Hello, readers, and welcome to the Downstage Arts blog! We are jumping back into our audition series, which is dedicated to helping performers feel their best as they seek artistic opportunities. In our last audition series post, we discussed the frequently asked question: “What do I do with my hands?” We consider the previous question to be related more to nerves than anything else, and it bears a simple solution. (It will be helpful to read that blog post along with this one, folx.) As proposed, we are further exploring nerves and how we can both support and use them to our advantage.
To start, we remind ourselves that when our body senses danger, the nervous system reacts naturally, to warn and protect us. We all experience nerves, but the way that our body reacts to them differs from person to person. You can read about some common side effects, such as tense muscles, higher heart and breathing rates, digestive issues, nausea or other syncope symptoms, racing thoughts, and intense feelings.
Next, we invite a new perspective surrounding nerves. It might feel counterintuitive or naive to believe, but what if nerves are . . . a good thing? What if we view our worries and stress as a tool to level up our performance—does that seem like a stretch? Well, speaking of stretching, here’s where part of the solution lies: a pre-audition physical warm up! Runners hydrate, stretch, and warm up before a race. Students prepare for tests by studying, sleeping and eating well, limiting distractions, etc. Indeed, we are suggesting that it is equally advantageous for performers to properly prepare, as well.
So, what does our idea about “warming up" have to do with nerves? Breath work, stretching tense muscles, and engaging muscles can give your body and mind opportunities to emphasize and center your stress. Don’t think of a pre-audition warm up as mindless movements around the room that you perform simply because we told you to do it. Make your pre-audition warm up work for you. Here’s where the fun part enters: your pre-audition physical warm up can be whatever you want! You have the freedom to discover what makes you feel grounded. Lean in (pun intended) to your nerves, and re-shape them into a positive inner monologue. If you are unsure of where to start, try the following: head, shoulder, wrist, ankle, and full body rolls, yoga poses, jumping jacks, brisk walking, and so on. Bonus tip: plug in those headphones and listen to some music or a podcast—whatever might bring you joy.
Jitters, we all got ‘em! By channeling our nerves, instead of pushing them away and remaining afraid of them, we can give ourselves opportunities to unleash them to feel more grounded and exhilarated as we audition.
As always, Downstagers, you are you, and that is your artistry.