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Careers Clinic: Did a joke ruin my audition chances?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I just had what I felt was a good audition for a soap part I would love to land. The casting director seemed to be very pleased with my reading, and I was in the room for much longer than the two people waiting before me.

Although my agent had already sent over my availability information, I was asked to confirm if I was available for the shooting dates and the casting assistant mentioned that my self-tape had been liked a lot by the producer.

With all of these positive signs, and the relaxed chatty atmosphere, I was in a very ‘up’ mood when it was time to leave. I made a joke about hoping I would get the part “even though my mum was a big fan of the rival soap”. I was hoping for a laugh, or at least a smile, but instead I got a very frosty: “We’ll let you know.”

Now I wish I had kept quiet. Not for the first time, I keep replaying the casting over and over in my head wondering if I have lost a good part by not keeping my mouth shut.

John Byrne’s advice

For what it’s worth, if you are right for the part, I don’t think one misjudged joke is going to lose you the role. Equally, if you aren’t right for the part, even if your witticism had been met with full-on rolling on the floor and tears of laughter, it probably wouldn’t have changed the ultimate decision.

Either way, we don’t yet know the outcome. What we do know is that, like many actors, you struggle with post-audition overthinking. That’s not a problem exclusive to this profession but it can make a very tense period even more stressful. It is also one of the most common post-audition feelings that experienced actors I have known over the years talk about, usually followed by advice to ‘learn to let go’.

That is advice I endorse heartily. The only problem is that, as actors, we know that when we practise our breathing exercises and vocal warm-ups consistently, we are doing so to make sure those skills and qualities are available to us when we need them without us having to think too much about them.

Unfortunately, if we are given to habitually worrying about and replaying auditions in our heads, the overthinking process will often ingrain itself in a very similar way. For this reason, catching ourselves when we start overthinking, just as you have done here, is a very important first step in addressing the issue.

The next step is to remind ourselves that, although it can feel like we are doing something useful by replaying the events repeatedly in our heads, we really aren’t achieving anything more than just wasting time and mental energy. Different actors have different personalities so how you change the habit will vary according to what works best for you.

Many actors do find it useful to reflect on how auditions go, but in journal form rather than just in their heads. Writing thoughts down helps capture useful lessons, but also makes more outlandish thoughts easier to spot and debunk before they take hold.

Others find that allowing themselves a short period for post-audition analysis works well, with the understanding that once that period is done, they move firmly on to other activities and thoughts.

A great solution to placing too much store on the outcome of one particular audition is to start work immediately on whatever you can do to generate more auditions or pieces of theatremaking. In fact, that’s not a bad way to spend your time, whether or not you suffer from overthinking.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne

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