London based-artist and performer, Eve Leoni Smith, stood outside the Theatre Cafe Gift Shop whilst holding up watercolour paintings down Shaftesbury Avenue in London's West End.

10 Things I’ve Learned from Auditioning in the West End

and how I’ve applied these to running my small art business...

Hello and thank you so much for clicking on the link to read my second ever blog post! ‘The Diary of a Dancing Painter’ is a place for me to dump all of the thoughts my brain continuously tangles up, but also to share any little lessons or (hopefully helpful) insights into the life of a creative, both as an artist and as a musical theatre performer.

Spring is all about growing, so I thought it’d be a great time to reflect and share 10 things that I’ve learned as a professionally trained performer who auditions for shows all around the country, including those in the West End. I also thought it’d be interesting to delve into how these lessons have helped me run my art business and keep me going when times get tough. Anyway, I’m not going to waste lots of time waffling so I’ll jump straight to it…

London based artist and performer, Eve Leoni Smith, performing at West End Live with West End Kids.

1. You have to learn how to be your own biggest cheerleader.

This was a tough one for me. It wasn’t until I left my training at Italia Conti Academy that I realised the whole schooling system was about receiving feedback and getting marked on your skills. All of a sudden, I was in this brand new world where you very rarely (if ever) get given feedback for the work you do, and often don’t even get told you’ve been cut from a round of auditions, you might learn via friends who have shared that they got the job on social media. For a while, I had nothing to cling onto, as I realised I’d put my entire self worth into the hands of teachers and superiors who could reassure me that I was doing okay. I had no other choice but to start looking inward and reflect on my performances solely for myself. It’s easy to be your own biggest critic especially when you receive a rejection which seems to confirm every negative thought you think about yourself, but if you have researched a role, prepared everything and have done the best you could then that is always enough and you should cheer for yourself the same way you would someone you love. This applies to pretty much everything in life and it’s been a huge learning curve.


2. There are so many other people with the same dream, and sadly just not enough jobs to go around at the same time.

I remember seeing the thousands in the queue for the Mamma Mia open call audition in the West End, without even considering all of the private auditions that had been going on, and felt quite heartbroken by it. Of course there were some people who had just gone for a bit of fun but most of the people who were there from 3 AM in the morning were trained professionals with great credits on their CV. Sometimes, there are just so many people fighting for that same role and therefore, we can’t take rejections too personally.

3. Leading on from this, there are so many factors beyond your control that determine who books a job.

For example, your casting (the way you look) and who you know can play a huge role in this. Sometimes all you need is one foot in the door to get the ball rolling. Everything is subjective too, what one person might think is amazing, another might not be a huge fan of! Talent might get you seen once or twice, but it’s a dedicated work ethic and an approachable energy that will make people want to work with you time and time again. The same principle applies to artwork. It’s often subjective and completely depends on what the buyer is interested in due to their own personal life experiences which you have no control over! Just be yourself, stay open-minded, and you will attract the right opportunities for you.

4. You’re wanted here and you should not apologise for taking up space.

It's often so hard to even get seen for an audition in the first place! You absolutely deserve to be there. Most performers will have an agent like I do, and it can be extremely difficult to get represented as like I mentioned before, there are so many people fighting for the same jobs. Casting directors will send out a listing for a show, and agents (or performers themselves if self-represented) will submit for an audition. There are often thousands of submissions, and casting directors will spend hours working through headshots to see who might be suitable for the part, and potentially watch showreels to see if they’d like to invite the performer in. An agent’s job is to convince a casting director to bring their client in to be seen, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time or the director might not be willing to take the risk to see someone they’ve not seen before. Often just getting an audition in the first place is therefore a huge achievement and shows that they want you there… I try to tell myself this whenever I walk into a meeting or interview now.

