self improvement

The Case for Theatre Majors: Rejection, Part 1

The women at my gym are fascinated with the idea that rejection isn’t a reason to take to my bed. They are devastated that I never heard back from an audition I submitted for a local community theatre musical production. In trying to explain to them my feelings about it (in between TRX and yoga classes, of course), I was essentially making a case for why theatre folks are extremely well equipped to “deal” in life, across the board. When I sat down to formulate my thoughts into a journal entry or blog post, I kept returning to one of my soapbox topics that I touted regularly to “my” kids during their educational theatre experiences. Theatre prepares us for success in life. Theatre majors should not be discounted in the workplace. Theatre kids get it all, and can give this knowledge easily. This is a huge topic to write about. As I hash out each element of my list (TBR….to be released), I hope you’ll join me in an episodic presentation.  First up:  Rejection.  Rejection is a multi-faceted part of this theory. Part one, comin’ at ya.

In the last six months I’ve auditioned for theatre projects only twice. I didn’t get either part. Both times I submitted my interest, I expressed the desire to be cast in ANY role, not just the lead or featured role (respectively) for which I was reading. I can regale you with the first audition later this month, today I’m telling you about the audition that my fitness center pals are so invested in.

I submitted a video audition for a community theatre musical production, citing my interest in a specific featured role, but stating that I was interested in ANY role. I received the polite, “we got everyone’s auditions stay tuned as we begin assembling the cast” email and then….nothing. Not one word. Not a text, not an email, not a call, not a carrier pigeon. This next part is lengthy without any fun graphics or memes to keep you entertained. It is the personal backstory of my rejection, my theory of my rejection, my bad or questionable decisions, and concludes with my lessons learned.

Step One: Prepare for the Audition

I downloaded two different cast albums. I researched the desired role. I bought [overpriced] sheet music for the character’s bigger song. I downloaded the karaoke track for said song. I sang for a trusted friend who encouraged me while keeping my hopes and ego in check. I scripted and memorized a brief monologue to introduce the song. I memorized the song. I hired my nephew to film the audition.

Step Two: Accidentally Learn Background Information and Question the Validity of the Audition

Three different “friends” told me that several roles were pre-cast. One of the friends was the recipient of said pre-casting. Upon consulting the audition notice and seeing “all roles open,” I questioned one of the proverbial “powers that be” as to the truth in this. I had been told very reliably that several roles, including the one I wanted, had already been offered to other performers. This is confirmed and I decide to not audition. Why waste my time and embarrass myself?

Step Three: Make Other Plans and Then Have Chaos Erupt

I decide against auditioning and make other plans. I let my nephew off the hook to film. Then I get another message from the aforementioned representative of “powers that be” saying s/he was mistaken: that nothing is pre-cast and please audition. Please be involved. I’m welcome. Now I’m torn: I’ve literally named names and will likely be auditioning to be cast in the ensemble. I can do it; I love theatre, I value arts in the community, and I have quite a bit to bring to many aspects of the production.

Step Four: Re-hire Nephew and Submit Video Audition

I sent it. I swallowed my pride, pushed the rumors out of my head, and did what I could. I was confident that at very least I’d be cast in the ensemble. It kind of sucked to have invested that much time, energy, and money in an audition for an unpaid gig as an ensemble member, but that’s what loving art is. I needed to check myself. I also constantly remind myself that if I want to be the person who “calls out” others, I have to put action where my mouth is.  

Step Five: Re-hear the Pre-cast Names/Roles

Literally twelve hours after the nice email that nothing’s been offered or cast yet and to hang tight, one of the pre-cast rumor actors tells me TO MY FACE she was offered the role before auditions. I ignore it. I smile, I think, “It will be super nice to be in the ensemble and support a friend in a nice role. This is a test of humility and enthusiasm.” I go home and am sad, but I’m not surprised. I’m disappointed that I keep getting lied to.

Step Six: Hear Absolutely Nothing

I never got any communication. No formal rejection, no offer to be in the ensemble or backstage. The actress who was alleged to be pre-cast in the role I desired confirmed it a second time by offhandedly mentioning the part while talking about something else.

