The Waiting Room: How to Stay Present for Your Audition or Callback
You’ve done all the work. You had a good night’s sleep, ate a solid breakfast, warmed up at home and in the car. You’re walking into your audition ready and memorized, and a breezy fifteen minutes early to sign in and center yourself.
Your scheduled time comes and goes…and goes…and goes…
Forty-five minutes later, you’re still in the waiting room, your feet hurt, you’re stone cold, and the nervous energy of all the actors around you is kicking off a headache.
How can you still showcase yourself? So much of an actor’s professional life is spent waiting. In the audition room, in the callback Zoom waiting room, on-set waiting for your scene…and quite often you don’t get much of a heads up before being pulled into action. In auditions and callbacks specifically, there is the additional strain of competition. Making sure you’re present, grounded and ready when the time comes to spring into your character can be a challenge.
Here are a few things that might help.
Manage your own expectations. Come in prepared to wait. If you assume things might not run on time, it’s less likely the frustration of added wait time will rattle you. Try not to schedule things too tightly around your audition if possible.
Don’t forget the physical. Setting yourself up for success when it comes to physical endurance can be a lifesaver. If you’re wearing uncomfortable shoes for the audition, bring a pair of flats or sneakers you can quickly swap so you’re not wearing yourself out before you get in the room. Bring plenty of water, snacks, tea, ibuprofen or whatever you need to keep you from getting hangry or fatigued.
Calculate your warm-ups. This one is tricky. But, for example, if you have an emotionally demanding audition piece, it can be especially hard to stay in a headspace where you can turn on the tears at a moment’s notice. If you keep yourself on the edge the whole time, you run the risk of wearing yourself out before you ever get in front of casting professionals. If you’re chilling on your phone the whole time, it’s going to be hard to ramp back up when you get called in.
This is where your actor’s homework comes in handy. If you’ve done the emotional prep work, it’ll be so much easier to build in shortcuts that can get you to the right place quickly. Check-in with those shortcuts here and there (for me sometimes it’s music, or putting eyes to the page and reading a certain bit of text). This can help keep your emotions available near the surface without burning them out too quickly.
The same goes for staying ready physically. Pacing around the whole time or sinking into a chair and checking out pose equal risks. Make sure you’re finding a balance between saving your energy and occasionally standing, moving your body, maybe jumping up and down a couple of times to get the blood flowing.
Pay attention to the room. Watch the monitor, take note of who’s going in when, and try to keep an ear to the ground for how things are being run. If you know ahead of time when you’ll likely be called in, instead of getting taken by surprise, it’ll do wonders for walking in confident and collected.
Know your strengths and weaknesses in a waiting room. I love a cold read and I can think on my feet and pivot quickly. I know I’m at my best when there’s a little spontaneity. But crowds of anxious actors can get me drained and rattled quickly. So I come armed with earbuds.
I might arrive early, but rather then head right into the audition room, I wait in the car or outside until I have just enough time to go in with a bit of margin. When I get handed new sides or information, I take a moment to remind myself that’s an area in which I excel and trust myself to take it in stride. Don’t waste time stressing over your strengths, and set yourself up for success with your weaknesses.
Don’t forget to have fun! Break legs out there!
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