Did you know that achieving peak performance is 90% mental and 10% physical?
Though it is important to always be working on your craft through voice lessons, acting classes, and dance classes, it is just as important to be working on your mental game. No matter how much you train physically, if your mind isn’t in the right place it’ll get the better of you as you walk into that audition room or onto that stage. All of a sudden our limiting beliefs and habits fueled by our stress, fear, and anxiety come to the forefront and we are no longer able to perform to our highest potential.
By creating a personal mental training program, you can re-train your mind to work for you and not against you. Your practice can support you through the preparing, auditioning, and performance process. And even though setbacks are inevitable, having your practice as your foundation will help you to be more resilient and bounce back faster.
Mental training programs are a combination of a variety of fields including sport psychology, positive psychology, and mindfulness. It is important to create a practice that connects the mind, body, and spirit. Most importantly, it is important to create a practice that works for and supports YOU!
Here are 3 tools to get you started on building your practice.
1. Self Talk – The inner monologue that we all have continuously going on in our heads is called Self Talk. Most thoughts can be put into three different categories: Positive, Negative, and Instructional. Instructional being thoughts that help us direct our actions. For example, when executing a pirouette you may say to yourself, “Keep your core engaged and remember to spot. Ideally, we want to amplify our positive self talk, aka our “cheerleader,” and limit our negative self talk, aka our “gremlin.”
The first step in this process is to simply observe our thoughts and acknowledge them. Once we acknowledge our thoughts, we can then start to shift them. Creating a list of personal affirmations, or a personal “litany”, can help to begin this shift.
A litany is a group of positive statements that we have created ourselves that we can then say out loud or silently to help practice positive self talk and create authentic confidence. When creating your litany remember that the statements should be positive and in present tense. For example,
I love to perform.
I am confident and free when I am performing.
I approach every audition with confidence, strength, and openness.
I deserve to be here.
Once you create your litany, it is important to say them every day. The more we say something, the more we start to believe it and then embody it.
2. Visualization – Visualization is a technique where one closes their eyes and uses mental imagery to simulate or recreate a physical place, scenario, or event. Visualization can be used to improve self-confidence, acquire new skills (like learning the dance combination at an audition), manage pain and stress, hone our concentration and focus, and for relaxation. Like everything else, visualization is a practice. It may come easier to some than others, but the good thing is that through repetition we can become more skilled at it.
When visualizing, it is important to clear your mind and create vivid and clear images. Think of the five senses (see, hear, touch, taste, and smell) as a starting point. Be as detailed as you can when visualizing the images or the scenario. Next, implement your mental and emotional feelings into the visualization. This allows the visualization to penetrate and connect the body, mind, and spirit. Finally, make sure that you are controlling your mind by not allowing outside thoughts to distract you or negative thoughts to creep in.
A great way to start practicing is to close your eyes and begin to visualize your bedroom in as much detail as possible. Do this every day for 5 minutes. Once that becomes easy to do you can start working your way up to seeing yourself in the audition room crushing your songs, monologues, and the dance call!
3. Breath Work - Our breath is our life force and the foundation to our being. Many times when we are feeling anxious or stressed, our breath becomes short and quick, which only activates our nervous system to freak out even more. Instead, we want to be able to control our breath so that it supports us, whether that be to remain grounded and focused or energized and clear.
There are many different breath exercises we can learn. Deep breathing is a wonderful way to begin creating a breath practice and is helpful for when we need to get out of our head and calm our nerves. Begin by closing your eyes and inhale through your nose on a count of 4. At the top of the breath, hold your inhale for a count of 4. Then, exhale out your nose for a count of 4. Repeat this sequence several times and then gently open your eyes. This exercise will help you to become more centered, grounded, and calm. From this place, you will feel more confident and ready to tackle the task at hand.
By creating and practicing a mental training program that supports you, you will be able to focus your mind, build self-confidence from the inside out, manage performance anxiety, and navigate stress more easily. There will be no room for your gremlin, just your cheerleader so that you can show up in that audition room and on that stage as your best performing self!
