Member Workshops & Seminars
How to Stop Dreading and Learn to Enjoy Auditioning
By Nancy Slusser
On Thursday evening, August 7, 2008 member Michael Kostroff, known for his theatre, film and television work, gave a riveting seminar at AEA's Audition Center, entitled Audition Psych. 101. The event was hosted by the Eastern Region Member Education Committee.
Michael Kostroff at AEA in New York City
Over 100 AEA members and Equity Membership Candidates were in attendance as Michael offered his personal insights and experiences about the audition process and coached participants, who were enthralled by the nearly four hour event. At the end, everyone agreed the evening was a terrific success.
With credits ranging from HBO's The Wire to the national touring companies of THE PRODUCERS and LES MISERABLES, Michael gave a candid view of what we lovingly like to think of as the "dreaded" audition. Dreaded by many since we love to get auditions and ultimately want to be hired, but most of us hate the process of walking in to an audition and strutting our stuff. Michael was quick to point out that he was here to talk to us because he had once coined himself "The World's Worst Auditioner." He now has learned to enjoy himself while auditioning and thus has changed his fate in the arts.
Michael had many good points to share over the evening, including the fact that an audition is the ultimate chance for an actor to do what he or she loves to do--act, even if it is just for three minutes during the audition. He talked about preparation techniques, how not to psych yourself out and how to add dignity to a sometimes awkward situation of auditioning and "selling yourself" to casting directors, directors and producers. He spoke about many mistakes that he himself has made and those we all make. Michael's anecdotal audition stories brought the entire audience to laughter and groans. He struck a nerve in every person attending. "Sometimes we are brilliant and sometimes we stink." But he said if we love what we do we have to find a way to use the audition process as a tool. Michael said that while he started acting on the East Coast, he left NYC 18 years ago to pursue his dream in Los Angeles. After moving out west and greatly improving his audition techniques, he not only booked a multitude of jobs in film and TV, but also eventually landed a job on the 1st National tour of THE PRODUCERS understudying Max Bialystock. He loved having this opportunity to fulfill certain theatrical dreams he had had, while not being a Broadway veteran actor. Michael says that he had fun, made Mel Brooks laugh and savored the multiple audition process it took to finally book the job. He has written a book about his experiences on the road entitled, Letters from Backstage: the Adventures of a Touring Stage Actor. (Editor's note: An excerpt from the book appeared in the March, 2006 issue of Equity News.)
While Michael's stories of success and failure endeared this attentive group to his personal journey, the biggest message of the evening was that we all can ultimately tackle this beast called the audition. We project who we are from the minute we are seen, even before we utter a word, he said.
When the odds are against us in mathematical terms of booking a job, Michael says that each audition is an opportunity. If we have fun and enjoy this process we can be successful. Just of few of Michael's tips: Take care of the casting directors. Many times they are just as worried about getting their next job. Don't make them take care of you. Take your time and breathe. And, If you are lucky enough to get direction from a director or casting director, take it. Finally, my personal favorite: Don't be afraid to be brilliant! Don't back off or wait for permission.
By the time the evening had concluded every actor in attendance felt a renewed sense of strength and knowledge. Strangers had become friends in our lounge and Michael made us all realize that anything is possible!
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