Learning to Love Auditions

I don’t quite remember the details of my first audition, but I do remember that I was terrified. Back in elementary school, auditions were scary because you had to learn a song, and you had to sing that song, and what if you forgot your words, and what if you couldn’t sing as well as another girl could, and what if you didn’t get the part?? In college, nothing is different. Except now, I think that all of those fears are heightened. But, why is that? In elementary school, if I messed up at an audition and didn’t get the part, my mom would buy me ice cream, and I’d still be very excited to get to sing and dance with my friends in the ensemble. Now, in the theatre world, we put a much greater amount of pressure on ourselves to be the best, to perform better than our peers, to get the part. We say we don’t mind being in the ensemble, but we’re a little (or sometimes more than a little) sad and bitter when we end up there. We’re not auditioning for a show so that we can sing and dance and have fun with our friends (although of course, that is still part of the reason most of us audition); we audition so that we can know that we are talented.

Laura Sheaffer runningWhen we don’t get the part, we decide that we might not be all that talented, and we take it personally. We begin to believe that we never should audition for anything again because what is the point if we just face rejection over and over? Elementary school me wouldn’t have given up. She would have had a scoop of cookie dough ice cream and been excited to learn her two lines. So why can’t we take rejection in stride like that anymore?​ For much of high school, I often had that horrible mindset—the one that told me that I was not talented because I was not getting the biggest parts. For every big musical audition, I was always sick. It never failed that I would be perfectly healthy and then two days before the audition, I would wake up with a sore throat and the complete inability to sound anything like what I actually sound like. Despite this, I still got callbacks and usually made it pretty far in the audition process. But, I very rarely would actually get the role that I was auditioning for, and instead of taking it as what it was, which was that I was simply not right for the role and someone else was, I would blame myself for being sick and not being able to perform to the best of my ability. Yet, I realized recently that if I wasn’t giving my best performance, it wasn’t because I was sick; it was because I walked into those auditions already having given up and accepting that since I couldn’t sing, I definitely was not going to get the part. I didn’t give it my all. I accepted rejection before it was even given to me.

Since I started school last year at Kenyon, I have auditioned for quite a few things from a cappella groups to plays to musicals, and I have faced rejection. A lot of it. But, for some reason, it no longer bothers me. I love auditions. I’ve learned to take auditions not as an opportunity to show off my talent and get a part, but as an opportunity to perform, gain experience, and better myself as a performer. I have made it a habit when I do not get a part to ask the director why I didn’t. I do this so that at my next audition, especially if it’s an audition for the same director, I can be a better auditioner than I was in the past.

Three girls singing

I really do love auditions, but if you had asked me if I did a few years ago, you definitely would have gotten a different answer. It’s about a change of mindset. It’s about accepting that you are only as good as your attitude. It is best to go into an audition not relying on your talent, but rather relying on your ability to accept things as they come and to have the best outlook you can, whether you get the part or not.