Dance Coach/Mental Training Coach at My College Audition
Stephanie is a NYC based coach, speaker, and director/choreographer/performer. She is a graduate of Emerson College, Smith College, and soon to be Columbia University. You can learn more about her journey as an artist and lover of creativity and curiosity at www.stephanie-simpson.com
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Galinda’s Guide to Preparing and Packing for Your College Auditions
“NYC! Just got here this morning! 50 bucks. 6 unwieldy bags. 5 auditions. 2 days. 1 me… ”
You’ve done it--you’ve drilled your melodies and rhythms, delved deep into your characters’ wants, likes/dislikes, relationships, moment befores, actions, and all that jazz. How fun! Now, you gotta do the thing. Auditioning is fun, but as we all know, it can also be stressful. And unfortunately, you need to be prepared with more than just your 1 minute contemp and your awesome self. You might be thinking:
Packing? How do I pack? What is packing? What do I do when I’m NOT doing my best 32 bars of a contemporary uptempo!? Help! Fiyero!! FiiiyyyYYEEEeeeEERRrrrooooOOO!!!
Well, lucky you, Elphaba! You’ve come to the right blog. Cause today, I’m your Galinda (with a guh) and I’m here to make you popular. Nope. Ready for your college audition travels! (I was close.)
Dads, Moms, Guardians, Future Actors of America, you better get like Katherine Plumber, grab your tiny steno pad, antique pencil, and watch what happens! (Take notes.)
Make one. Just do it. Lists are old-fashioned and great. With EVERYTHING you need to bring. (The cow as white as milk, the cape as red as blood… I mean, come on!, lists are obviously proven to be 100% effective.) No, but really. Save it either to Notes on your phone, as a Sticky on your laptop, or best yet, on a mutually shared family device (perhaps as a Google Doc) that everyone can access, so you can use it each time you are planning for an audition.
Don’t wait till the night before. Just don’t. Trust me. Two nights before--at the latest--is excellent. This way, you’ve allowed time for anything you may have forgotten (picking up the dry cleaning, any necessary laundry, and whatever last minute errands that may need to happen). No scrambling the night before/morning of. Added bonus (and real reason to do it ahead of time!): the night before you get to go to bed early, stress free, and know that tomorrow (travel and/or audition day) you’re rearing to go, well rested, and confident.
*Note on packing for students: Be honest with parent(s)/guardian(s) about how much help you want from them (and take responsibility for your inevitable choice to do it alone, when you ultimately forget something and it’s entirely your fault… just sayin.)
*Note on packing for adults: Leave them alone. Then after they’re done, secretly double-check the list and cross reference for accuracy when they’re not looking. Break a leg.
FOOD & DRINK
...are best. And lots of it! Maybe a little lemon or honey for taste, if you like. Room temperature to warm is best. Caffeine free is nice. NOT ice cold and NOT boiling hot. Drinks that are not room temp have an adverse effect on your voice--they can constrict the muscles in your throat, leading to unnecessary stress and loss of vocal flexibility. Avoid things that coat the throat or cause excess phlegm (like dairy). You know your body better than anyone. Make smart choices.
Things you love and you know make you feel good--energized and strong good, not Friday night after the movies at your BFFs good. Pretzels or softer crackers are great. Larabars. Bananas. Apples are the best--great natural pectin helps to lubricate and moisten the vocal folds and mouth, making speaking/singing easier. Avoid hard nuts or sticky things that get caught in your teeth--you could potentially choke or be bothered by it later (even after brushing your teeth), and you don’t want it to happen while you’re singing or doing your best 14 lines of Romeo. Likewise, nothing that could drip/spill. You’ll be grateful. Later, you can--and should!--celebrate. If you’re in NY, by eating your weight in LeVain Bakery cookies.
