Those of you who know me know that I am very dramatic, and it’s only fitting that the past several weeks have brought some dramatic emotional ups and downs and also some shifts in perspective for me. It’s summerstock audition season for us theatre folk, and along with that comes stress, stress, and more stress. And boy, did I feel the stress.
Luckily, I am finished with all of my auditions and I am proud to say that I did not get any callbacks or book anything. And I mean it. I am proud. Not the typical response of an actor who doesn’t know what his next job is going to be–but again, dramatic shifts in perspective. Let’s talk about it.
The first thing I have to say is: props to anyone who even goes to these auditions; they are stressful, long, and we all deserve a pat on the back for just doing them. From the outside, being an actor, especially a musical theatre actor, might seem like a walk in the park, but it’s not. We work hard. We meticulously pick out the perfect songs for whatever season we are auditioning for, spend hours in dance calls trying to kick our faces, figure out travel plans to get to where we need to be, etc. It’s a process. Not to mention we also have to perform our songs (and perform them to the best of our abilities) to hopefully just be considered for a callback. So yes, I’m proud of myself and all my wonderfully talented friends for just having finished the auditions–we did it, y’all. Let’s get drunk.
But again, that’s not the only reason I’m proud of myself for my unsuccessful attempts at getting a summer job outside of Bloomington. I did two weekends of auditions in a row, and my two weekends could not have been more opposite. I’m going to get very honest about my experiences now, and I hope it is not TMI for my school friends reading this; I’m never one to drone on and on about how this audition went and blah blah blah whiny annoying actor talk, but in this case I hope you will see why I felt the need to share my experience.
My first weekend I had my Midwest Theatre audition, which is where you audition for a bunch of theatres at one time, you dance for them all, they give out callbacks to who they’re interested in, etc. You get how the process works. I had my audition, and I felt amazing about it. I danced, and I even felt amazing about that too. And then I only received one callback. It was for a theatre that I wasn’t super interested in, only because from the sound of what they were offering, it just wasn’t really what I wanted to do. And that’s okay–I say always trust your gut instinct, and if your gut is telling you you’re not interested, listen. But the moral of the story is: I was crushed.
Absolutely crushed, devastated, almost crying in the hallway while I watched my friends travel back and forth to their callbacks. I don’t usually react to rejection this way, but for some reason the blues hit me hard this time. I sat there, contemplating why I had picked this career; why was I in this BFA program, did I really deserve it, will I ever be talented enough? I also was freaking out because I then started contemplating changing careers, but I was like IT’S TOO LATE I’M ALREADY A JUNIOR MY WORLD IS GOING TO END BECAUSE OF THIS ONE AUDITION.
Like I said, dramatic.
So that happened. I drove home that night with an amazing friend, and that made me feel a lot better. Over the next week I talked to several close friends about my experience, and that helped a little. I was still pretty upset with how things turned out at Midwest, but I picked myself up by my bootstraps and started to prepare for the next weekend of auditions. This time I was going to Chicago to audition for two theatres.
Before I left, my best friend in the whole world Buggy Reid Harris gave me some amazing advice: just have fun. She knew how hard I had taken the last weekend, and though the advice was short and simple, I really think it changed how I dealt with things during this round of auditions.
And so I went. And being the dramatic drama queen that I am, I had several epiphanies during my weekend in Chicago:
- I realized I wanted to move there after I graduate. I love the city and its theatre scene so much, I know it pretty well, and I can’t help but feel like I belong there when I’m visiting. I can study acting, and singing, and Shakespeare, and comedy, and improv, and anything I want there. I always had the dream of going to New York, without really knowing what New York is like. I don’t know if I’m ready for the crazy and intense competitiveness of New York yet, and that’s okay! People fit in different places, and I personally feel like I don’t think I would fit well right away in New York. And if I decide I want to go there someday, I can do that too. It’s not going anywhere.
- I am 21 years old, and I have the entire world in front of me. If I don’t book a summerstock gig this summer, that’s okay. So many more opportunities I can’t even imagine right now are going to come my way.
- Callbacks do not equal level of talent. Several of my extremely talented peers also didn’t receive many callbacks at Midwest, or this weekend, but that doesn’t change what they have inside of them. And it doesn’t change what’s inside of me. I know that I am a talented performer, and I know that I deserve to be doing this career. I’m learning to believe in myself enough that other people don’t have to. If all I have at the end of the day is myself telling me that I nailed that high note, or perfectly executed the comedic timing of that monologue, I’m okay with that.
- I cannot keep comparing myself to my peers the way that I do. We are each on our own, individual journeys, and if my journey doesn’t match up exactly to so-and-so’s, who cares? Life will go on. Again, people fit in different places, and people want different things, and I’m starting to realize that I might not want the things I was so sure I wanted.
Look mom, I’m growing up!
And so I had fun. I performed to the best of my abilities at all my singing and dance auditions, and I made sure I was always in the moment, having a good time while doing it. Was I perfect? Of course not. Did I still nail it? You bet your ass I did. And I got to explore my favorite city while doing it! I got to see an improv show, and go to the zoo, and eat some amazing deep dish pizza, and all kinds of other cool things while I was there.
Since I’ve come home, I feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders. I stopped putting so much pressure on myself to be perfect, and to book this or that, and it feels amazing. I did some thinking this week on why I took my first weekend so hard when it didn’t turn out the way I’d thought it would, and I think it comes down to this:
As actors, we will have good years and bad years. Times when we are on a winning streak, and then times when we can’t even get any callbacks. I’ll be honest, I’ve had a very good year here at school. A ton of cool opportunities presented themselves to me, and I’ve been very successful. After all this success, I put so much pressure on myself to get a job this summer. In my head, that was the only possible next step. The second things didn’t turn out like my perfect plan, my world came crashing down. I mean, it didn’t, but it felt like it did. Taking a step back now, I just have to remind myself that the same man who had all that success, and performed in so many awesome shows, is the same man that was at those auditions. My talent didn’t go anywhere. If they didn’t want me for their seasons, that’s okay. That’s on them, not me. I can’t do anything about it. Life goes on.
And so I don’t have an acting job for this summer. And I’m still proud of myself. I am so fucking proud of myself. I’m proud of myself for coming to all of these realizations, and I’m proud of myself for being the talented son of a bitch I am. I do deserve to be doing this, and one summer without a paid gig is not a sign that I don’t. I’m also excited to explore some different things this summer–I’ve already started considering my own independent project I could do here in Bloomington. Maybe I’ll try and direct. Maybe I’ll try and finish my play and get that up. Who knows! A wise teacher in high school made sure that I knew that we always have the ability to create our own opportunities.
And so I’m sharing this experience in hopes that maybe someone else out there who hasn’t been feeling too proud of themselves lately will also have a change of heart. All I know right now is that I have got the whole rest of my life in front of me. My biggest goal is to just keep working on myself and my own craft, and most importantly: to just have fun.