5. Figure out what keeps you inspired.

For me, I’ve learned that listening to music with my headphones on is my biggest inspiration and always reminds me why I started. Anytime I listen to a song, I can’t help but imagine myself back on stage. Certain songs also inspire new ideas for my paintings and content creation. Now, whenever I lack motivation, I know that listening to some music will encourage me to keep being proactive. I love watching shows and others’ performances on social media, however I monitor how much I do this as sometimes it can feel defeating to see others (seemingly) living perfect lives. As much as I’m happy for them, especially my friends who are absolutely smashing it, I think it’s important to focus on your own journey in any career and remember you are your own person and there is no timeline. It's very rare we see how many rejections other people get so it's easy to feel like a failure when doom scrolling on social media.

6. You need to find little joys in life outside of the performing industry. 

When the rejections get tough or the reality of it all isn’t what you always dreamed, it'll feel like there's nothing else to live for otherwise. Yes, this sounds deep, but we are trained to always put our performing career first so it’s very hard not to feel guilty for considering family, relationships and (dare I say) our happiness when presented with a performing opportunity that might not align with our life goals. Hence why I started this art business. It’s something I can control, I love doing it and I know it will always be here whenever the performing industry goes quiet.

7. Just be yourself.

Of course, it’s great to admire another dancer’s flawless technique, or compliment another singer’s effortless belting (in fact, definitely DO compliment each other, we don’t hear them enough when auditioning) but comparison is only going to lower your confidence. A crayon and a pencil are completely different, but they both can produce amazing pieces of art. Wear clothes that show who you are, be kind and remember that no-one else is you and that is an amazing thing.

8. The creative team behind the panel are just humans too.

As much as they might have some power to give you a job, they want the best from you and need to cast people in their shows. I can still be guilty of it, but putting the creative team up on a pedestal only makes you feel smaller. The times that I remind myself I am a trained professional just as much as they are, are the times that I am most confident in myself and give my best performance. We are all equals who are there to do our jobs at the end of the day.

9. Some things just aren’t meant to be and that’s okay.

Sometimes the jobs we dreamed of getting might have caused injuries, or stopped us from getting other opportunities. Trust the process that what you envision at first isn’t always actually the best thing for you at this moment. Allow yourself the time to cry if something didn’t work out, but then sweep it under the carpet and look forward to the next opportunity. We can’t look into the future, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, we always bounce back.

10. Other people aren’t focussing on how bad you are in the room.

Contrary to what people say about the performing industry being spiteful and jealous, I’ve often found it to be the opposite. I think this is half because I just don’t really interact with anyone who doesn’t give me positive energy, but also I think people have come to realise that we’re all in the same boat and it’s blooming tough! We never know what the casting team are looking for and so there’s simply no room (in my mind anyway) to compare ourselves to one another. Everyone else at an audition is just focussing on remembering the routine or doing the best for themselves. Besides, some of the people you meet at auditions will go on to work with you and become the best friends in your life, or even be your future choreographer. You never know who you’re talking to so be kind always.

Setting up my art business and painting each day was my way of taking a little control back into my life. The performing industry is so unpredictable that it felt impossible to plan for anything, and I realised that I’ve always held so much of my identity within it, that if I was ever unable to perform, I would dangerously feel that I was worth nothing and I knew this needed to change.

The comparisons, rejections and sometimes brutal honesty have all taught me so much resilience that in the past couple of years I’ve truly learned to stick up for myself and be my own biggest cheerleader. The feeling of performing on stage after weeks of tiring rehearsals is a feeling like no other, so there is a reason we keep going! There are creative people everywhere, and we all have our own uniqueness that no-one else could replicate, and that is so special that it should be celebrated. I’ve always been very open about my dream to be on the West End, and I’ll be equally honest in saying that sometimes I have wondered if all of the knock-backs are worth it, especially when I’ve found myself extremely close to dream roles, it can feel like torture! But without all of these rejections I wouldn’t have had the chance to grow my art business and create some of my best-selling products, and I’m still dancing away in my reels and doing what I love in another way for now. I've even gone viral since my last blog!!

So basically, what’s meant to be won’t pass us by when the time is right.

Thank you so much for reading and I hope you have a lovely week… keep being you!

Eve x

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