In general during audition season, avoid sugar, excess of carbs, and fried foods--these will make you feel lethargic and weaken your immune system. As well as spicy foods and things that can cause acid reflux or erosion to the throat/stomach.
CLOTHING & SHOES
Including shoes, necessary socks, etc. And whatever else you need. Lint roller? Travel-size steamer? (Available for a moderate price, like anything else you could ever want, HERE on Amazon!) *Remember: They say black is NOT this year’s pink! It makes you look like you’re either going to a funeral or on the run crew. Additionally: Gents, avoid blue collared shirts--you’ll see why once you start auditioning...Gals, you do not need to look like a crayola crayon--bright colors are fun, but you don’t need to only pick ONE--mix and match, patterns are great--show us your personality, don’t dress like everyone else--be YOU! You’re wonderful.
Emergency Change of Clothes
Who knows. You spill your tea all over your blouse. Some crazy parent accidentally squirts ketchup from their street hotdog onto your pants. Pigeon poop. You just never know...
Dance Clothes and Dance Shoes
These are important--don’t forget them. (And whatever undergarments, socks, tights, etc. that are necessary/appropriate to go with them).
Make sure it is clean and fool-proof (nothing will accidentally fall out or rip). With any and all music you need, including cuts, extra/back-pocket songs, and all cuts of monologues. But DO NOT leave any material in this binder that you are not 100% READY to perform with excellence. So, if you sang “Let’s Hear It For the Boy” three years ago for your audition to be Dolly Levi in your freshman year spring musical, TAKE IT OUT.
HS/Rs (your headshot and resumes)
Stapled back-to-back, with the separately printed resume trimmed to fit your 8”x10” headshot. Bring a few extra, just in case. Keep them in a plastic sleeve or envelope so they don’t get wet/ruined by spills or bad weather.
Phone, Charger, and Headphones/Earbuds
Perhaps with a playlist of “pump up” or “calm down” music (whichever you need most). Charger. Charger. Don’t forget your charger. Do you have your charger?
*While we’re on the topic: I would make the helpful suggestion to go “phone free” as much as possible-- especially in terms of social media, and perhaps entirely/cold-turkey for that final half-an-hour or so before you go into the room--this will help alleviate your brain and heart of anything they may want to hold onto. The world and all its joys and problems will still be there in a half-hour after you’ve done your magic. Go make some magic! Then troll the internet for puppy photos and videos of delicious food being prepared by other people that you’ll never make yourself.
Any necessary ID’s or items for travel
Self-explanatory, I think.
Including something to take if you have irregular or severe allergies (mine are horrible!), or are prone to headaches or upset stomach, etc. Bandaids are nice too. Any wraps you might need for swollen ankles or knees from dance/sports, etc.
It is FLU SEASON. Especially when you are traveling to unified auditions and will be around many people in a crowded and dirty city (sorry, if you thought you looOoOOoOoved NYC -- it’s DIRTY!) and you do NOT want to get sick. Every time you get off the subway or touch ANYTHING. Sanitize to stay clean and germ-free.
*Note: Especially at this time of year, don’t feel bad not shaking hands with every student and parent and professor and assistant and monitor you meet. They probably don’t want to shake your hand for the same reason--they won’t take it personally if you’re kind about it. Kill those germs with kindness, kids!
I SWEAR by this stuff. All the time, but especially when I am in a demanding show, auditioning a lot, or at times of the year when harmful germs are plentiful. (NOW!) A few times a week, at most--every day, if you’re not feeling well. Really. This stuff is basically magic.
To wipe yourself down after your dance/movement call. You’ll be a bit damp (at the very least).
Deodorant / Antiperspirant
To refresh, as necessary. Please remember to refresh. Please.
Gum/Mouthwash/Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Same as above--whatever method you prefer, whenever you prefer.
Same. Be pretty. Be the BEST version of you. So make sure those hairs are I’m sooo chill unkempt, not I toootally just-woke-up unkempt. There’s a difference. Galinda WILL notice.
