1. You will hear "No"... A lot.
Here's the thing, you will go on a lot of auditions and you will not get cast in a large number of them. This DOES NOT make you a bad actor. See in the city they have a ridiculous number of actors to choose from. The actor who gets the role doesn't have to be any better than you, they just might fit the part better. Professional actors are "Typed" and that means based on your look you will be considered for a specific selection of roles and most of the time not considered for others. Knowing your type is a huge advantage for a professional actor, because it allows you to choose your audition material in a way that will highlight your type and therefor make it easier for casting directors to imagine you in a role. One of my teachers at New Paltz, Paul Kassel, said it best, "You might be the best Orange they have ever seen, but if they are looking for an Apple you are not going to get the part." But you still give it your all, because next time around they might be looking for Oranges... Which leads me to my next point...
2. You never know who you are talking to/performing for.
I once did a Commercial Acting class at Weiss-Baron down in NYC. An outside observer came in to watch our final presentation. Turns out said outside observer was a casting agent. About a year later I got a phone call out of the blue from my agent, "Michael, a casting agency called and they would like you to be an extra in a movie." The casting agent, we discovered, was the observer from Weiss-Baron who happened to be looking for kids to be extras and remembered me from the Commercial Class an entire year previous. The flip side of this is something I have seen happen before as well. I went to an audition where another boy was complaining to one of the receptionists who happened to be walking by about how he had been waiting too long for his audition. When I went into the audition room a few minutes later, guess who was not only running the audition, but also the casting director... If you guessed the man the other boy thought was just a receptionist, you would be right. The moral of this story is always be on your best behavior when in the city, you never know who might be connected.
3. Sometimes people know your competition.
So you arrive at your audition, you are all excited, the receptionist says "Hi" and directs you to the waiting room. The kid behind you comes in and the receptionist leaps up, "Hey Johnny! How have you been? How's your mother doing?" It is clear that "Johnny" has worked here before, and probably has a leg up on people they don't know. Don't let it shake you, just do your best.
4. Lots of times, you will be acting your part of a two person scene across from someone who sounds like a robot.
Okay, that is a weird sounding intro, but let me explain. You go into your audition, you get into character and speak your first line with all the acting and gravitas it deserves. Then the Reader who they hired to be your "scene partner" (I use the term as loosely as humanly possible) looks down at his script and reads the response in a disinterested monotone. It is one of the hardest things in the world to act against, a scene partner who gives you absolutely zero, and it doesn't happen every time, but unfortunately more often than not. See, Readers are paid to read the scene partner lines so that the people behind the table can focus on the actor auditioning. They literally read the same lines over and over again, for sometimes hundred of actors, over a couple of days. I don't know if they just can't work up the enthusiasm for it anymore or if they are instructed to read it that way as to not influence your performance... Either way it is really annoying... As has been the theme, don't let it get to you, just do your best.
5. You have to LOVE auditioning, possibly even more than performing on stage.
Most of us think of auditions as scary things, we are going somewhere to get judged on something that means a lot to us, that is scary. Most of the time we are not 100% and we have to go do our best anyway. But as I said before, most of the time you are not going to get the role. That may sound harsh but it isn't, it is simply the nature of the business. That is why you have to make yourself love auditioning. You love to perform right? Don't look at auditions as a test to see if you are allowed to perform somewhere else, think of every single audition as a chance to do what you love, perform! Those people at the table are not judging you, they are your audience, and believe it or not, they want you to be amazing! Because then their search is over, they have found the one. If you subscribe to this philosophy two things will happen, first you will handle the "No"s better, and second you will give consistent, strong auditions without the nerves getting in your way.
Professional acting isn't easy. But you should always strive to make your dreams come true. I hope this series has given you enough information to make some educated decisions about acting as a career and the necessary information to put your best foot forward if you decide to pursue it. As always feel free to comment either here or on Facebook with any questions.