You arrive confident, prepared, focused. You know without a shadow of a doubt you are going to nail this — after all, you were born to play this part. Your name is called, you saunter in, exuding charm and poise. You’re about to blow them all away.
Suddenly, there’s a shift. A feeling, an unforeseen face in the room, a phrase thrown out. There’s been a change. Expectations are altered, and you have suddenly found yourself in the hot seat dealing with an audition curveball. But don’t panic! Check out these tactics below to help you navigate these choppy waters:
1. You Prepared a Comedy and They Ask For a Drama
Whether you prepared a cartoony piece and they suddenly want realism, or you picked a modern piece and they’re looking for Shakespeare, you’re now in a situation where you have no choice but to find a new angle on what you’ve prepped. If your scene is comedic and they’re looking for drama, simply adjust your performance to a more grounded one. No matter the vehicle, you can still find your way toward the vibe they’re looking for.
2. Your Material Gets Cut in Half
You’ve prepped a two-minute monologue, and they ask for a 30-second piece because they’re running behind. Instead of getting upset and worrying how they’ll ever see your range in 30 seconds, remind yourself that you can blow this thing out of the ballpark in any amount of time. They wouldn’t ask for 30 seconds if they didn’t think they could find what they needed in that amount of time. Besides, what’s wrong with leaving them thirsty for more? Just make sure you make the proper cuts to leave yourself with a nice jumping off hook and wrap up with a clear ending.
3. Your Reader Is as Lifeless as a Can of Paint
Sometimes readers are just readers and they aren’t there to give you anything to work with. Instead of letting it throw you, just do your thing and be thankful that the full attention is on you. Use your imagination and pretend they’re giving you what you need.
4. The Direction Given to You Doesn’t Make Sense
Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t have to make sense to play the scene or the character. They’re probably just trying to see how pliable you are. Show them you are a beautiful piece of clay ready and waiting to be molded. Even if it doesn’t make sense, enjoy the lunacy of the direction and have fun with it. Sometimes, an offbeat way of taking a scene will open all kinds of insights into your character that you would have never discovered during a traditional approach.
5. You’re Assigned to Read for a New Character That You Haven’t Prepped For
Don’t sweat this! It’s a good sign! It means you walked in the door and they visualized you as a potential candidate to land a particular role. Who cares that you didn’t prep for it? You’re already in the running on your looks alone. Allow this shift to make you feel confident, not panicked. Take a few moments to go over the new material and ask questions. The casting director knows you just got the materials, so you don’t need to make excuses or worry about looking down at the lines too much. Do the best you can and tell yourself you’ve already got a giant foot in the door because of this exciting curveball.
6. Casting Is Eating Lunch
The casting team works all day, so it’s natural they get hungry. However, they do this every day, and just because they’re tackling a sloppy turkey club sandwich while you’re pouring your heart out doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention. You might not like it, but look at the bright side — well-fed people are happy people. It may actually be better if they’re chomping on potato chips rather than daydreaming during your monologue because they have hunger pangs. Also, regardless of whether you feel like you’re the center of attention, this is still your time. You’ve performed through chaos before (hello, tech week!). Use this time to work on your material and enjoy just doing it for yourself.
7. They’re Running Late and You’re in a Hurry
You have to pick up your kid or get to your survival job, and the audition is running super behind. Before you panic and throw a diva hissy fit, simply speak to the monitor running the auditions. Politely explain your situation and ask whether there’s any way you can be seen sooner rather than later. You’d be surprised how willing the monitor and other actors can be to help you out — they’ve definitely all been there before. Just remember to pay it forward next time you’re not in a hurry and see that familiar look of panic on another actor’s face while in the waiting room.
8. You’re Underdressed or Overdressed
So, everyone around you is dressed for the role more literally than you. Unless you have a wardrobe in your car or satchel, there’s not much you can do about this one. who cares? Sure, you’d like to give off the vibe of the character to help you out, but it ultimately comes down to your acting. Besides, what actor hasn’t had a wardrobe malfunction some time or another?
9. You’re the Opposite Type of Everyone Else in the Room
You’re the only short blonde in a sea of tall brunettes. Basically, you’re the guinea pig. Casting is pretty sure they want a tall brunette, but just in case, they threw in a few randoms to see what the producers think of a different direction. The best thing to do is shrug it off and not let it bother you. Hey, you’re there, you get to audition, and who knows, maybe they’ll decide to go the other way with it after all!
10. You Freeze Up When They Ask You to Improvise
You didn’t plan on improvising, then casting asks you to do a take with lots of adlibs. It’s natural to want to freeze up, but you have to fight the feeling. Put all the negative thoughts out of your mind about how you hate doing improv and how you’re kicking yourself for never taking that class. Instead, take a deep breath, be present and remember that you actually improvise in some way every day — this is no different. Negative thoughts won’t help, so do your best to be in the moment and fake self-confidence even when you’re not feeling it. Then, afterward, sign up for that improv class.
11. There’s Suddenly Choreography
You’re an actor, not an actor/dancer, and now they’re asking you to count and step pivot, step. Just roll with it. It’s likely they just want to see you move. Nobody expects you to be Baryshnikov.
12. You’re Asked to Demonstrate Your Special Skills
“So, you do a crying baby. Can we hear it?” If it’s listed as one of your special skills, someone somewhere down the line can ask you to do it on the spot. The best way to avoid catastrophe is to take off anything on your resume that you don’t want to do at the drop of a hat at an audition. If you’re too late, suck it up and demonstrate your wailing baby or Al Pacino impersonation with pride.
13. You Forgot Your Headshot/Resume
Don’t forget your headshot and resume! Always have a copy in the trunk of your car or in your binder of sheet music. With that said, it’s still going to happen eventually. After several years in the business, you will at one point leave it on the counter or just plain forget to print it out. The best thing to do is to ‘fess up right away and apologize. Leave the excuses at home on the counter with your MIA headshot. No one needs to hear about how hectic your morning was. Just say you’re sorry, move on and be thankful everything is digital today anyway.
As you can see by now, the best way to deal with most curveballs is to take a deep breath and go with the flow. Much like life, the business is all about resilience, thinking on your feet and being in the moment. We can plan until we’re blue in the face, but ultimately, things will veer off course and when they do, the best way to deal with it is with grace, flexibility and humor.