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BWW Blog: Growing from Rejection - The Entertainment Industry

Understanding rejection in the everyday lives of working actors.

BWW Blog: Growing from Rejection - The Entertainment Industry

One of the most difficult parts of trying to be actively successful in theatre is the recurring rejection. Rejection is one of the least talked about topics when discussing the industry. It can be very easily overlooked because the theatre industry can sometimes be seen as a fairytale. You'll audition for 20 things and maybe, just maybe get a callback for one show. It can become very difficult to keep going to auditions when you're not receiving the response you want which is obviously a job. When regularly facing rejection, it can be a struggle to remember why you love this business and why you keep going to those auditions, why you keep going to dance classes, why you continue to spend money on vocal lessons, etc. You go to auditions and they tell you you're perfect for the role, but don't give you a job because of your choice of clothing at the audition, because you're half an inch too short, or because your hair is just one shade of brown too dark. When hearing these things, it's so incredibly easy to feel overcome with rejection and the feeling that you are not good enough to succeed in a business you've loved pretty much your whole life.

BWW Blog: Growing from Rejection - The Entertainment Industry
Photograph by Joshua Albanese

I started professionally auditioning and performing at the young age of 6, having my parents drive me to downtown Milwaukee or the city of Chicago to be seen for a total of maybe three minutes if I was lucky. We even took a plane to New York multiple times a year to be seen in front of Broadway casting directors. This was my life for around 12 years and to be honest, when I was younger, I loved every second of it. I was living my best fantasy, driving around in the city, traveling to new exotic places, singing songs I loved, getting to know other actors my age, and being seen for tv shows and movies other 6 year olds in my town loved to watch. It was amazing. However, around the age of 10 or 11, I started to realize that I wasn't as successful as I felt. Going to auditions for Disney, NBC, ABC, Broadway, I felt on top of the world. Nevertheless, I wasn't booking any of these. I would get to callbacks where it was only myself and one other girl auditioning, but never actually book the job. I would get so close to signing that contract, to learning that new music, to my "big break," whatever that means, but I would never actually get there. Now don't get me wrong, I was successful. I had the time of my life performing in regional shows across Milwaukee and Chicago and without those productions I wouldn't be where I am today. I wouldn't have found my best friends if not for those amazing regional shows. I figured out who I am as a performer through those productions.

However, I can't help but wonder where my life would be now if I would've landed one of those Disney shows or one of those Broadway calls.

BWW Blog: Growing from Rejection - The Entertainment IndustryRejection was something I had to work through when I was younger. Theatre isn't the only industry with rejection. Every job entails some sort of rejection. You go to a job interview but don't get it even though you felt really positive about it. You find out that person that's been at your company shorter than you got that promotion you were really invested in. Your boss rejects your proposal because it's "just not right for the program." All these things could be related to rejection in the workplace. The effects of rejection hit people in the theatre industry hard; not being able to pay your rent on time that month, not being able to buy that new mattress you absolutely need, not having enough weeks of work to keep your health insurance through equity, forcing yourself to get a job at a restaurant because you won't have a steady income for the foreseeable future. Rejection can be such a controlling aspect in the career of performance. After reflecting, I have found that rejection has become harder to escape in the pandemic because there aren't as many auditions coming through virtually and the ones that are being sent out don't necessarily match my description.

Since the pandemic, I've noticed my number of auditions has significantly decreased. Part of that is because I have been giving more time to my career in fashion journalism. Another part is the fact that I'm in a really weird age for casting right now, right on the cusp of adult roles and moving out of playing a child. However, when I go back to my email and see I've had only a few auditions since March 2020 when COVID took over, I get discouraged. I could've used this time in quarantine as a way to build my resume, sending in auditions 5 times a week, taking vocal lessons religiously, learning new genres of dance, building up my audition book again. But I didn't do that. Figuring out why I didn't do that this year has been an interesting point of discovery. I needed to invest my time into other things in my life that make me happy in order to rediscover my love and passion for performing. I did this by investing in a healthy relationship with my boyfriend, I started writing for Broadway World as well as a magazine out of my college which has been a newfound source of joy, I gave more time to my original music, I made more music with my sisters in our band, I started therapy which has proven to be very beneficial for my mental health, and I worked to build an even stronger familial foundation while I'm participating in school virtually here at home.

BWW Blog: Growing from Rejection - The Entertainment IndustryBy finding new loves and interests, I was able to repair some damage brought on by rejection in the industry. I found new things that make me happy, allowing me to return to theatre with a newfound sense of passion and respect, knowing that theatre is not the only thing that brings me steady happiness anymore. I was able to work on self worth as well as understanding that I will never be the perfect auditioner. I was able to work through some issues I had with auditioning. I now understand that I can only bring myself to the table. I have trained my entire life, I've learned so much and I will never perfectly match the audition description. So as I keep auditioning, if a casting director tells me that "my choice of clothing is too midwestern," I will now accept that feedback and move forward, knowing that just because I didn't get this gig doesn't mean I am insufficient or less capable.

Rejection is an issue that faces almost everyone, specifically working people. However, it's not usually talked about as frequently or openly as other topics. I think rejection should be talked about as openly as anxiety. To be honest, most of my anxiety comes from rejection and the fear of not being good enough. Truthfully, is there such a thing as "good enough"? If you think about it, what's the standard? Is there a certain level of experience one has to have to be considered "good enough"? Are there a specific number of shows you need to be in to be "good enough"? How many lead roles do you need on your resume to be able to escape rejection? There is no proper definition of "good enough"! Case solved! Each person has a certain level of "enough." You ARE good enough, and if other people can't see that, it's their loss. The key to escaping the tolls of rejection is to walk into those auditions understanding that you have invested enough time into yourself and your career to get that role you really want. You CANNOT rely on the opinions of others to give yourself satisfaction, even if those opinions come from Broadway casting directors and big time television producers. I have struggled with this my entire life, as I stated before. But through exploring other forms of creativity, I have allowed myself to find a certain level of happiness with who I am as a person, a level of happiness the opinions of others could not alter no matter how hard they tried. I feel I can offer a new sense of confidence and belief in myself when walking into auditions now that I have worked through my struggles with rejection.

While we're waiting for the world of theatre to open up again, try to invest some time into working through the emotional effects of rejection. By working through these issues, you will be able to walk into those auditions confident in who you are as not only an actor and a performer, but as an individual, as a human. You are so enough. Even if you're not tall enough to be a Rockette. Rejection is something every actor faces. Whether or not you were cast in your school's production of Beauty and the Beast, your college's production of Next to Normal, or a new Broadway show, you are so enough. Don't ever forget it and most of all, don't let others alter that all too important belief.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Meguire Hennes