you in some way, you might actually start looking forward to stepping into the audition room. You’ll start seeing your audition as an opportunity to act and communicate this human thing that needs to be communicated. That kind of connection to your material draws us in.
  5. Great monologues often start out as dialogue
    When you are looking for pieces, don’t just assume that a perfectly crafted minute-long monologue right there is going to jump out at you. Some of the best monologues I have are ones that I’ve pieced together from one character’s dialogue in a scene. Sometimes you have to be a writer/editor and craft your piece into a cohesive whole. It may be more work, but taking that time can pay off in a big way.
  6. Remember that the material you choose is a reflection of your taste
    This is to say that choosing material for its shock value or for its edginess can backfire if you bring it into the wrong room. Context matters of course, but not everyone loves hearing 20 f-bombs in 60 seconds. Not everyone loves hearing pieces about being sexually abused. Not everyone loves watching an actor rage at the top of their lungs. If those auditioning you are worried about your safety or their own, they are not going to be inviting you back. Take the right risks, not the cheap ones.
  7. Your monologue should play to your inherent strengths
    Just because it’s a chunk of text said by a character that is roughly your age doesn’t mean it’s right for you. We all have an energy and personality we need to play into or subvert intelligently. Knowing what vibe you bring into the room by default will help you pick material that shows you off in a useful way.
  8. Having a couple monologues is not enough
    There is no such thing as your go-to piece. You need to tailor your material to the project. Seeing your Shakespeare soliloquy doesn’t help me much when I’m casting an Annie Baker play. But also don’t bring your most vulnerable piece when you’re auditioning for that tough-as-nails character. You will have to have dozens of pieces ready to go. Maybe more. You are not generic, the characters you are auditioning for are not generic, so your material can’t be either. Be specific.
  9. Don’t hide behind your material
    Hands down the biggest mistake I see in the audition room is actors hiding behind the tricks and gimmicks of their pieces. Being performative and showy is the easiest choice and almost always the wrong one. Clever bits and practiced gestures are only going to get you so far. The reality is, I don’t really care about the piece itself. What I do care about is that the piece is a window into your own humanity. I could care less about the “character”. I want to see you. Be authentic.

Teacher Profile: Cordie Nelson

  1. Cordie Nelson

Cordie Nelson is a director in Chicago who is also one of Green Shirt Studio’s newest Meisner acting teachers.

A native of Mississippi, Nelson started acting at the age of 12, attended a performing arts high school, and got her BA in theater at the University of Southern Mississippi. After college, she moved to Chicago, where she’s been focusing on building up her directing career.

She’s recently directed To Bury a Stranger for PRIDE Films and Plays’ LezPlay Weekend and Mia McCullough’s Mickey Cares at The Agency Theater Collective’s Basement Series, and she’s assistant directed The Library for Level II Theater, as well as The Agency Theater Collective’s production of Chagrin Falls under Sommer Austin.

Nelson cut her teeth as an assistant Meisner acting teacher in college, and later studied under both Sommer Austin and Andrew Gallant at Green Shirt Studio and began assistant teaching under them as well.

We recently caught up with Nelson to ask her more about what she likes about Meisner training, directing, the Chicago theater scene and more.

Q: You grew up in Mississippi, which doesn’t seem like a place where there would be much theater culture. How did you get into acting?
A: I grew up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, in one of the few cities in the state that does have a theater community. My dad’s a painter and my mom’s a newspaper reporter and our house was filled with my dad’s artwork and his friends’ work. My life has always been right in the center of the artistic community. When you grow up with artists as members of your family, you kind of think that there’s only one way of expressing yourself. But when I found theater, I was like, “This is it. This is how I express myself.”

Q: You said you loved acting when you were a kid, but later you began to doubt yourself. What helped you get over that?
A:
When I was introduced to formal training, acting got really hard. I got really hard on myself and had a hard time being vulnerable on stage and I started questioning whether this was something I really wanted to do. That’s when I started getting interested in directing. But it was when I took Meisner in college, actually, that I got back in touch with my love of acting. I think I had been oversaturated with the “right way” to act in high school, and Meisner is about stripping all of that away.

