Strange but true: Confront what scares you and it will stop scaring you

The first professional audition I had I was paralyzed with fear. In the waiting room, I let myself get psyched out by the other actresses that were talking with familiarity about the casting director.  When it was my turn, I could barely slate my name and made no small talk with the casting director at all. I didn’t even say hello.  I was just trying not to throw up.  I’m pretty sure that’s not what they were looking for.

But the best thing about my experience as a commercial actor in NYC was that it made me good at auditioning for commercials.  Some days, I would have 3-5 auditions in one day.  I would have a giant bag of wardrobe choices I would lug around on the subway, changing from a sullen teenager to a cheerful bank teller or whatever that day demanded. Repetition polished off my rough, nervous edges. By the end of my time in the city,  the entire process was so demystified and was I rarely if ever nervous.  It had become mundane. That experience directly informs how I audition now, and the confidence I have in the choices I make in those auditions.

Its become part of my work as an actor to try to confront what scares me in this same way.  I enrolled in the Shakespeare studio for this reason.  The first class, I was panicked.  There were seasoned Austin pros in the class. Everyone was getting up and just doing their monologue like it was no big deal. I was watching them, trying not to get hives. Finally, when I got my nerve up,  I did the ring speech from Twelfth Night. When I read, I was not thinking of the words, but of everyone in the class and how they had so much experience and what was I even doing there and oh dear God, they were all looking at me.  I was freaking the fuck out.  I was awful.  I wanted to go back to my seat and be out of my misery, but Ann didn’t let me off the hook that easy.  She told me to sit down on the floor and do the speech again, paraphrased in my own words. I took a deep breath, tried not to look at Babs George, and said the speech conversationally.  While I couldn’t say it was any good, it was much, much better.

And so that began the journey of demystifying Shakespeare.  It was a wonderful gift to myself, I now love and read Shakepeare for my own enjoyment. I’ve been in the Studio off and on for almost a year and a half, and will continue in the spring. And while I may still feel far from as accomplished as some of my studio mates, I feel completely confident in my ability to perform alongside them.  And look forward to being in an Austin Shakespeare Festival production one day.  One day it will happen.  And I will deserve it because I worked for it and took that first scary plunge toward making it easy.

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1 Comment

Filed under Auditions

One response to “Strange but true: Confront what scares you and it will stop scaring you

  1. Oat

    You can do it, Jenny! I believe in you!

    Also, I can directly relate to your initial fear of performance (or in my case, just public speech), except that I haven’t gotten over mine yet. I really did a horrible job when I presented my paper in Orlando two years ago, and I am really hoping not to do a horrible job when I present my research to the American Helicopter Society in February. I was thinking about joining Toastmasters to get over the fear, but I doubt it would work quick enough to help me in February. I just need to practice a lot.

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