Saturday, May 01, 2010

My Cure to Audition Flatlining = Exaggerate First Beat

A persistent difficulty for me in auditions is that under the gaze of auditors I too often don't do what I've rehearsed:  my work too often flattens out.  It compresses.  Highs are lower and lows are medial.  Whites and blacks turn grey.  This happens to me LESS frequently than it once did--MUCH less frequently, actually--but if I'm too eager to please I can find myself in the same old trouble.  Earlier this week I rehearsed an audition for a company I very much hope to work with in the future, and after walking into the room, in which I found myself facing a panel of mostly twenty-somethings--as well as one guy my age--I reverted to old 'protective' stage habits, i.e., habits designed to hide rather than reveal myself.  The work I did was not terrible, if only because I can't quite do 'terrible' any longer, but it was generic.  I 'connected' but not from out of the world of the character for which I was auditioning.  The work I did felt actually distasteful, to me, and probably did to them.

Other than prepare as well as I can there is one thing I can do that will help (and did yesterday in an on-camera audition):  stretch my expressiveness further than feels natural--i.e., be willing to exaggerate--especially at the top.  If I allow myself to exaggerate that first beat, I can flip myself into the 'brighter' and more reactive modality I need to make my work read.  "Exaggerating" does not mean not filling action with internal work--i.e., letting the 'expressiveness' be bigger than what's feeding it from inside--which would be deadly and I'd soon find myself back in community theater.  '"Exaggerating" means--for me at least--going 'bigger' than what I feel is natural at the moment, remembering that at that moment--that moment in from of auditors--I'm feeling unnaturally shy, or vulnerable, more 'visible' than I really am.  Exaggeration in this instance is my self-corrective for under-existing.  It worked for yesterday's on-camera audition.

Again, I want to be clear:  "exaggerating" may be a misleading way of stating this for an actor trained the way I am.  The word helps me in this very specific instance, when I'm not quite the same actor in front of auditors as I am the actor who was rehearsing to be there.  In every other circumstance, I would not say to myself, "exaggerate," but rather "match the word to the action and the action to the word," as per Hambone's advice.


Patrick Wohlmut said...

A friend of mine who at one time had trouble staying on pitch said that her choir teacher gave her the advice to "sing on the black keys." When asked, "What the Hell do you mean?!" the teacher explained it thusly:

When you are nervous, and you try to sing in a major key, all too often you either feel that you know how to do it so well that you don't pay careful attention to what it is that you're doing, choosing instead to focus on the parts that you perceive as "difficult"; or you concentrate on the entire piece so hard that you miss the target for near-sightedness. The result is that when you shoot for a major tonality under either condition, you either sing slightly sharp or slightly flat - in her case, almost always flat. Aiming for a "black key" instead of a "white key" - in other words, intentionally pitching just a bit sharp or flat using creative visualization - can help with the problem.

My friend is a very visual person, so it worked for her. Her pitch problems never came back. Though the two metaphors don't necessarily mesh, I think this points to the heart at which you're driving the spear. You intentionally perceive the internal score of that piece with a slightly different hue and value. You defamiliarize yourself with it in order to sharpen your focus on it. It's a mental trick.

If what comes out of that feels exaggerated, it's because anything that is new, or viewed with new eyes, does seem exaggerated. Colors are sharper, lines are more defined. The whole thing seems like a prodigy. Then you slip into it and you think, "Aaaaaaaaaah... I remember this." The safety of home.

Anyhoo. I'll stop rambling now.

David Millstone said...

Patrick - That's great, defamiliarizing the material (for that moment) is what this does, I think. Also: after I wrote this but before I saw your comment, I remembered what Jeff Lesser, a Philadelphia voice coach, said to me in a session a few weeks ago. He told me to come in 'over' the note--from above--rather than straight in at or below it, and that helped me land my pitch with none of the wobbling around I'd been doing before. I think that's also what I'm discovering helps me in audition: come in from sharp and settle in after that.