I recently found myself dealing with what is arguably the most difficult part of studying to become an actor, that being rejection. After a considerable amount of hard work and investment, as well as moving through a preliminary audition and an intense callback session, I ultimately looked upon a cast list that did not include my name. The emotions that threaten to come to the surface at such a moment are powerful, and it was all I took to go home and close my door before letting them pour out. Extreme anger, resentment, self-loathing, and doubt spewed forth in a torrent that lasted for at least an hour, and afterwards it was time to take stock. At this point in my life, as a student still a year away from entering the real world, what did rejection mean to me?
First you have to understand that being turned away in a university setting is decidedly different than when in a professional atmosphere. When I step off campus and dive into a public pool of actors, I hope for the best. And if it doesn’t work out and there isn’t a role for me in a production, I’d like to think I take it very well. Granted, this tune may be different when I go to New York and have to hit the ground running every other day, but for now, I don’t take offense when the door is closed. However, I spend almost all of my time within my university’s theatre department, so when I’m not needed, it’s a bit like being rejected by a second family. I know the directors and other actors well, so it hurts when their response is negative.
And unfortunately, when you’re hurting the results can be unproductive, at least in my case. A lot of questions peck at the back of your mind incessantly, most of which have answers that don’t make any sense or are extremely exaggerated. Am I completely without talent? Obviously, says the destructive mind. Are they trying to tell me that I might be better off doing something else? You’d be better off digging ditches or serving drinks, the brain states matter-of-factly. Should I ever audition for anything again? Ha! Why bother? You’ll only fail again. You get the picture. It’s not a pretty period, but to a certain extent it’s expected if you’re ever to pick yourself up again.
The key to handling rejection is clichéd but true, and it’s to take a good look around and thank your lucky stars for the blessings you do have. Professionally, I’ve had a great time this year, what with the production and success of my first play, a host of opportunities to act and sing in front of audiences, and even more on the horizon. So in the grand scheme of things, what does one audition matter? Absolutely nothing. Years from now I hope to look back at my passive-aggressive self and be glad to know he is now much healthier in his views and expectations. I’m certainly on my way to being that person, even if I do slip and fall into states of self doubt. The journey must always be more important than the destination anyway, especially for someone hoping to be an actor. Success is a mirage, so to not attain it is not reason to curse yourself.