Q: You first started taking Meisner classes when you were in undergrad. What did you love about Meisner classes?
A: I had heard about it and was really excited to take it, and after two classes, I asked my teacher Sean [Boyd] if I could assistant teach it. He said, “Why don’t you finish the class first.” I did and ended up assistant teaching for him for three years. I just couldn’t get enough of it! I love how it’s about you being enough and what’s happening between the two of you is enough.

Q: Why is teaching so fulfilling for you?
A: I love helping people find what’s already there. I love how it’s not about knowing what you’re going to get. I love the surprise. You don’t know where things are going to go, but you know when they’re being honest and when they’re being truthful because it’s beautiful.

Q: What do you like about directing?
A: I love how collaborative it is. I love how I don’t have all of the answers, and you don’t have all of the answers, but together we can find the answers.

Q: What made you want to move to Chicago rather than New York or Los Angeles?
A:
People who I know in New York who are trying to make it as actors have to live six people in an apartment because the rents are so high. And in Los Angeles, it’s more about film, which just isn’t my thing. But in Chicago, theater is really accessible and you can actually live off of it. [Plus], the thing I love so much about the Chicago theater scene is how much people encourage you to do everything — acting, stage managing, directing. It’s really collaborative and supportive.
Interested in studying with Cordie? She’ll be teaching Level 2 and Level 3 Meisner classes this summer.

The Beauty of Being Bored

bored

The last ten years of my life have been incredibly busy. My week days are pretty much packed from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, with very little down time and, with running two businesses, my weekends get even busier. I am rarely alone except for the regular 45 minute car rides to one of my teaching jobs and then I am either listening to a podcast or talking to someone on the phone about some work-related issue. With everything I have going on in my life, combined with the constant stream of media that technology supplies, I am almost never bored. And my life is the poorer for it.

I am not alone in being busy nor in having permanent access to entertainment. When was the last time you found yourself simultaneously without a task to accomplish and without access to music, movies, TV, or social media? If you are like me, those moments are rare and almost always accidental, perceived as moments of great inconvenience: the day you forgot your phone at home or the night the internet went down on your block. My last moment like that was over the holiday break, the only time of year I have days off.

I dropped my phone on Christmas Eve, further shattering an already cracked screen, and to continue using it would have meant driving glass shards into my thumbs. It was the perfect storm. With the holiday, I knew all the stores would be either closed or completely overrun with people returning gifts, certainly not a situation I wanted to brave without the ability to check my feed or stream some podcast. I mean, how would I cope? So instead, I was forced to put my phone on the nightstand and go on with my holiday plans, without my entertainment/productivity lifeline tucked conveniently in my pocket. And it sucked. At first.

For the first 24 hours, I swear, I felt phantom text alerts in my pocket. I was walking around and would feel what I thought was my phone vibrating away only to reach into my pocket and be reminded my phone was not with me. When I wasn’t receiving ghost texts, I was thinking about what emails I might be missing or what breaking news might be happening right now. It was a major, uncomfortable adjustment. I felt disconnected and worried and bored, a constant hunger for a way to augment my present moment, as if the present moment and my own experience of it was not enough.

This is our world now. It is not enough go to a concert, we have to livestream it to our friends. It’s not enough to ride the bus and look out the window, we have to also be listening to an audiobook. We don’t just have one job, we have our money gig and our real work. We live in the world of side hustles and smart phones. And there is a cost to this split attention, this constant overbooking of our lives. We lose our willingness to sit with ourselves in boredom. We feel as if every moment should be filled and our attention held by something outside ourselves. But boredom can be a wonderful thing. It can spawn creativity and deep thought. Boredom provides a space in which you can experience the emotions you’ve had to tamp down and power through in order to get your many jobs done. Boredom is not a bad word. It is a beautiful thing. Those moments of quiet are the ones in which you can actually listen and hear what has been going on underneath the tidal wave of your waking life.

I am not wagging a finger here. This is for me too, maybe most of all. I need to build some moments of quiet into my life. I need to sit in those quiet moments and listen to myself, remind myself that the moments I am in are full of possibility and that I am enough. We could all use some reminding. A couple days after breaking my phone, I found myself relaxed and recharged. The inane, job-related chatter in my head died down and I had sparks of creativity. The well replenished and the quiet brought me a few days of peace.

There is beauty in being bored. Before the universe began, there was emptiness. Sometimes the void brings the light. Now go break your phone.

