Ilana Levine Stays Curious
The atmosphere of auditions can overwhelm us, put us in our heads, and take us out of the scene. Ilana sits down with Justin to discuss her audition anxieties, finding truth in imaginary circumstances, and the best haircut she’s ever gotten.
Ilana Levine is a seasoned stage and screen actor best known for the Broadway revival of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown. She is also the host of the podcast Little Known Facts. Connect with Ilana on Instagram at @littleknownfactspodcast and Twitter at @ilanalevine.
Welcome to the thirteenth episode of Audition Secrets!
Justin chats with Ilana bout her podcast, Little Known Facts, and why she started it. A friend of a friend was starting a podcast production company and reached out her to see if she was interested, and after some serious thought, she went for it. She found parallels between character research and interview research, and she was excited about the opportunity to have longform conversations with her friends in the industry.
Let’s get this podcast started
Ilana knew she wasn’t technologically savvy, but she knew that she could have great conversations. She wasn’t afraid to ask for help, and she encourages other to feel the same. She reminds potential podcasters to stay authentic to themselves; don’t pursue what you think might be popular, make what interests you. Like anything else, practice makes perfect! Have three episodes ready to go before you launch
Ilana grew up near New York City with a mother who loved Broadway, so very early on she was turned on to the magical, beautiful, transformative world of the theatre — as an audience member. She was raised on musicals; her first was Annie, and to see kids her age doing that was a revelation. Between high school and college, Ilana was getting her haircut in Teaneck, New Jersey, and she saw a man with a Samuel French edition of a play. She got to talking with him and, before she knew it, he’d invited her to audit his acting class in Manhattan. She remembers being struck by the safety of and vulnerability and respect within that room. The community of it all seriously compelled her.
Months after enrolling the acting studio, it came time for Ilana to perform a highly personal, individual scene. Halfway through her presentation, she realized she wasn’t pretending anymore, and the emotions she was creating became real for her. This was a major breakthrough in her self-realization as an actor: all she needed to find was a kernel of her reality inside of the character’s reality, and build on that with her imagination.
Mistakes were made!
Ilana has thought a lot about auditioning because she’s been doing it for over twenty five years. Early on, she realized that she loved performing, but that her body didn’t understand that. She’s had to come to terms with the fight-or-flight feeling that still overtakes her from time to time. Sometimes, she’ll even talk through an audition in the third person.
Beta Beta Beta
Ilana remembers a pilot season earlier in her career when she was auditioning six times a day in some cases. She shares her experience using beta blockers (a medication that lowers blood pressure and blocks the effects of adrenaline; please consult a doctor before you do anything!); she found it effective, but ultimately was not interested in taking anything to manage her audition anxieties. She found the adrenaline to be essential to her process.
Ilana thinks the secret to her success might just be her curiosity. She finds it to be an equally nice quality to have and to be around. When curiosity is at the forefront of an audition or rehearsal room (or in life!), collaboration and communication are at their best. And simply put, she believes people want to be seen.
A little more conversation
Ilana wants actors to remember that casting teams are comprised of humans! Don’t be afraid to ask questions — or offer authentic compliments. Be human, and remember it’s just a conversation.
Read me a story
Ilana tries to ground herself in the fact that this industry is really just about storytelling. She suggests that all actors have experience as a reader — the person reading the other lines in an audition setting. You can learn a whole heck of a lot, as Ilana and Justin have.
Follow Justin at @justinguarini on all social media!