Step Seven: Evaluate the Rejection

I have thirty-five years of theatre experience. I have fifteen years of community theatre credits in this area. I have eight years of professional theatre credits. I have a freaking degree in theatre. I can’t get cast in ensemble of a community theatre show.

Step Eight:  Evaluate My Errors- Past and Present

I am currently beating myself up for every single thing I’ve ever done in theatre, or at least how each of those things could be interpreted. I’m raking myself over the coals remembering moments in which I was difficult to work with. Moments in which I chose candor over ass-kissing. Moments in which I was guided by the work, not the feelings of others. I am frequently asked to watch rehearsals to help the director give notes or troubleshoot problems in a show. I am often the audience member that the cast fears seeing after a show, worried about my opinion of the production. I am the person who spots the weakest link or moment and wants it repaired. I am always the person who works really hard to bring the best show possible to its feet- whether as an actor, director, stage manager, choreographer, or audience member.  I tell you, reader, honestly:

*I never criticize that which I can’t fix. If I don’t know a way to rectify a problem with a show, I don’t articulate my dislike. I strive to be constructive, not destructive.

*I am infinitely harder on myself that I ever will be on others or complete productions.

*I hold everyone to a high standard.

*I don’t subscribe to cliques. I don’t like when a cast member is excluded or “Mean Girl’d.” I don’t like when outsiders don’t get equal treatment. We all started as outsiders.

*I don’t sign on for disrespect. Don’t disrespect the art. Don’t disrespect the script. Don’t disrespect the cast. Don’t disrespect the creative team. Theatre is a machine in which each cog has a function. When one cog is out of whack, the whole mechanism malfunctions.

*I don’t like fake relationships. It makes my blood boil when a friend will talk smack about a director or performer at length, and next be seen buddying up to them for a role. Integrity trumps popularity in my book.      

 

Step Nine:  Resignation and Acceptance

I didn’t get a part.  There is always another part. There is always another show. Onward. But I also have to check myself- again. My mouth gets me in trouble.  Sometimes it’s calculated, sometimes it is not. Usually, I feel justified.  You know that meme that’s based on George Carlin’s comedy?  “Everyone loves honesty until you’re honest with them. Then you’re an asshole.”  DING DING DING.  BUT………………… and it’s a big BUT…………

I will hold my tongue more. Not be deceptive, just be quiet. I don’t have to sacrifice my personal integrity by letting someone else exercise the lack of theirs. I don’t have to hold a mirror to every person in every situation. I can learn and practice more subtlety. I can embrace this reality and adjust my behavior accordingly.

Step Ten: Rejection Lessons

For my ladies at the gym, theatre rejection teaches you to keep going.  Not getting the part doesn’t mean I’m giving up on theatre. Theatre rejection teaches you that there are always factors out of your control. You can’t control the whims of casting agents or directors. You have to do your best and present your best. Theatre Rejection teaches you that every action has an equal reaction. Called a director lazy? You won’t be in any of his shows any time soon. Said you “loathe” a particular leading man? You’ll never be cast opposite him, no matter how much you want the part. You have to be accountable for everything you do in your life, knowing that a bad experience someone had with you a year ago may influence decisions in the present. Diplomacy is important in most of our lives. To hone this skill in creative environments is to perfect it. Most importantly, theatre rejection teaches us to evaluate how we can improve. Sometimes it’s as simple as investing in dance classes, a vocal coach, or better headshots. Other times it is learning how to audition better. There are even times it makes us dig deeper and learn to get along with each other better.
And so…we theatre people go on. We embrace the next opportunity for rejection, knowing that eventually there is acceptance.

2016 Out, 2017 In!

Yes, I’m aware that the new year is already 36 days old.  Cut me some slack. I just unearthed a box of unopened mail from December 2014. My “to do” list isn’t exactly up to date.

Last year I wrote about New Year’s resolutions and detailed what I hoped to accomplish in 2016. That post is here. In the interest of accountability, I give you my results:

1- Exercise 3 times a week.