5 Cringe-Worthy Stories About Bombing on Stage

Jimmy-Carrane-Dan-Harmon

There is nothing worse for an actor than completely bombing on stage or in an audition. If you’ve ever spent weeks memorizing your lines, only to go completely blank on opening night, or realize you did an entire audition with your shirt on inside out, you know what I’m talking about.

Bombing on stage or in an audition is a rite of passage for all actors — a great way of proving to ourselves that even if our worst fears happen, we’ll still somehow come out the other side. And better yet, have a great story to share!

This week, we asked several of our instructors at Green Shirt Studio to tell us about one of the worst times they ever bombed on stage or in an audition. Because if they survived it, you can too!

Sommer Austin, co-founder of Green Shirt Studio, Meisner instructor
When I first started auditioning in college as an undergrad, my first audition was so bad and humiliating that I ended up running out of the theater in tears. I’m actually not even sure if I finished the audition or not. I chose a monologue in which a character was auditioning but forgot her lines in the middle of the monologue (classic, amiright?!), but I actually did forget my lines for real, and lost my place and tried to start over but because of the way the piece was structured, I couldn’t find my way through it, so at one point I just quit, and the entire thing was horrible and meta and very, very bad, and I was so embarrassed that I started crying and it all ended with me running out the door in shame. Good times! I can’t say I don’t still have humiliating audition experiences every now and again, but nothing’s ever really topped that one!

Tosha Fowler, Scene Study instructor
I was in a commercial audition for the drug Lyrica, which supposedly helps with fibromyalgia. The casting director asked me to do the copy a second time and rub my shoulder as if I was in pain from the disease. I did as she asked. She stopped me in the middle of it and told me that I was being way too sexual in rubbing my shoulder and that I looked like I was enjoying it too much. I was very embarrassed by this!

Ashlea Woodley, Meisner instructor
In one of my last shows in undergrad, I was costumed in a very large hoop skirt and corset in which I could barely breathe. Well, mid-line, I coughed, breaking a button on my skirt that caused my hoop to fall almost to my knees. I couldn’t remember my line for the life of me. I swear I heard crickets. I kept stammering and I stood there like a deer in headlights holding my skirt and hoop until my scene partner (now my husband) covered my line and I shuffled off stage to intermission. I cried through the whole intermission, haphazardly sewing my button back on since our costumer was out for the evening.

Jimmy Carrane, improv instructor
I think as an improviser I am always bombing on some level, which both sucks and does makes you better. The last time I bombed was a couple of weeks ago. I was doing Dan Harmon’s podcast, Harmontown, as part of the Chicago Improv Festival. The show was in front of 700 people at the Athenaeum Theater, and I was one of his guests along with Scott Adsit of 30 Rock. The first half of the show went really well, but toward the end of the show, Dan just stood up and started improvising a scene. It was a brilliant concept, where he was playing America and he made Scott and me his parents: England and France. Only I had no idea that I we were supposed to be countries. I thought he was playing a teenager and I was his French mother, so I kept reacting like a worried mom and screwing up the years, and he kept correcting me. I kept trying to “help out” and add stuff to the scene that just made it worse, when I should have just shut up and listened. About 15 minutes into the scene, it FINALLY dawned on me that I was supposed to be a COUNTRY, not his mother. How long have I been improvising? Oh, the shame. The best part is that it was in front of 700 people and was recorded for his podcast. If you are going to bomb, go big.  

Jose “Tony” Garcia, Suzuki Method instructor
The bombiest moment that comes to mind was when I was cast as Big Daddy in Sweet Charity the summer after I graduated undergrad. Big Daddy has one song and one song only: “The Rhythm of Life.” Rehearsed my ass off. Practiced to no end. Teched. Now here’s opening night. The show kicks off without a hitch. Everything is going great. Intermission. Time for me to go and put on my Big Daddy make up, facial hair and wig.