ADDITIONAL (not necessary, but recommended)
These are a must for me--when you’re a little sweaty or feeling icky after a dance call, you’ll love them. And similarly, if you’ll want to remove some make-up at some point (since it’s runny already and you’ve sweat most of it off doing your double-pirouettes to The Room Where It Happens 525,600 times in a row while someone screams, “Again! Again!!!”).
These are great, especially as these months tend to be dryer outside due to extreme cold (especially in Chicago and NYC!) and dryer inside due to extreme heating. Use without Menthol before auditions (as it can be drying). But Menthol is lovely if you’re not feeling in tip top shape or a bit under the weather, a few days or a week before.
Personal Pillow from Home
Anything that will help ensure you get a GREAT night’s sleep in a bed that is not your own. Is Cow-Cow the Brown Moo Cow with the cow-cow spots and the patch on his ittle-wittle ear coming toooo000OOO?!?!? He may be useful--not that I am speaking from experience or anything…
Good luck charm
Anything--any talisman--you love that will make you smile or feel confident!
Create a board of images that make you laugh and smile, feel powerful and confident, and/or serene and peaceful. OR a board of images for each of your characters/pieces that help to ground you in the reality of who they are, where they are, what’s happening, and what they need/want. Swipe through it(/them) briefly before you go in!
A Card or Note
Write to yourself about things you want yourself to remember--the possibilities are endless. Whatever you think you’ll need to hear in that moment. Short and sweet:
Breathe. I am enough, exactly as I am. I am ready and prepared. Have so much fun!!! Remember to pee. Be A Boss.
I’ll leave you with one of Galinda’s favorite lyrics, written by the great Stephen Sondheim:
“Anything you do, Let it come from you. Then, it will be new. Give us more to see...”
- Dot, Sunday In the Park with George
Signing off. Have fun. Pack wisely. Be prepared. And just be! Be you. Everything that is wonderful and joyful about you. And share it. All of it. And get sleep. And don’t wait too long to pack. And don’t go to the rival football game the night before. Or power-belt Be More Chill alone in your room while crying. And use your checklist. But most importantly, remember: who you are and what you are able to bring into the room is most important -- so, if you forgot your perfect audition outfit, or your special tea, or your good luck charm, you’re fine. You will be okay. You will be excellent! You are enough, exactly as you are.
Hearts, stars, and lots of luck! broken legs! Give us more to see...
(aka Monologue and Acting for the Song coach, Nick Sulfaro)
Monologue & Acting for the Song Coach - My College Audition
Nick is an NYC based actor and a Monologue & Acting for the Song Coach for My College Audition. www.nicksulfaro.com
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What’s it Like to be on Broadway?
This year, I had the hopefully-not-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform in a Broadway show. From January through September, I was an ensemble member and understudied two leading roles in Carousel. My friends, family, and students wanted to know what the experience was like and honestly, it’s hard to describe. It was incredible, it was hard work, it was tiring, and it was exhilarating. To give you a better idea of what a life in “the biz” is like, I’m going to give you a play-by-play of a typical week on Broadway.
Monday - day off! Yay! Monday is your day to be a human… do your laundry, cook, clean, sleep in, or take care of other appointments. For me, Monday is also MCA coaching day! I am so excited to see my students and help coach and inspire them. Honestly, it really helps me as much as it helps them.
I’m an understudy so I have to keep my phone on me at all times. I could get a call on any day of the week letting me know that either Jessie Mueller or Lindsay Mendez are sick and that I am needed to go on. Sometimes, I get a couple of days notice. Other times, I get about half an hour! You have to be ready to go at any time.
Tuesday - Back to work! Tuesday mornings are usually free - the final part of our very strange “weekend”, so I take advantage of what I can. I finish up some lessons, see a movie in the afternoon, and try to make it to the gym. On Broadway, we get physical therapy on-site, which is amazing. Our physical therapist gives us a thirty-minute Pilates session twice a week to keep us flexible, strong, and injury-free! Then, we hustle to our half-hour. Up four flights of stairs and into the ladies’ dressing room. Our room holds 14 women, so not all of us fit so easily at the same time! These ladies are amazing and I can’t imagine it working without such chill people.