VICTORY!  There were months where I took an average. Forgive me.

2- Read 2 books a month:

FAIL. To be clear, I won’t let myself “count” any audio books I listen to, which would push me well into the VICTORY category. I only “count” books I read with my own two eyes. I only accomplished ½ my goal.

3- Write 1 new blog post a month:

FAIL.  Dismal, pathetic failure. 2016 was tough. I didn’t write here because…well…I didn’t feel there was worth in the practice. I didn’t feel valued. I didn’t feel that anyone read or cared. I didn’t think writing for mental clarity or the actual writing exercise had merit. 2016 did a number on me.

4- Save some money.

FAIL. No discussion.

5- Send 1 handwritten note- unsolicited- to a real person every month.

VICTORY! This was the best practice I implemented in my life in 2016. It was fantastic. I sent all 12 notes, excluding “Thank You” notes and notes to cast members or interns during the summer theatre season. Some notes included a small gift, all notes were sincere and had a specific point. Fully half of the notes were acknowledged by the recipient.

6- Meal plan for our house every week. EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

VICTORY!  This was the second best practice I implemented in my life in 2016. In the past I have been a fan of spontaneity and “What do you feel like?” dinner plans. My meal planning in 2016 left room for that flexibility, but significantly reduced my grocery spending and overall food waste.

7- Keep up those other successful bits of awesome I attempt.

VICTORY!  I concede, however, that this is subjective.  Some days just showering and leaving the house fulfilled my “bits of awesome.”

I have plans for 2017.  

1- Exercise 3 times a week.

I thought about eliminating this from “resolutions” because I enjoy a generally fit lifestyle. Seeing the workouts logged, knowing I made a promise, and keeping the promise motivates me.

2- Read 2 books a month.

This should be easy for me. I used to read three books a week. I can easily read a 300 page novel in a sitting. I must do this.

3- Write 1 new blog post a month.

I cannot doubt what I know works for me. Even my shallow, emotional rants serve a purpose in my consciousness. I also have been listening to a storytelling podcast (The Moth- go listen!) that reminds me:  I have stories to tell.  2017 is the year I tell my stories.

4- Focus on financial health.

A slight modification from past years’ “Save some money” resolutions, financial health is different. I’m returning to a period in my life where I sat every Monday morning and balanced checkbooks, transferred money to savings, evaluated money in/out, and saved for vacations and extravagances- all without relying on lines of credit. 2017 and 2018 bring some milestones to my and Joe’s life and I’d much rather enjoy them than not.

5- Send 1 handwritten note- unsolicited- to a real person every month.

I’m telling you: try this. Real mail, real letters, real appreciation for a human in your life. This not only brightens someone else’s day, you will marvel at how many people you have to choose from. Sitting and thinking of who is (or was) a light in your life keeps marvelous perspective.

6- Date Joe more- 2 times a month, I hope.

Like any couple, we used to have a set “Date Night.” During hectic weeks or months (and honestly, the years 2010-2013), we’d laugh and vow to make it up. We spend lots of quality time together, but we’re going to try to spend concerted “Dates” together. We even made lists of places to check out for a few hours, restaurants to visit. We’ve been RedBox – ing movies together. It’s really, REALLY nice. #year13

7- Organize these digital photos.

UGH. My goal is 50 per day, all year long. If I get 1,000 per month I’ll be happy, though. That *might* get my iPhone cleared up.

8- An overall de-cluttering initiative.

To be fair, this started in Fall 2016. I spent several hundred dollars and about nine days working my costume collection. I’ve attacked my personal wardrobe and started utilizing ThredUp and Poshmark to thin out my collections. I’ve dropped three full Jeep loads at Salvation Army. I’ve even been throwing out “souvenirs.” 2017 will bring success with this resolution, I know it.

9- Decrease digital messes.

7, 8, and 9 could probably be combined.  Each day I have nine email addresses I check. That’s nine inboxes of subscriptions, spam, and news. I’m hoping to streamline this to three, each serving a purpose. I strive to unsubscribe from unwanted shopping sites and merge duplicate accounts.

10- Random acts of connection.

