Play to Your Strengths Image by Gerd Altmann
Imagine for a moment that you’re auditioning for a character, or perhaps have already been cast. As you explore the intricacies of the role and navigate the style of the piece you discover that one or both are unfamiliar. Anxiety sets in and you realize you may be out of your depth. You begin to doubt your abilities and lose the confidence that you may have relied on and even made friends with in every prior acting experience.
This scenario is all too familiar for many actors and can be a vast source of discouragement. I spoke in one of my previous blogs (“What’s In Your Toolbox?”) about taking as many classes as possible and remembering that there is no one right method to acting but rather an amalgamation of opportunities to expand your metaphorical “toolbox”. While this is an ideal outlook to have on general preparation and we should never stop learning, a person is bound to face challenging characters and styles that they have not been exposed to. It is in these moments that tapping into critical thinking skills in order to play to the strengths that you do have is opportune.
Adapt and Develop Your Strengths, Don’t Ignore Them
In regard to adapting to the style, learn from those around you. Conduct research on inspirations for the project and on the piece itself. Draw from similar acting styles that you are more familiar with. All of these things will support you and make you feel more comfortable and confident when you enter that rehearsal or audition room. Focus on what strengths you can bring to the table rather than what you cannot.
Adapt. Listen. Learn.
The folks you are auditioning for want you to succeed. Show them what only you can bring to the table. Whether or not it ends up fitting into their vision of the character is irrelevant at that point and your audition is the performance. If you don’t get cast for the role it is not a reflection of the quality of your performance. Whatever you bring into that audition are your unique strengths which may simply not align with the director’s specific vision of that role.
Your Strengths Got You This Far
If you have already been cast, they clearly chose you for a reason. They saw something in you that they liked and at this point there is no use in doubting your abilities. Your only job now is to use what you have (your training, experience, mind, adaptability, creativity, etc.) to fulfill the vision of the director.
Play for Truth
As for an unfamiliar type of character, when all else fails, simply play for truth. This is a three-dimensional, complex person (or at least a personification of something, person or not) with a history, thoughts, and feelings. Take the information you have been given as a foundation to complete the picture. You don’t have to know how to “play evil” or “play clowny”. Trust in your innate ability to figure out what interests you about this character’s truth and shape this abstract character around that.
There are more voices inside of you than you know.