6:30 - Call time. Pin curls, makeup, mics, and costumes. I have to be in full makeup and pin curls by 6:40 for my wig call time. Kaila gets me ready in the wig room and then to Julienne in costumes. After getting ready, I greet the orchestra and wish them a happy show, then head upstairs for circle!
6:55 Circle time! Joshua Henry is a great leader for our group. Before every show, we hold hands, do some deep breathing, and get some inspiration before we tread the boards!
7:00 Show time! Ours is a long show - almost three hours. In the ensemble, we get a lot of breaks, so I usually do some light workouts and stretching or try to complete a crossword puzzle.
9:45 - As quickly as humanly possible, get out of costume, take the pin curls out, get your laundry put away, get out of your mic, and go home! It’s like a race! Literally, I run out as fast as I can to get back home because it’s nearly 45 minutes away. Once home, it usually takes a couple of hours to wind down. I watch some TV, have a snack, and head to bed around 1 a.m.
Wednesday - Two show day! There’s not much time on a Wednesday morning. I usually want to sleep in as long as I can, so I roll out of bed, make coffee, pet my cat, and head out the door by noon. By 1:15, I’m at work and ready to start again. Between shows, it’s gym time. People look at me like I’m nuts, but honestly, it wakes me up between shows. I run back to the theatre by 6:30, grab some dinner, take a shower, and on to show two!
Thursday and Friday - Understudy rehearsals! Nearly every Thursday and Friday, we have understudy rehearsal. This means, you’re available four hours for those two days for any run-throughs or brush-ups required. Also, anytime a new cast member comes along, it’s up to all of the understudies and swings to help them learn the show. On top of the rehearsal, you also have a show both nights. These days can be long, but honestly, I love rehearsal days. We are called around 1-4, then we get a dinner break before we’re called for the evening show. When you’re in the ensemble, you may have minimal time on stage every night. But understudy rehearsal gives you a chance to practice the lead roles, play full scenes, and dip into different skill sets. I’m lucky enough to understudy the lead role of Julie and the supporting role of Carrie, both great characters who are pretty different! It’s fun to flip back and forth. When I finish rehearsal and do the show Thursday and Friday night, I’m filled with more joy and drive in my own ensemble track.
Saturday - Another two show day! Saturdays are pretty fun. It’s near the end of the week, so you’re tired but excited. Plus, who doesn’t love a Saturday night on Broadway?! I sleep in (typical for me), get to work by 1:15, prep, and perform at 2. Once we are done with the matinee, it’s outside to say howdy to the fans, then a quick workout. Before I get back, I grab a bite (usually a poke or acai bowl), then hit the Pilates workout. After a quick shower, it’s back to work. On Saturday evenings, I usually hang out more with the ladies in the dressing room during breaks. We chat, snack on cookies, and sometimes help each other with auditions.
Sunday - Ahh, one last show. Oftentimes, we get snacks on Sundays. Honestly, we get snacks A LOT on Broadway! It’s funny because we are supposed to be healthy and in good shape, but you wouldn’t know it by the looks of our snack tables piled with Schmakery’s cookies and homemade treats! After we finish Sunday’s show, I head out to trivia with my friends. It’s a great way to wind down at the end of the week and give my brain a rest from the show.
When you’re doing the same show eight times a week (or ten if you’re an understudy), you have to find new ways to keep things fresh. I give myself Sunday nights and all of Mondays free from any thoughts about the show. I feel that this really rejuvenates me come Tuesday. It’s a great job, but it’s still a job and jobs are hard work. You have to find what you need to balance that out so your job remains special and you never forget how important it is to be able to share your art with the world.
Acting for the Song Coach - My College Audition
Erica is a NYC based actress and an Acting for the Song Coach for My College Audition. www.ericaspyres.com
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