Being an actor is weird. Contracts for certain shows come and go without any real consistency, so you end up auditioning for new jobs almost as much, if not more than you spend working on shows. So basically being an actor means mastering the art of auditions.
School was a lot about this for me. It was a lot of lessons on how to walk into a room effectively, how to dress, how to do your hair, how to perform your monologues and songs under pressure, etc. Even when I was auditioning for college programs there was a lot of emphasis on finding the perfect audition outfit. You needed to stand out and look your best. All the girls were in their beautiful jewel tone dresses and nude heels with their hair neatly done and the makeup on point. It was like a line of little musical theatre minions.
Then in college, I remember going out on a shopping run with one of my faculty members, because she was going to help me find my “audition look” for our showcase in New York. We found the perfect pair of dark jeans and a nice colored top and a cute pair a booties. A little different from high school, but it still felt fun and cute. And it was faculty approved, so I was doing good.
Now that I audition so frequently, I still have that showcase outfit that I break out every once in a while. But lately, I’ve developed a new habit for auditioning.
I almost always audition in my Keds.
You know? Keds. The cute little canvas sneaker. I know it sounds silly and small, but I really think my Keds are kinda what make up my style and wearing them just makes me feel like me.
I have spent a lot of my professional career trying to figure out my “type.” Actors can usually perform a wide range of roles, but you end up fitting specific kinds of characters that you’re usually hired to play. Well, all my professional life I’ve been this 5’9” girl with a soprano voice and pretty solid comedic timing. I was too tall to be a typical ingenue, and my voice was too high for the comedic roles. Who am I supposed to be??
In college, I would try to predict what roles I would get or how casting directors would try to cast me. You know where it got me? In a lot of chorus parts, never feeling like my full authentic self was being showcased. I was holding myself back, because I was trying to look and act how I thought people wanted me to look and act rather than just acting like me.
A few years ago, I was auditioning at a theatre that I had auditioned for numerous times before, so I already knew the drill. I knew everyone in the audition room and they always remembered me and said hi. At this point, they had seen my go to audition outfit a few times and heard almost every song in my book. So I decided to switch it up. I went in and sang a song that I like to sing, just because I like to sing it. And I did it while wearing a cute summer romper and my favorite Keds.
And after auditioning for years and going through an entire BFA musical theatre curriculum, that audition may have been the most authentic I had ever felt.
I was comfortable, and I was myself.
Another teacher in college used to say, “be you until someone gets it.” So basically, acting is all about being your authentic self, because that is the most interesting thing you can be. Don’t pretend to be anyone else, because they’re already taken.
And I feel like I’m finally embracing that. Heck, I auditioned last week in front of a room of 20 new faces, and I felt totally comfortable and in control. What a cool feeling.
What if my “type” isn’t a role I have to play, what if it's just me? What if this quirky, bubbly person who walks around Disney parks and shopping malls in Keds can walk into an audition room with the same energy? What if I decided that the full, funny, ridiculous, and down to earth person I am is all that I have to be?
Sometimes, all you need is a pair of shoes to ground you in who you are.
Now you may be wondering why I’m spending so much time telling you about my realization about how to be a more authentic actor. Well, because I think the lesson here runs deeper than just acting. Go back and read that story again, but this time, replace every time I say “actor” with “person” and “acting” with “existing.”
As people we spend so much of our existence trying to be the person everyone else wants us to be. We do exactly what actors do. We try to fit in to “type” and look the part and get approval from people who are in charge of our fate. We try to present a version of ourselves that looks appropriate and expected, rather than just enjoying who we are and showcasing that.
There will always be someone telling you how to enter a room or what you should wear or who you should be. But if they’re not speaking to your truth, they shouldn’t matter.
So what are the Keds of your life? What is the thing that makes you happy and comfortable in your own skin? The thing that gives you an extra boost of confidence when you walk into a room. Sure, it may be a tad unconventional, but if it's you, then I say, embrace it. Stop working to be the picture perfect image the world expects you to be. Be the picture perfect image of an authentic you.
Remember you're not going to book a role in your own life by trying to be someone else. You're not a member of your chorus, you're the main character! And this story is a unique one that can only be told by you. So be you, be real, and be bold.
And, if it suits you, feel free to do it in cute and casual footwear!