Last week I spoke with a group of actors during a charity event put on by Life Through Art Foundation. One of the awesome actors there was a CD workshop devotee. She’d been to so many CD workshops that she’d begun to let the collective advice derail her every audition. Her question to me went like this:

“So-and-so told me to always keep sides in hand. This other CD said to be off-book every time. One casting director mentioned that adding a button would make the difference in booking. Another told me that if I change a syllable of the text, I’m blacklisted. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like I’m walking into every audition with a gorilla on my back and I spend so much time worrying that I get everything right that I end up blowing it every time. How do I fix that?”

Ouch. My advice to her was simple. First, stop that. Second, seriously, stop it. And third, oh for the love of all that is holy, stop that!

Remember when you were learning how to drive? Your mom said always tap the brakes. Your dad said never tap the brakes. Your big brother said put the car in neutral when you’re going down a hill. Your cousin said slow down by downshifting. You read the little booklet from the DMV and learned a whole bunch of laws you never knew existed — many of which you’d never even thought about — and you had all of that swimming around in your head too. And then you took driver’s ed. When it came time to take your test, you were so filled with information that you could hardly remember “hands at ten and two” and all of the conflicting advice, opinions, and actual laws were swirling around at once, making it very hard for you to concentrate on anything at all. High anxiety, eh?

That’s what’s going on when you’re trying to remember all of the advice at once. “This CD said do this.” “That CD said do that.” “My acting coach said never do this.” “The last director I worked with said definitely do that.” There’s that gorilla the above-mentioned actor was talking about. And guess what we see, when an actor who carries all of that noise around enters the room? Not the actor. Not the work. We see the gorilla. It’s huge. How could we miss it?

I think it’s great when an actor can learn that one particular CD prefers one thing and another prefers another thing. That’s good information to have. And what I recommend an actor do with that information is make note of it, store it away, and when you’re reading for that CD, pull up that research and refresh your memory on what that CD is going to like best. There is no one set of rules that we all use. We have so many different opinions on how we’d like to see actors operate. And that’s a good thing! It means there are some of us with whom your instinct-driven choices are going to click. And yes, that means there are some of us who are really going to dislike your approach. So what? You can’t possibly know what each and every one of us is going to want or need every single time. And trying to keep up with that is like trying to juggle all of that very well-meaning advice you got when you were first learning to drive.

Remember the first time you got behind the wheel and just let all of that advice go? You’d gotten your license. You had practiced enough to feel like you knew what you were doing. And so what if your hands slipped from ten and two? So what if you forgot to signal 100 feet before your turn? So what if you didn’t keep exactly three car lengths between you and the car in front of you? You still got to your destination. And more importantly you enjoyed the journey. The gorilla wasn’t on your back anymore. You just drove.

So that’s what I want you do to when you enter the audition room. If you’re the kind of actor who carries around all of that conflicting advice, unsure of your own choices because you’ve heard so many different “rules” about how it should be done, I want you to remember learning to drive. I want you to remember how liberating it was the instant you turned off all of that good and not-so-good advice. I want you to remember how much of your life now is spent just driving and not thinking about all of those rules!

Come on in, do your thing, have fun, and let it all go. Get that gorilla off your back or you’ll stop getting invited in at all. It’s not that we don’t necessarily like gorillas. It’s that we’re looking to cast you and we can’t see you when you bring in something that huge, that overbearing, that “in charge” of how you behave. Just drive.

So, how do you stay in the driver’s seat? Any tips to share? Pop ’em in the comments area below. 😀 And if that gorilla still gets to you sometimes, lemmeknow how I can help out with that!

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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