This post was first published on December 18, 2015 as part of The Green Room on www.newmusicaltheatre.com.
I rode horses for fourteen years before moving to New York, so of course I like to keep up with what’s going on in that world. Recently, I read an article on one of my favorite equine news sites. The article, titled “Bravery is Learned. ‘Practice Your Guts.’,” is based on a quotation from famed horseman George Morris. In this quotation, Mr. Morris relates a story in which one of his riders opted to ride a difficult course in less than opportune weather. When asked why she did this even when she didn’t have to, the rider replied, “I’m practicing my guts.”
A horse is a huge animal with a mind of its own—much like an audition experience! When you have a bad fall (or you crack on your favorite high note), you spend the next few weeks a little on edge. You know that you have to get back on, but you don’t want to go right back to what you were doing when the incident happened. When you finally get back to that jump (or high note), your chest tightens up and you start getting in your own head. You overthink every little step leading up to the jump and in the end that probably leads to another mistake.
When you have a bad audition, don’t let it keep you from going to every other audition ever. The best way to recover is to use your mistake as a learning opportunity. Maybe you kicked the horse too hard or maybe you didn’t kick hard enough. You’re not going to be able to fix things and make them perfect the first time you get back on. But if you approach the same spot with a positive attitude, you’re more likely to move past it. If you approach and tense up, everyone around you (either horse or casting director) can tell. It makes them nervous too and they’ll do anything to get rid of you quickly.
The article cites a rampant need for perfection as what holds many equestrians back from success. I’m 99% positive that the same can be said for actors. We want material to be perfect before we put it in front of other people. But how can it get perfect unless we get feedback? Just performing it in front of the mirror isn’t enough. You must put in all the work and then trust that work to hold up in the room. As the article says, “You can’t always be in control 100% of the time. Sometimes you need to sit up, stay quiet, and just kick on!”