Friday, July 13, 2012


      The auditioning actor lurches in, cheeks frozen into a ghastly smile that looks like a scream for help.  Arms fluttering compulsively out of synch with legs that seem newly-stitched on!  The whole demeanor, that of a Frankenstein creature, newly put together from ill matched parts.  The voice strained through gaps in lips that seem stapled together, sounding first a blare, then a whisper, shifting unexpectedly back and forth from Peter Lorre to Piper Laurie.  The body, a Kafka-esque battle shell, suddenly the metamorphosis to protect the tender, inner core at the impending doom - THE AUDITION!
    An exaggeration?  Perhaps not.  But think back…maybe it was even worse.  It's possible that all the distortion took place beneath the surface.  Not wanting to or being able to deal with it "just now," it was pushed down and then candied over with a carefully crafted guise of relaxation and confidence.  A pity!  The obvious monster would have to deal with the problem…right now.  The other thinks…at last….CONTROL.  The fear covered by rehearsed expression, poise and the line readings as easy and natural as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, but (to the astute eye) the effect is like the mask covering the destroyed face of "The Phantom of the Opera."  That eye sees the actor reacting to the auction like poor old Lon Chaney to a full moon.  at least he knew it was going to happen.  Some actors don't have a clue as to their condition.  They have gotten so used to pushing it down and hiding it, they don't know they've sprouted fuzzy ears and hair…..beyond the help of depilatories.
    The actor's fear cuts the brain off from the natural senses, creating a true monstrosity, a kind of bodiless brain.  In a normal state senses feed a constant stream of information to the brain but when panic sets in so does distortion.  In nature, an animal threatened with danger is flooded with an adrenal surge abetting fight on flight.
If injured severely, nature has provided a "kindly" way out called "shock," allowing the about-to-be-eaten animal to slip away into a painless death.  An out-of-touch actor can lean toward either of these extremes in adrenal surge.  The danger is in doing too much…to the point where injury to the self or others is possible.  A lean toward the clammy-shock state may result in INABILITY TO DO ANYTHING.  In humans, an overly fearful imagination, limited experience with pain or the sight of blood, can result (even when there is no serious injury) in death from shock.  It's doubtful that many actors have died from Audition Panic, but certainly careers have.


    Symptoms are not always obvious but are evident to the trained observer.  There is a lessening of the free body and facial and vocal expression available when we are not in a comfortable rapport with our environment.  As the "paralysis" sets in, the cut-off brain starts replacing natural expression with puppetted robot-like facsimiles.  It is the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers."  The replacement looks like us, but somehow never is.
    To break the pattern, the actor must take logical steps.  Perfectionist impatience expects a complete solution to appear in one logical flash.  The truth is there.  It isn't any kind of magic and that scares us.  Our fear is what frightens us the most, so we quickly try to push it away.  Don't!  IF YOU CAN LEARN NOT TO BE AFRAID OF YOUR FEAR OR ADMISSION OF ITS EXISTENCE, you can start to use it as a tool.  The crucial moment is the one in which you first become aware.  Don't try to push it away or cover it up.  Let it be!  Examine it without trying to correct it.  Experience it for what it is.  It's there for a reason.  Give yourself the courage to find out "WHY."
    Acting auditioning, in particular, is a scary business, so it's understandable that a person would like some kind of guarantee.  The first step is usually making a lot of decisions on line readings that are quickly locked in like armor.  The good or great actor, however, is never quite sure what's going to happen.  He incorporates this aspect into the materials of his art form.  I like to think of life as a series of potentials - each moment behind a small door, waiting to (whether good or bad) to be experienced.  The minute you decide a head of time that you have made it "safe for yourself" you've blown the moment.  You will never know what might have been.

By: Bruce Glover