Wednesday, February 8, 2012

An Actor's Rejection: I'm Okay, and You're Okay

This weekend The Shakespeare Forum (discussed here) had auditions for their first mainstage production - Hamlet. It should be a pretty cool process, as they intend to have open rehearsals, which I am very much looking forward to attending.

I love the play Hamlet. But I wouldn't say offhand there's a role in the play I'm right for (except perhaps Rosencrantz or Guildenstern), or even angling for. I auditioned anyway, because it's good practice, and the Forum people are people I love.

A lot of the Forum people auditioned. Some got called back; a lot did not. I was one of the ones who did not.

Funny story: that night (or rather, the following morning) I dreamed that Tyler, the head of the Forum, came over to talk to several of us in Alex's apartment, explaining why we weren't called back, how it wasn't personal, and wasn't even remotely about talent. We had a good long talk, no one got emotional, and I felt very good about it all. I told Tyler I wasn't hurt or upset, and I couldn't wait to see how Hamlet turned out. We had a nice healthy understanding, and I was grateful he knew how not-upset I was.

A couple hours later in the morning (not right away), I realized that that whole conversation had been a dream - there had been no catharsis or explanation.

But you know what? It's still okay. I'm still okay. I cathart-ed myself in dreamland, and we're good. What dreamTyler said is still true, whether it was him or my subconscious talking. I spoke to one friend Monday night who did get called back and who was feeling a bit guilty and awkward toward her friends who had not. But I hastened to assure her not to feel any of that on my account - I'm really happy she got called back, because it's a great feeling. I have another good friend who I know will be playing Ophelia. I am fucking thrilled for her - she's going to be amazing, and I truly can't wait to see her work.

I'm lucky in that I have a pretty healthy attitude toward auditions in general. For one, I actually enjoy them for the most part (except cattle calls, which are demoralizing, dehumanizing experiences). For two, I'm really good at letting go immediately after. Leading up to the audition, I want it, I prep for it, I'm excited; in the room, I (hopefully not letting my nerves get to me and cramp the performance) try to have fun and relax and show my work to its best potential; afterward ... I'm done. I let go very quickly. In a way, it's easier emotionally to assume I'm not getting cast - that way there's no raised hope to be disappointed, and instead there's the potential for a happy surprise later. I have another friend who does the same thing - he calls it "audition amnesia."

Does that mean I'm not disappointed when I find out I haven't been called back or cast, especially if people I know have been? No. There's always a bit of disappointment, maybe sadness, especially if I was lying just now about letting go, and I was really hoping to get in.

But mostly? I'm okay. I recognize that it's not necessarily as easy for everyone else, but really, a big part is not taking it personally. I've been on the other side of the table enough times to know that talent is only a small fraction of the deciding process. So is friendship. There's chemistry, there's appearance, there's scheduling, there's a similarity in thought about a character's tone or direction - there's so much that factors in. And you can't take it personally.

You can't die with each rejection, or you'll break apart in pieces.

Rejection in general still sucks. I hate it as a human. I hate hate hate it as a writer. But as an actor, I'm pretty philosophical about it at this point. I know I have talent, but I also know that I'm not a type people typically have in mind for certain roles. That's okay. I'm patient. We'll get there eventually.


  1. Zelda - YES! "Most" of the time I am the same way and I feel blessed to be able to let go easily. I will confess however that the last several weeks have seen a couple of disappointments that really shook me - because I couldn't let go, because it made me doubt the "why" and all that. That saying of KNOWING that "you are enough" is elusive at times.

    I am glad you are ok, I love that you wrote this and I thank you for being so fantastically you. ;)

    See you next week!

    1. Whit - thank YOU for being fantastically you! I'm sorry you had a couple disappointments in a row - it's always harder when they come altogether. Harder to be philosophical and aloof. But yes! Remember you are enough, you are talented, you are loved - and whatever else, we have a home at the Forum.