Even with having attended quite a few auditions in the last several years, I still get pretty nervous. I think part of my problem is that moment when I walk into the room and see two or three or four people behind a table, staring at me. There's something about being a solo performer in front of a group of people with notepads and clipboards and pencils that brings on that familiar knot in my stomach. A little voice in my head starts to taunt me "They're just waiting for you to fail."
The last few times I've auditioned or presented new work of my own, I've experimented with a little trick I like to call "Fill Your Arena". Instead of focusing on the fear that I'm in a room full of people that want to see me fall on my face and are just waiting for me to make a mistake, I now try filling the room with my people.
I imagine everyone that I have in my life that supports me in the room with me. My mom is there, as is my mother-in-law, and of course, my husband and my cat (in your imagination, pets are definitely welcome in auditions). I fill the room with my dearest friends and family, from high school to grad school--all the amazing teachers and professors I've had over the rooms are there as well. You know who else is in my imaginary arena? Kindred creative spirits, dead and alive, many of them people I've never met, but who I believe who would be willing to support an artist going into the creative arena. Philip Seymour Hoffman is there, along with Charlie Chaplin, and Katharine Hepburn. Liz Gilbert usually stops by, sitting next to Louisa May Alcott. Sometimes Shakespeare even stops by, and if I'm lucky Paul McCartney is there too. With all these people in the room with me, I feel a bit braver. Now, even if my audition isn't perfect, at least I'm sharing something with people I trust.
As it turns out, the audition was right down the hall from the Multi-Purpose Room at Emerson, where I first performed my solo documentary play SafeGuard, almost four years ago. I remember pacing outside the space before the performance started, almost completely paralyzed with fear. I was terrified that I couldn't face an audience with something I had written myself. I felt so vulnerable, like there was no place to hide. Right before the show was scheduled to begin, a friend found me in the hall, put her hands on my shoulders and said "You can do this."
I can still hear that voice whenever I am about to dive into something scary--if I let the voice sink in, suddenly scary feels a little more like exciting. I'll never forget to "fill my arena" ever again--I need that support and love when I'm gearing up to take a risk.
To all of you who have been my creative net, I hope you know who you are and just how much you mean to me. Thank you. I want to spend my life making sure I can provide the same beautiful support for you when it's your turn in your arena. You can do this.
Anyone have any more tricks for cultivating courage in the creative arena? I'm always looking for more tool for my toolbox, so leave a comment if you have any ideas!