“90% of life is confidence, and the thing about confidence is that no one knows if it’s real or not.”Maddie Perez, Euphoria (HBOMax)
I heard this quote a few months back and I thought: Wait a minute? Have I been thinking about confidence all wrong?
The answer is complicated. Yes and no.
I wanted to listen to Maddie. She’s 17. She’s the same age as many of my students. Maybe she knows something that I don’t. So I’ve thought about this a lot! I think that what Maddie gets right is the idea that confidence is essential to so much of what we do in life but I have a small hang up about whether or not we (or audition panels for that matter) can tell if it’s genuine or not. And I think we can! Sorry, Maddie!
And here’s why… I coach with MTCA! I have worked with over 150 young people who, just like you or your loved one, went through the college audition process so I know just how grueling it can be. I know many of the things that are/will be asked of you and the many challenges that can present themselves along the way. Doubt can easily settle in, take over and derail your natural talents/gifts – things that you have every right to be confident about. Fake confidence can be uncovered with just one word – no. And this is a word that everyone in the performing arts should get acquainted with. Why? Because it’s a normal part of what we do. ‘Yes’ is saved for those incredible moments where everything aligns in our favor.
So how do you cultivate real confidence?
Well, first of all, I should unpack what I think ‘real confidence’ is. It’s the stuff that lets you walk into a room knowing that you have something worth the attention of the people on the other side of the table. It’s the stuff that allows you to ask feelings of worry to redirect and become feelings of excitement. It’s the stuff that logically follows when you take time to prepare, which just happens to be what we’re all about at MTCA – preparation!
So maybe our more specific question is, how does preparation cultivate confidence? What is it about thoughtful preparation that lets our students walk into their auditions with confidence that is real, genuine and tangible? I asked some of my former students what they thought.
Maria Reyes (MTCA Class of 2020, Ball State Acting Class of 2024) says confidence ‘allowed me to celebrate the little victories after every audition’ and that through the process ‘this allowed me to walk into every room, no matter how the previous audition went, and have the same amount of clarity and openness as I had on my very first audition.’ She also adds that even a decision that could seem mindless, like clothing, ‘helped me stay grounded and gave me an inherent confidence.’ From her coach’s perspective, Maria’s growth and perseverance were astonishing. She anchored herself with joy in her work, even in challenging moments. This literally built confidence that wasn’t contingent on hearing ‘yes.’
“[Confidence] allowed me to celebrate the little victories after every audition [and that through the process] this allowed me to walk into every room, no matter how the previous audition went, and have the same amount of clarity and openness as I had on my very first audition.”Maria Reyes (MTCA Class of 2020, Ball State Acting Class of 2024)
Another student, Alec Miller (MTCA Class of 2020, Point Park Theatre Arts Class of 2024), shares that having coaches who were familiar with the process and who ‘believed in me made such a difference in my confidence in myself.’ ‘The more I knew what to expect when I went into the room, the more I was able to prepare. This made me more confident, which helped me to perform a lot better.’
“The more I knew what to expect when I went into the room, the more I was able to prepare. This made me more confident, which helped me to perform a lot better.”Alec Miller (MTCA Class of 2020, Point Park Theatre Arts Class of 2024)
Preparation is literally about rehearsing for the event of the audition, much like rehearsing a play or a musical. And rehearsal does make us better for performance – that’s why we do it! But Alec’s point is very important, having coaches who know this process specifically allows you to prepare in a targeted way. You wouldn’t rehearse for Chicago by singing the music of Footloose and dancing the choreography of West Side Story. And so it follows that you want college audition coaches who know the ins and outs of what happens in this process. Preparing smartly is another key to confidence.
So it all seems pretty simple, right? Confidence is going to be built by putting in meaningful preparation with people who know their stuff (and at some point, finding cute clothing that represents us well). But for many young people, just approaching this process, the pandemic has eaten up formative years of their growth as people and artists and confidence does suffer as a result of this. I know that as a professional. And maybe that’s why Maddie thinks we should fake it til we make it. Maybe that’s why I think she may still have a point. Confidence is necessary. It holds our attention and it helps us see your work more clearly. But we have to work hard to find confidence that not only shows what we do, but also who we are.
As you approach audition season, or just begin the first steps on your journey towards college prep, consider how the material you select and the stories you choose to take into the audition room tell your story most clearly, most authentically, most confidently!
About the Author
Scotsman Marcus Crawford Guy, grew up performing in T.I.E productions, pantomimes and earned his first professional credits with the BBC. He graduated the Dance School of Scotland with an Associate’s Diploma from the Trinity College of London and became the first Scotsman to attend The Juilliard School’s Drama Division. Marcus joined SAG/AFTRA following appearances on AMC’s “Turn: Washington’s Spies” & ABC’s reboot of “Get Christie Love”. Theatrically, Marcus has worked with the Yangtze Repertory Theatre and Pan Asian Rep off Broadway, and in the Little Orchestra Society’s production of Peter and the Wolf at BAM. Marcus’ short films “Sprinkles” and Making David Harper’s Actor Reel have enjoyed success in the festival circuit. As a Teaching Artist: Marcus facilitated programming with Broadway Musical Director Mary-Mitchell Campbell’s not-for-profit, Artists Striving to End Poverty. He has hosted workshops in Southern India at Shanti Bhavan Children’s project and with youth experiencing homelessness and justice involvement. He also teaches Acting Classes to LGBTQIA+ Elders with National Queer Theatre and SAGE USA. Marcus is a guest artist and Irene Ryan selector at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival.