Meisner, Movement & Presence

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Audition Mistake #2

Last week I wrote about presence.  As in, Presence.  About fighting what’s true in the moment and killing any chance of being who we really are because we’re…fighting what’s true in the moment.

There is nothing more important than living in the danger of the moment.  Its uncertainty.  Its vulnerability.  Its complete unpredictability.

I’m repeating myself on purpose, because this is the crucible of acting we all seek to avoid, EVEN WHEN WE KNOW WE DON’T WANT TO AVOID IT.  And I’m repeating myself because I believe the next biggest mistake is in preparing for auditions.  And while it’s true that a surprising number of actors don’t prepare enough, it’s even more true that most of us use the wrong preparation.

What is the wrong preparation?

Deciding how to say the lines.

It’s probably better to under-prepare than to decide how every line should be said and then deliver those decisions.  My friend, Don Foley, used to do any co-star audition as an improvisation–he barely looked at the lines, let alone memorized them.  He thought it was fun to throw himself into it, using his real self, and learn the lines as he went.

He booked, a lot.

So if the wrong preparation is about line readings, what is the right preparation?

Well, that’s a class–to really talk about preparing every aspect of walking into and then taking the room.  But the start is:

1) Figure out what kind of role it is.  What does the role serve?  What is the function of the character?

2) If it’s supporting, guest star, or leading role, the next step is to really delve into how you identify with the character, and then start to replace the people and events they talk about with people and events from your life, so that everything is as real and specific as possible.

The biggest mistake actors make is in deciding how to say the lines instead of creating a world that is emotionally rich.

3) For co-star roles, the opposite is true.  To create too much for a one or two-liner means you’ll steal focus, and it also means you don’t understand what your role is for (always to support someone or something else).  For co-star roles, the prep is to not act, and just do it as you would in life in a similar situation.

And with this, and all other prep, the job is then to go in, tell the emotional truth of your body and the moment (in your tone, in your emotions, in your personality), trusting that the understanding you’ve developed will filter in as it should.

Like I said, a start.  Presence is dependent on truth, and that means allowing yourself to experience your nervousness or any other feeling.  Preparation is about bringing yourself into the role…either by not acting, or by the most profound identification you can find.

Go forth and act!

And if you want to learn more, Uplevel Your Auditions is coming this fall.  Email if you’d like to get on the email list.


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The Most Common Audition Mistake. As in, Numero UNO.

I hate to be a broken record, but really, is there anything that doesn’t come down to presence?  That’s what we all want in auditions…to be present, to get into the moment, to show who we are, including our talent, to not block it, not go into our heads…we want this desperately.  We feel terribly when we know we fall short.

And yet.  And yet it is in the trying to not feel what we feel, to not be who we are…it is in the controlling or trying to control our own reality that we send our own presence right out of the room.

The first mistake actors make is to try not to be nervous.  We think there’s the perfect audition state, and in searching for it, we try not to feel so many things…basically, anything uncomfortable.  The trick is to be open to feeling whatever it is.  To give in to the body and its nerves and to accept it, work with it, let it be the grist for the mill…because the only other possibility is to go into your head and not be present.  It’s mindfulness applied to acting.  Putting attention on what’s uncomfortable, breathing into it, and then expressing it if it’s still there when it’s your turn to go.

I had terribly audition anxiety.  TERRIBLE.  My casting ratio went through the roof when I stopped fighting it.  Now I’m like, hey, hello nerves.  They still come, I still get ramped up, but I’m not scared they’ll take me out of myself.  They are just a part of who I am.

The other common mistakes–which are more about how you prepare the text, how you look at it, what the role is for…those are more about training and education.  They are more easily fixed, in a way.  But first, you have to be present.  And it is possible to grow that.  It really is.