Practice Wary Optimism

When it comes to auditioning, practice wary optimism

Like much of the world, I became acquainted with the show Ted Lasso this past year, and was enchanted by it and its creator and star, Jason Sudeikis. I already knew of him from Saturday Night Live, but I just thought he did journeyman’s work, nothing really stand-out. He made me laugh, but sometimes I mixed him up with Taren Killiam. No more.

In a recent interview, Sudeikis talked about what the interviewer referred to as an explanation of his “particular brand of wary optimism” with a quote he attributed to Michael J. Fox:

Don’t assume the worst thing’s going to happen, because on the off chance it does, you’ll have lived through it twice.’ So…why not do the inverse?

This reminded me of an attitude I have tried to adopt and to teach about auditioning. When I lived in Milwaukee, I got very frustrated about the audition process and I started showing up with an attitude that this was all a waste of my time, and I wasn’t going to get hired anyway.

So I gave auditions that were brittle, and self-protective, not particularly interesting, and guess what? I wasn’t hired! So I did exactly what Sudeikis, by way of Michael J. Fox, said: I lived through it twice. I went in thinking the worst would happen, and then it did.  (I wrote about this pattern in auditioning and in other parts of my life back in July, 2013, shortly after moving here. You can read about it in more detail here.)

This was pretty much my mindset:

Wary can mean suspicious or mistrusting, which are negative connotations to take into an audition, but it can also mean cautious, circumspect, and most of all informed.

You can’t walk into an audition convinced that you’re going to get the part.  Nope. You don’t have that information. You have to walk in with the information that you do have, which should be:

    • You know your music backwards and forwards
    • You know what you’re singing about
    • You know for whom you’re singing and what the audition calls for
    • You know there’s a possibility that you might not be cast, but you aren’t going to take it personally

At that point, you walk into the audition knowing that you’re going to do what you love doing, telling a story with music, showing who you are (i.e., being vulnerable and authentic) and that you’re going to do the best you can. The audition panel is going to do what they have to do based on the information they have – and you have no idea exactly what that is beyond the things in the audition notice. There may be factors in play which mean they can’t use you at this point – but they can keep you in mind for future productions.

If you walk in giving off just plain wariness, which I did back in the day, you probably won’t be cast because you weren’t capable of showing any vulnerability or giving an authentic performance. There’s even a possibility that you might not even be granted an audition in the future.

If you walk in with an optimistic, positive attitude, but with the internal knowledge that this might not pan out – this time – you might not be cast that time. You might not be cast next time. But maybe another time.

When it comes to auditioning, practice wary optimism

I can’t find the Michael J. Fox quote anywhere except as paraphrased by Jason Sudeikis. I think that something that you need to keep in mind is to be wary, but not show the wariness. You have to show the optimism. And most of all, as Ted Lasso also says, you have to –

Ted Lasso pointing at the Believe sign in the AFC Richmond locker room

Another thing Ted Lasso says on the show is a quote of Walt Whitman’s: “Be curious, not judgmental.” Coincidentally, my studio tag line is “Curiously Strong Singing.” If you’d like to work on singing from a POV of curiosity and not judgment, why don’t you find out how to work with me? I have a few spots open for the new year. 

Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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