Feelings. They’re powerful, and as a Thespian, you probably have plenty to contend with – nerves before auditions, anxiety leading up to a performance, and the general stress of being a student.

When you successfully manage emotions, they can help you become a better actor and find more joy in your theatre journey. But how do you learn to make your feelings an advantage?

Math Matters, Here’s Why

Wait! You thought we were talking about feelings and now you see the M-word: math. Fear not, we’re only talking about the basic math of the booking ratio.

In simple terms, a booking ratio is the assumed number of auditions an actor does to get cast once (or to be booked). In the professional world of acting, agents have an expectation of how many auditions are reasonable for an actor to do before winning a part.

For example, an agent’s booking ratio may be 1:25, meaning 25 auditions should lead to one booked gig.

Both sides of this equation

First, think about the ratio from an actor’s point of view. You may need to prepare and audition for 25 different shows to get one role! That’s an average, of course, and your actual experience could be fewer or more auditions.

Understanding a booking ratio this way helps you avoid living and dying by each single audition. Prepare methodically, then show up with passion and a desire for the part. Once you’ve done what you can to stand out, trust the process.

Second, the flip side of the booking ratio from the agent’s point of view helps actors understand that it’s a realistic expectation to do 25 auditions to earn a role.

Set your own booking ratio

The professional world of acting is a much larger sphere than your high school troupe’s productions and/or community theatre opportunities combined. Yet now is a great time to set realistic goals and, again, not live or die by each audition’s results.

Know how many opportunities lie ahead in your high school and/or college theatre career. Set a goal, prepare, and trust the process. The reality of auditioning beyond your school career will seem less brutal with a realistic approach.

An audition for Dear Evan Hansen at the International Thespian Festival 2018.

Audition Prep Includes Positive Thinking

A wise mentor once said: “YOU are not sad. Sadness is on you.”

Let’s back up. Imagine another audition is coming and you’re eager to get a part in the show. You’re nervous about the actual audition, happy about the opportunity, then suddenly “sadness is on you.” Those emotions of sadness may include a heaviness in your body, tears springing to your eyes, a tightness in your throat. Why? Because you remember not getting a part in the last two auditions.

Suddenly your mind thinks: “I’m not good enough to be an actor, so why am I even auditioning? I’m making a fool of myself trying out and no one is telling me how bad I am!”

Stop right there. When sadness is on you, YOU are not sad. You’re having a combination of body reactions then thoughts. Yes, it can be uncomfortable or even downright painful so go ahead and set a timer and ugly cry for five minutes. We get it.

After five minutes though, remind yourself you have power over those thoughts and stop them immediately. Take a cue from the meme that says, “You’ll talk more to yourself than anyone else in your lifetime. Talk kindly.”

Negative thoughts waste valuable prep time

If you’ve decided to audition, and you have a legitimate concern that you need to improve in a specific area, talk with your troupe director. Get input from trusted advisors on how to sharpen your skills for a better chance of winning a role. Use positive thoughts to redirect your focus on productivity that helps you grow.

Once you’ve stopped that rash of negative thoughts, ask yourself what you’ve learned since those previous auditions when you didn’t get a role. Remind yourself, for example, that you’ve learned to make better audition selections. Or remind yourself that the weight training, running, or yoga you’ve been practicing has helped you be more physically able to handle on-stage fight scenes. Even remind yourself of the booking ratio and the fact you’re not going to get every part (1:25!).

Student performers rehearse for the International Thespian Festival opening show.

You Got the Part! Now, the Next Hurdle

Congratulations! Now let’s get ready for the rigor of rehearsals. The director’s job is to bring all the parts of a production together for a thrilling performance. Their job is, in part, to identify problems with the show and work with the team to solve them for a better outcome.

It’s important to have thick skin during rehearsals. What do we mean by “thick skin?” Train yourself to not react negatively to criticism or corrections. Learn to listen to the corrections with an open mind. Regardless of how the critique sounds, there’s goodwill behind it: the director wants to help you have your best possible performance.

Directors are only human. Like you, they’ve likely had a long day before even getting to rehearsal. And just as your personal life or your physical well-being changes from one day to the next, so does the director’s. We rarely know what others are dealing with.

Of course, if you think you’re consistently being unfairly treated by the director, make an appointment to speak with them, face to face, outside of rehearsal. Be ready to share a couple specific examples of when you felt you were treated unfairly and give them a chance to respond. Clear communication, paired with your thick skin, will go a long way. Together you’ll likely forge a stronger working relationship.

Emotions Are an Asset, Not a Lability

As a Thespian, there’s a chance emotions are even more present in your day-to-day as you step out of your comfort zone on and off the stage. The bottom line is it’s OK to feel them. 

The thing to focus on is how you turn them into an asset. Whether it’s putting rejections into perspective with your booking rate, setting intentions during your audition prep, or opening yourself to feedback once you get a part, there’s plenty of strategies to try. 

And if all else fails, remember, the best plays and musicals are the ones that take the audience on an emotional roller coaster – leverage yours to make it happen!

Patty Craft is a regular contributor to Dramatics.org.

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