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Audition Series: What Do I Do With My Hands?

Greetings, Downstagers! Another week, another audition tip. Let’s get to it.

As our students gear up for auditions, we hear the following question a lot: “What do I do with my hands?” It can be a particularly frustrating problem for our students to encounter, because it signals the awareness that something more can be done to elevate a piece—but the answer feels out of reach. If you’ve ever asked the “hands” question (either in rehearsal or while performing), you are not alone. I have certainly experienced a disconnect between my mind and my body many times, and it can feel crippling!

But, you’re asking the wrong question.

Instead of worrying about what to do with your hands, try asking yourself, “Why do I feel physically blocked right now?”

There are two very different reasons that might explain why you don’t know what to do with your hands, and they have to do with your story analysis and your nervous system. Let’s break it down!

Story Analysis: Always go back to the story when you’re feeling stuck—your answers lie only there. Dig deep into the story to discover what the character is experiencing and what you can do to show that to your audience.

Here’s your prompt: How can I physically charge this moment even more, to bring this character’s story to life?

Example: If your character is on the precipice of a new, exciting journey, what might their body look like? Are they feeling extraordinarily uninhibited, suddenly calm, anxious, overjoyed, relieved? How might their emotions show up physically?

Nervous System: When we are feeling the weight of stress, doubt, or anxiety, our bodies immediately respond without us knowing—our biology really is that smart! Pretty cool, right? Our nervous system is trained to aid us in survival and help us decide between fight, flight, freeze, or fawn modes—you can read more about these here. So, what happens to our bodies when our nervous system is hard at work? Among other possible side effects, we can experience muscle tension. The reason why you don’t know what to do with your hands might stem from your body feeling different, maybe even restricted, or controlled by your nervous system. Remember: this is something that our body naturally does, so it’s totally normal!

Here’s your prompt: What can I do to calm my nerves?

Example: WIll you stretch your body beforehand or focus on your breath? Perhaps you can listen to your favorite song that makes you feel good? What about thanking your nervous system for working hard to protect you?

There you have it, Downstagers! You've learned two very-likely reasons as to why you may feel physically disconnected. Next time you're wondering, Ahhh, what do I do with my hands?, you can pivot to either (or both) of our solutions!

We’re loaded with audition tips, and we’ll take a deeper dive into audition nerves next time! Remember, you are you, and that is your artistry.


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