Here’s the scenario: You wait outside the audition room minutes away from being called through the door. You feel your nerves kicking into “overdrive” and your confidence slipping away. You know that you are prepared to do good work, but experience tells you that your nerves are likely to get in the way.
This is what you do: Give yourself one minute – one full minute – to engage your brain, your imagination, and your power of concentration to move yourself away from nervousness and into your dramatic circumstance. Living inside your story is a much more powerful, and fun, place to be than waiting in a crowded room for your name to be called.
Create Your Dramatic Circumstance
- Think of your song as a story in which you are the central character.
- Determine what events in your story have brought you to the point where you have to sing this song in order to get what you want.
- Determine your other – the person to whom you are singing.
- Check in with your body (either sitting or standing) and feel yourself "long" through the torso and "wide" across the chest.
- Inhale deeply (3 counts in) and exhale completely (6 counts out).
- Imagine that your other is standing in front of you.
- Continue your deep breathing and give it some time.
By taking these steps you will learn how to become a part of the story you are telling, and as you spend this time “living inside” your story, you will find that your dramatic circumstance comes to life, your “other” comes to life, and – most importantly – you come to life with increasing clarity, power, and freedom. Most importantly, you will also discover that the time it takes to get inside your story – to get inside each song you prepare – will get shorter and shorter.
Give Yourself a Minute
You are back in the waiting room. You feel your nervous system starting to run amuck. It’s time for you to take charge. So start by sitting up straight in your chair and finding a spot across the room on which you can focus all of your attention.
- 15 seconds – Inhale deeply (3 counts in) and exhale completely (6 counts out).
- 15 seconds – In your imagination, in just a few sentences, tell yourself the events of your story that lead you to this point of interaction with your other.
- 15 seconds – Allow your imagination to turn that spot across the room into the other person in your story.
- 15 seconds – In your imagination, again in just a few sentences, recreate the dialogue that compels you to take the action that is your song.
Any performer, from the novice to the experienced professional, knows that fear is the thing that can too often keep us from doing our best work. Fear can erase hours of practice, a well-developed technique, and – most critically – our belief in our own ability. I find – based on my experiences as an actor, director, writer, and teacher – that the steps laid out in the Dramatic Circumstance process are a consistently effective and powerful way to combat the effects of fear on a performer’s work.
Give it a try. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.
William Wesbrooks, Director & Music Associate Professor
NYUSteinhardt: Program in Vocal Performance
Author of: Dramatic Circumstances: On Acting, Singing, and Living Inside the Stories We Tell. Click here to purchase the book now!