Just Tank One

by Noah Applebaum on May 11, 2009

Just Tank One.

Congratulations- you’ve come all this way and you finally have a few auditions. It’s a scary process to have worked so hard to get past one obstacle only to find yourself staring into the jaws of an entirely different beast. This one is bigger, meaner, and more direct. When we set ourselves up with fruitful situations and they finally flower into true opportunity, we have put in the legwork on the business side. Almost forgot about the creative side, eh? How terrifying it is to be judged in a matter of seconds and perhaps roasted over the proverbial fire after much sacrifice.

Sometimes, it is a matter of focus: when all of the conditions aren’t perfect, how can we still dig down and find that concentration to do what we know to be right as it pertains to our craft? To me, if we don’t test ourselves under these circumstances, there will always be some form of doubt which can negatively creep over our subconscious and have quite an adverse effect on our performance. Simple solution: tank one.

I kid you not, there is nothing more liberating than being completely uncomfortable in your skin for whatever reason and throwing that uncertainty in front of a casting director. In the moment, it feels wrong and you may even feel intense self-disappointment, but the minute you walk out of that door and back to your car (which if you’re in LA most likely has two or more parking tickets by now) you might be surprised to find yourself breathing a sigh of relief and muttering “that wasn’t so bad.” That’s an “A-ha!” moment we all need to experience as actors.

My first stand up comedy open mic was nerve racking. I was on stage in front of angry comics waiting impatiently for the open mic show to begin. I had spent the better part of the previous few days furiously memorizing almost 8 minutes of original material I had pulled in from all over my radar. This personal connection to the material only multiplies the pressure. I was to work the timing out on the fly and foolishly thought I could utilize my improv comedy skill set interchangeably with seasoned comedic rhythm (the latter of which I hadn’t in the slightest). Just as I was about to begin, the organizer, who happened to own the comedy club, asked me how many minutes I had prepared. I told him “around eight.” He replied “well, you have three.” I had twenty seconds to gather my thoughts and then I launched into my bit (albeit now more streamlined). Guess what? I felt rushed; off of my game; unclear in my segues and an uncomfortable disconnection with my audience. It wasn’t that bad. I even got a laugh.

I can vividly remember how that felt- to feel naked and somewhat violated on stage; completely insecure and self aware. No props. No fellow actors. Kind of like a lot of auditions I go to…imperfect conditions where adjustments need to be made in an instant without a lot with which to work with. When you know that at your absolute worst you can still walk away mentally unscathed from an audition, this thick skin/experience gives you a leg up the next time around.

My challenge: do some open mic comedy or toss an audition on purpose or both. I promise this rite of passage will serve you well in your acting future.

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