If you’ve read anything at all here, you realize that I not only hoard STUFF, I hoard relationships. Or their baggage. Or their remnants. So instead of dwelling on these past connections, I’m trying something fun and fleeting.  I bought Sneaky Cards. Check ‘em out. Random, fun, bold connections with strangers who get to pay it forward into the world is my goal.

SO…..I took most of my 2016 list and put it on the docket for 2017.  I eliminated the meal planning from my list. It is completely ingrained in our household. We waste less, we spend less, we eat better, and our pantry is never harboring random canned goods from early 2006. Keeping the “bits of awesome” should go without saying at this point in my life. If it’s good, keep it. If it’s bad, toss it.

Ten is a lot- a WHOLE lot. One month in, nothing’s been abandoned yet. One month in, all ten feel pretty good.  

Empty Promises?

My favorite New Year’s Eve activity is new: it is scrolling through various social media platforms and reading all the [hugely ambitious] goals my virtual pals are committing to.  They are generally funny, sometimes sad, and rarely kept.  Highlights for me:

 

*The already in a healthy weight gal-pal vowing to drop 30 pounds by June 1st.

*The toxic “friend” swearing off all negativity, avoiding people who bring him/her “down.”

*The alcoholic becoming drinking less.  And only on weekends.

*The shopaholic saving for a world trip.

*The pot-sirrer swearing off gossip.

 

The list goes on…you’re familiar.

 

For several years I’ve privately established priorities for myself and evaluated them after a year. Some of these priorities aligned with a new year, some of them popped up in response to a life event. This year, I evaluated year-long goals (superficial ones, I grant you) and was surprised. My more intimate goals, the true character development stuff is fodder for a different post.

 

As 2015 started:

*I was frustrated with sporadic fitness.  I hoped to exercise regularly.

*I wanted to read more. Once a voracious reader, the last several years have put my zeal for literature on the proverbial back burner. There’s always a show to memorize, a show to plan for, laundry to do, kids to watch, etc. In October 2014, a friend of mine told me about his new girlfriend, detailing how much she reads. There was a flash of anger as I felt that he was implying I didn’t read (couldn’t he remember me reading every day of our years as friends?!) or that she was better than me.  I swear to you, I was that irrational. Instead of clinging to those irrational thoughts, I channeled them. I wanted to prioritize my intellectual stimulation.

*I wanted to post to my blog more.  I’m not particularly good at blogging, but I enjoy the escape writing provides. I enjoy exercising a skill that I honed for some time in my past. I enjoy improving my word economy. I enjoy the catharsis each blog post brings. The entries are therapeutic and I find myself obsessing about that topic less once it is “LIVE”.

*I wanted to save more money.

*I wanted to continue previous efforts (“loves” lists, participating in things I enjoy- even if that means attending solo, prioritizing my relationship with Joe- keeping him as my partner and best friend, owning by bad behavior with acknowledgment and remorse, avoiding repeated bad choices…those things….)

 

My results:

*Although not stellar, I did exercise regularly. Even in falling off my routine for several weeks at a time (usually when I was doing a show), I moved enough to be happy and the quantified average is 1.4 times a week. Not great, but at least I moved.

*Books: I read an average of 2 books a month!  Wow! I was happy with this because I really felt like I was reading MAYBE four a year. That could be a lie. The actual number for 2015 is 23….I rounded up considering I have four half read books that are my priority this year.  

*Blogging: Dismal.  Four for the year.  😦  How could you have survived without my sad little musings?

*Savings: Let’s not talk about it.

*Previous efforts:  SPOT ON.  Freaking nailed it, in fact.

So.  My 2016 hopes- the ones I’ll make public:

1- Exercise 3 times a week.  

2- Read 2 books a month.

3- Write 1 new blog post a month.

4- Save some money.  Yeah.  Let’s not quantify that.

5- Send 1 handwritten note- unsolicited- to a real person every month.

6- Meal plan for our house every week.  EVERY SINGLE WEEK.

7- Keep up those other successful bits of awesome I attempt.

I got this.  

What are you up to this year?