I applied my make up. So much make up. You know, the way we were all taught to in school, but then quickly realized how little we actually needed once we got out into the real world? That much make up. Put on the wig, put on the facial hair. That’s right, I put on the facial hair AFTER I put on my makeup. First time I’d done that. All through tech I did the hair first and then the make up around it. Maybe it was opening night jitters, but for whatever reason I chose to put on my make up first and then the facial hair. Go to places. Lights up. Enter stage right and get ready to sing. My facial hair is peeling off. Holy shit. Slap it back on mid lyric. Get two more lines out. It peels again, more this time. Slap it back on again, hold it in place for a second as I continue to sing. At least I think I’m singing. Not sure which line I just sang. Not sure which line comes next. Mother of God. Am I about to go up on singing lines on opening night? Sure seems that way. Just sing something. Except that. You just sang that. You just repeated yourself in song. Kill me now. The song ends. Finally. Oh, I forgot there’s still a scene after the song for which I have to stay on stage for and also SPEAK WHILE MY BEARD KEEPS WANTING TO LEAP FROM MY FACE. Just get through it. It’s a short speech, pick up those cues and get out of there. Except that cue. You just said that cue. The ensemble is now looking at me with those deer-caught-in-headlights eyes. You know the ones. Because surely I can’t expect them to repeat their callback to me, the one they just did, right? Just keep talking and finish. End this. Please end this. I finally get to the end of the speech. My facial hair is now dangling from my chin like one of those little plastic monkeys from that game.

The sound cue for us to run off stage comes on. I have never run faster in my life. Pretty sure I could taste my heart up in the throat. Luckily I was surrounded by some wonderful people who assured me that it “wasn’t that bad.” To this day, I don’t believe them.

Don’t Fall for These Acting Scams

Acting scams

As a teacher of young artists who are just starting to learn their craft, I feel very protective of them. I know that there is a lot to learn, and it takes a long time, and I want to envelop them in a cocoon of encouragement, to challenge them in the safest way possible to go to some uncomfortable places — the inevitable growing pains of the beginning actor.

But there is one unfortunate rite-of-passage that I wish I could shield them all from, and that is the experience of being scammed by people promising to make you famous fast. It makes me so angry that there are certain companies that will prey upon the naivety and hopefulness of someone wanting to be an actor. Is it so wrong to want to be solvent and perhaps even make money as an actor? Of course not! Is it possible to be solvent and even to be able to support yourself as an actor? Sure. But I find that the enthusiasm of the young actor can sometimes make one put the cart before the horse, as it were.

Here are some things to look out for as you make your way in the world as an actor.

  1. You Shouldn’t Have to Pay for Auditions
    If you are being asked to pay for a casting opportunity or to get seen by “powerful industry professionals,” RUN AWAY AS FAST AS YOU CAN. Any organization that is asking you to pay to audition is bogus. Legitimate agencies make money by taking a percentage when their actors get cast and paid. You should not have to pay to play with any talent agency or casting director. There are a few legitimate websites (ActorsAccess, Backstage, Casting Networks) that will charge a small fee to self-submit or register, but those are the only ones that are legitimately utilized by the industry.
  2. Don’t Pay for Something That Isn’t Explicit
    A good rule of thumb is to not pay anyone for anything they are not explicitly advertising. Pay a photographer for headshots. Pay a teacher for classes. Pay a coach for private coaching. But if a talent agency says they will only list you once you pay their photographer for headshots, they’re scamming you. If someone is promising you a big casting opportunity if you only just pay them first, they are exploiting you and your hopes. Do your homework before you open your wallet.
  1. Be Wary of People Promising Fame and Fortune
    Use common sense—if someone is promising you lots of roles or a lucrative career, or even an agent, before you have even finished your first acting class or even have one credit on your resume that should raise a red flag. Anyone who tells you that you can be a star quickly or make tons of money right away is selling you a bill of goods. Fame and fortune, while wonderful, ought not be the point.

I think the best advice when looking out for oneself is to not confuse the art or craft with the commerce, or business of acting. Yes, in order to ultimately have a career as an actor, you will have to deal with both, but don’t get too overzealous with the business side of things before you feel you have a handle on the craft. It takes time to develop the skills, connections and experience you need to make a go of it in this industry.

We are lured in by stories of people getting discovered at the bank, which reportedly is how Charlize Theron met talent scout John Crosby. And while stories like these do happen to folks occasionally, you must be wary and do your homework. In fact, it appears that Ms. Theron did do her homework after the guy gave her his card—she asked around town and found out that he was legit before she called him back. This is exactly what you must do!

So be smart like Charlize. Don’t just give away your hard-earned cash to someone offering you fame and fortune, because it really doesn’t work that way. Be smart, be your own advocate. Do not let your art be cheapened or sullied by the first snake-oil salesman who comes your way. Protect yourself the way I, as your teacher, would protect you, if I could, always.