SO let's get into it (it's going to be a long and winding road everyone):
I was reading an article the other day called 'Top 5 No Brainers' that outlines a list of 5 things every actor should hold as a… yep. Do I even have to type it? …no brainer… (couldn't resist). Written by a self proclaimed, hyper successful guy named Ken. And I gotta give it to Ken, points 1-4 were solid, true blue no brainers. I started thinking, wow, Ken is not just another pretty face…but then we came to Point 5:
'Don't talk to your competition while you are waiting for your turn to audition. Yes, your competition is psyching you out!'
Okay, hold up Ken. Let's take this apart: Yes, when in the audition waiting room you should do whatever you need to do to be ready. If having a conversation screws you up don't do it, as Ken aptly points out, 'this is business, not social hour'. That being said, screw Ken! Personally I like to talk right before I go in so I'm not stuck in my head. It keeps me present, alive and ready to engage. This doesn't mean I impose myself on other actors, I’m just taking care of my work.
BUT all of this leads to my larger beef with this article: The idea of 'the psych out' and what it means to be a competitive actor.
Don't get me wrong, I'm no angel, this post is not going the way of kumbaya and a shout out for more group hugs in the waiting room. I think competition is healthy. But I do believe there is a difference between healthy, positive competition and useless mind games.
Why are they useless? Here's why (warning, it's about to get real): If you are spending your waiting room time strategically screwing over everyone else you must be a really sucky actor because you are not focusing on what's important: the audition! I think we all have enough to do in that waiting room without adding in the task of psyching out the competition. If for no other reason than you will probably psych yourself out by not being focussed on the job at hand. Isn't there enough to think about and work on without trying to sabotage the other 30,000+ actors in Toronto? Plus if you do book that part, sucky actor, you booked it because you were the best of the worst. You cheated your way into 'cop#2' or whatever it may be, so enjoy it. It will be short lived.
Yes we’re in competition with each other, but other than getting in there with our whole selves and doing our best work, every other part of the decision making process is out of our control. So let’s put our competitive spirit into being great AND supporting each other, this business is hard enough!
Hot damn. Okay, lets pull into the calm station and get off the ranting train.
To prove my point, here is a real-life-feel-good story about competition and support co-existing:
3 friends of mine had an audition for the same part last week. Juliet, in Romeo and...not going to type it... I resist this time. And they all had to prepare the same monologue.
'Maybe J #1' (more fun than real names) asked me to coach her on her monologue. I went over to her apartment, propped myself up in her kitchen and we got down and dirty with the text. She's a beautiful girl who would make an incredible Juliet and her work on the monologue was strong.
While working on her stuff, 'Maybe J #2' came by (And no, Maybe J #2 is not clever enough to be stopping by strategically for a big old psych OUT! She just came by with cookies. And NO not poisonous, die-Juliet-competition-die cookies. Nice people cookies).
Maybe J#1 happily invited Maybe J#2 in and we ended up having a lengthy conversation about the character and the text and both girls had big 'Aha' moments about their work. THEN Maybe J#2 said, 'Do you mind if I show you my monologue'. She did. To us both. It was strong work, but with some more discussion and coaching between the 3 of us it became even stronger. She is a quirky, red headed firecracker and her Juliet would be delightful.
THEN if that's not enough to inspire you, Maybe J#3 (who happens to be roommates with Maybe J#1) came home, saw what we were doing and also got in on the action. The night became a giant work through/discussion of their monologue. They are all good actresses who are confident enough women to know that psyching each other out is not going to get them the part. Casting is a puzzle, and one of them will get the part because they are skilled, confident AND because they fit that puzzle. They know their puzzle pieces are entirely unique from one another and the shape of the rest of the puzzle is beyond their control (I promise never to write such a lengthy puzzle metaphor again. You get the point).
So help each other out people. Your work will be stronger, your confidence level will go up and fellow actors won't ignore you at social events. If you are sure of your skills, there is no reason to psych each other out. If you are a sucky actor, psych away, but know you are only cheating yourself (and you won't knock the good actors off their game, no matter how hard you try).
PS- Alternate name for this blog post was: ‘Momma Said Psych You Out’. LL Cool J anyone?
PPS- I know I said I was no angel, but what IS that angelic glow I keep seeing above my head…