A few tips, tricks, and suggestions for dealing with audition and performance anxiety:
As a pioneer in research surrounding impairing anxiety that occurs surrounding the audition process for performers, Michael Jacobs has a unique perspective on the treatment of both performance anxiety and audition anxiety. His own experience as both a professional performer and a voice teacher has informed his research and the development of treatment tailored to the needs of both amateur and professional performers.
DO I HAVE AUDITION ANXIETY?
While audition anxiety or stage fright may be unpleasant, it is not dangerous or harmful. Since physical symptoms such as shaking, sweating, blushing, nausea and shortness of breath are uncomfortable (and sometimes frightening), people tend to believe that they should avoid any circumstance that brings them on. If related to anxiety, these are normal physiological responses, and are not dangerous. Surprisingly, the best way to make the anxiety worse is to start avoiding the things that bring on the anxiety. Many performers engage in escape behaviors that temporarily reduce anxiety in the moment, but ultimately make it worse in the long run. Some examples of these behaviors from our work include:
not properly preparing for auditions (not warming up, not going to class/coaching, not practicing)
over preparing for auditions (spending more time than a trusted coach would suggest)
apologizing in the audition room
switching material at the last minute due to fear
What is interesting is that our minds often come up for legitimate reasons to avoid doing things that scare us. Maybe we convince ourselves that we don't have time or money to go to voice lessons, but we still go buy a new pair of shoes. Perhaps we tell ourselves that we won't be able to get off from work in order to attend an audition, and don't bother trying.
Ok, that's me...so now what?
WHAT TO DO
There are three things that you can start doing now to move in the right direction:
1. EMBRACE YOUR ANXIETY SYMPTOMS:
Rather than trying to escape your anxiety symptoms, try to invite them in. Welcome the sweating, trembling and dry mouth. Trying to push anxiety away only makes it worse. If I told you right before entering the audition room that very sensitive "anxiety detectors" were being attached to you. The casting director is ONLY concerned about your anxiety level. If you have any anxiety, you don't get cast. If you have none, you automatically book the role of a lifetime. What are the chances that you would book the role? The anxiety is already there and it isn't dangerous. You may as well not make it worse! what the feature is and why it matters for visitors, customers or clients. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn! Take this opportunity to emphasize the important benefits or key advantages.
2. START ENGAGING. STOP AVOIDING:
So what can you do if you find you are engaging in avoidance? Start attending auditions, and come up with a solid plan for how you would like to "be" at auditions. Would you like to be prepared and show up for all of the auditions that are appropriate for you? Pick concrete, achievable goals like, "I want to go to a vocal coaching before I audition," rather than emotion-based goals like, "I want to be less anxious at auditions." As I mentioned earlier, trying to fight the anxiety only makes it worse. If you are having trouble coming up with concrete goals, you might imagine what advice you would give to a friend about how to prepare, what to attend, etc. and stick to that advice.
3. SEEK THE RIGHT PROFESSIONAL HELP:
Additionally, you should be working with a therapist and/or a coach who is experienced at helping you to discern between these anxiety-based behaviors and more helpful behaviors. For example, it may make sense to change your song at the last minute if you receive new information about what the casting director wants from the audition monitor, but not because you suddenly become worried that you might not be able to belt that high E during the song.
If you are looking for more help dealing with your audition or performance anxiety, we suggest looking for a therapist who uses scientifically-based treatments for performance anxiety or social anxiety such as CBT or ACT. Our ACT for Actors protocol is an example of adapting methods that have been shown to work for other types of social phobias to the specific needs of performing artists. The program is offered in both group and individual therapy formats.