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Audition Feedback

ART TIMES Nov, 2004

I’m in touch with an aspiring professional actress presently starting to carve out her future in the Big City. (Not necessarily the Big City you’re thinking of; there are several of them these days.) Recently she bemoaned the difficulty of getting feedback on her auditions.

I thought about it for a while and I came up with this.

The only really valuable audition feedback is the feedback you give yourself. After the heart and breathing rates slow down and you've left the venue and you have a cup of your favorite beverage in front of you, think carefully and slowly and ask yourself some good questions. Did you do what you wanted to do as fully as you wanted to do it? If not, why not? What would you do differently next time for preparation and performance? Each audition becomes an experiment, a test, a trial run at delivering the kind of work you want to do, done the way you want to do it. Each audition becomes something of value to you, regardless of the outcome for the folks on the other side of the table.

I know it seems counter-intuitive, but what they want out of you is not the thing to think about. You cannot sell to all markets. Every performer, every artist of any kind really, can only do what they do. You cannot satisfy a market for a kind of work that is not what you do, because unless the work authentically comes from yourself, it will not be good work, and will not satisfy the market. Even if it should sell, it will not be the work that you want to be out there in the world with your name on it.

You have to find the market that wants what you have to sell. Every "they" is different; they themselves may well not know what they want until they see it, and their ability to express what that might be, or what they see in you, is highly questionable. Don't make the assumption that the other side of the table is qualified to make judgments or recommendations about you. If everything waited for someone to come along who’s fully qualified to do it, very little would ever get done. They may be completely out of their depth doing what they’re doing. If you get feedback, evaluate the source right along with the feedback, and decide if the feedback, positive or negative, is actually relevant to who you are and what you do.

Their side of the table is completely out of your control; so don't waste time on it. Spend your time developing your ability to develop yourself. Fretting and fussing over a constantly moving, constantly changing, and very possibly irrelevant target is a surefire way to frustration and failure. Also, do remember that everybody who ever got somebody to show up for their auditions considers themselves to be the world’s greatest expert on auditioning, as does everybody who ever got cast in a show. Remember that their success may well be in spite of what they do, not because of it.

That doesn’t mean that you should act as if there are no markets out there. You should explore as many different kinds of work as you can. The more you know, the more you can imagine. You may surprise yourself; the Shakespearian tragedian may unexpectedly discover a gift for musical comedy or contemporary drama that never raised its head until asked to appear. Just remember that no one is infinitely plastic, capable of being all things to all people. If Neil Simon really is what you do best, then by all means do that, and don’t worry about “missed opportunities” to do Shakespeare. Do what you do, and let the world worry about itself.

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