Auditioning is a permanent feature in an actor’s life. In the first of a series of articles, Camilla introduces us to some techniques to help you battle the nerves and know your stuff before you enter the room.
No matter what stage you are at in your career, whether you are auditioning to get into drama school or wanting to land a role, you will have to walk into an audition room to get the job of your dreams. The sea of jobs is smaller than you think, and there are many fish just like you.
So how do you walk in with a chance of getting the part? By not letting your thoughts takeover and relying on instinct in the audition. But pure instinct isn’t character or play specific, so in order to enable you to feel confident, I’ve collected some techniques to help you prepare and allow yourself to just act and not let those nerves get in the way.
Warm up your voice (and body)
In an audition, it’s important you can be understood, that your diction doesn’t sound like you’re speaking with a potato in your mouth. You have to be heard, but not like you’re holding a megaphone – you have to adjust the volume to your audience, and the people in your scene. If you’re too quiet, you’re off voice. If you’re shouting, you’re pushing. Warming up your voice is essential for making it resonate in your body. An unhealthy voice is not sustainable, but you don’t get a healthy voice over night. A way to combat this is to grease those vocal chords every time you practice your speech.
What you will need:
- A studio or room where you can move and lie down on the floor
- Try to find a space that’s nice and quiet where you won’t be disturbed.
- When we are warming up we need to use our full volume
- A yoga mat (not essential) or a towel?
- A speech or scene
Breathe from your stomach, not your upper chest. This way you are using your diaphragm, or your ‘support.’ This is vital for an actor to sustain a healthy voice. When you breathe in, your stomach should go out. It feels weird the first time but if you’re struggling then start by lying on the floor with your hands on your belly and see if you can push them out.
Now you are ready to start the exercises.
Exercise 1: ‘Keep calm’ and roll down
This is a great way to start a warm up, but it also does wonders if you’re feeling the nerves before entering the audition. You can trick your body into thinking it’s calm, the same way you can trick it to feel there’s immediate danger (by letting those bad thoughts get to you!). I think we can all agree the first one is preferable.
- Make sure you are grounded for this – stand with your feet in parallel, about a foot’s length apart, make sure your knees are slightly bent and that your back is straight. Imagine there’s a string attached to your head, pulling it upwards. Relax your shoulders, and make sure you breathe!
- Slowly roll down towards the floor, letting your head drop first. Imagine your head is filled with lead and as it slowly drops, it brings the rest of the body with it. Make sure you keep your knees slightly bent so you don’t damage them.
- Let your body hang down towards the floor, shoulders and neck totally relaxed. Take a few deep breaths here. Imagine you are breathing into your lower back.
- Then slowly roll back up, vertebrae by vertebrae. Let your head be the very last thing to come into place. Make sure your shoulders are relaxed all the way.
- Make sure you stay in the final position breathing into your stomach for a minute or so before you move. Enjoy the calm!
Exercise 2. Warm up your body and face
- Massage your face – your jaw, forehead, cheeks and eyes. Yawn a couple of times to release your jaw. Tightness in the jaw makes it look like you’re ‘pushing’ the emotion when you act.
- Chew imaginary chewing gum, making sure you move your jaw.
- ‘Clean’ your teeth with your tongue by moving your tongue around in a circle, touching your teeth. 10 times clockwise, 10 times anti-clock wise. It’s harder than it sounds!
Exercise 3. Vowels and consonants
- Lie down on your mat or the floor, making sure your arms are by your side, and that your knees are up. Start humming, imagining you’re sending the sound up to the ceiling. Make sure your jaw isn’t locked or tense.
- Start humming and then release the sound on a vowel (mmmAAAAA, mmmAY, mmmIE, mmmEY, mmmIIIII, mmmmOOOO, mmmUUUU, mmmOY). Then add consonants in front of the vowels (tAAA, dAAA, pAAA etc). Try to get through them all if you have time.
- Stand up. Imagine you have a drumming stick in both hands. Imagine the whole room is filled with drums, and each drum has a sound assigned to it (e.g. the door could be P). It doesn’t matter which is which or if you mix them up, just make sure each consonant goes to a new ‘drum’.
- Hit the imaginary drum stick on the drum as you say each consonant. They come in groups: p-t-k, b-d-g, m-n, v-r. S is the odd one out – you can do this for longer.
- Start slowly and with each little ‘group’. Hit the ‘drums’ in one order, making sure you exaggerate the sound of the consonant. As you get more confident, you can speed up, and mix up the groups.
Exercise 5: Speak a text with only vowels/consonants
- Speak a text with only vowels/consonants.
- Once your voice is warm and you’ve stretched your jaw, find your speech.
- Read it out loud saying only the vowels – make sure you take your time and that you’re really specific.
- Switch and read it only saying the consonants (this one is hard on the jaw but persevere! Make sure you massage it after).
- Read out the speech as you would normally do and notice the clarity. Your diction should be much clearer, and your voice should resonate more. Use your own accent!
Exercise 6. This is my space, I have the right to speak
This exercise looks at volume, and how we can feel confident filling a room with our voice.
Make sure you are grounded for this.
- Say the line “This is my space, I have the right to speak”. Start by holding your hand in front of your face (so you can see all of it) and say the line to the middle of your hand. How loud do you need to be to reach that spot? If you’re shouting, you’re probably pushing it. Just say it to the target in the volume that’s appropriate.
- Move your hand and say it to a place in the room that’s close to you. Keep finding points that are further and further away and repeat the line to them. Never shout. If you’re shouting, you’re not using your support and you’re damaging your voice. If you find yourself shouting, check that you’re standing right, and go back to a point closer to you.
Follow the related posts below to explore more of Camilla’s tips.
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