When I was 17, I auditioned for my dream role. I knew the cast album by heart, I thought I was the perfect fit for the role; no one else would be better than I was. I didn't get the part I wanted but I accepted a part in the ensemble thinking that all I needed was to be gracious and be a part of the show.
I regret it.
The show itself was fantastic. Rave reviews and an incredible design meant it became a lot of people's favourite show for a long time.
But I approached the show like it was a secondary prize. I spent the entire process angry and closed off. There were a lot of connections I could have made and I wasted them because I was bitter about not getting my way.
It’s taken me quite some time to realize how harmful I’ve been to my own career. I still make a lot of mistakes – and I always will, you learn through trial and error – but I’m here to offer advice about ways to handle auditions and rejection.
1. Don't expect to get the part
Like the show you’re auditioning for, love the show you’re auditioning for. But the best way to ruin your own experience is to go into your audition expecting to get the role you want. My biggest mistake in that audition was assuming I was the only one who wanted the part as badly as I did. For every role there are a dozen actors working for that goal. You will not be alone and you shouldn’t treat the part like a guarantee. Have confidence in your audition, not your casting.
2. Be kind to everyone in the audition process
From the panel, to the person checking you in, to the other actors waiting with you, be kind. Even if you are freaking out and focusing all your energy on not throwing up, it helps to have a pleasant disposition. Not only will it help ease the tension in the room for everyone – yourself included – but I will let you in on a secret: someone will remember you. I am horrible for this. I met a woman at a callback; we read together but I was so stuck in my own head that I barely thought about her. A few months later, we were cast opposite each other and she remembered me but I didn’t remember her. Now that’s awkward. Imagine being rude or flippant with the person checking you in, and a year later, auditioning for them. Someone always remembers you. Make it count.
3. Be prepared. Be over-prepared
The nightmare of any actor is that they’ll freeze up in an audition. For those of us not adept at adapting, the trick is to be prepared. And beyond that, you need to learn how to shape your audition pieces. If you’re doing a monologue, the advice I’ve gotten from many people is to take your monologue out of context. Do your research about the setting and the script and then create your own world. The more you know about your piece the easier it will be once you’re in that room. The same thing goes for a song. I think some people don’t realize how important it is to be wholly immersed in a character just for an audition. The more you believe it, the better they’ll believe it. I’ll tell you this: the worst thing you can do is get cocky and think that you don’t have to prepare for an audition.
4. “Professionalism is the attitude you bring to the show.” – JP Thibodeau (look him up)
This applies to all aspects of a show, from audition to closing. It’s a pretty basic concept: if you treat your community theatre production like an amateur show, that’s exactly what you’re going to get. If you approach every show with an open mind, a willingness to learn, and a preparedness that seems like an unwritten rule in theatre, you’ll be fine. You know where that professionalism starts? You got it: your audition. Be early, be prepared, be respectful. Three simple rules will get you through pretty much your entire career.
Bonus: Be gracious
I've gotten the same speech twice in the last four years: "some of you will only ever be in the ensemble." The first time I heard it, I got mad. I got really mad. How dare they tell me that I am not lead material? And then I realized that was exactly what they were telling me. There are people who go into theatre and just don't fit into the role of a leading actor. They will spend their entire career being the secretary on stage left who pushes a desk and does a fan kick on count two. And they do it because they love what they're doing, not because they necessarily have aspirations of tripping the leading actress down a flight of stairs and taking her part at the last minute. Know yourself and understand what you really want. Do you want to be “the lead” or do you want perform? It’s okay to be the former, just be honest with yourself.
5. Understand that the decision is only partly yours
You can nail your audition piece, be the nicest person they see, and still not get the part. Every article will tell you there are a hundred decisions that go into casting and sometimes, they aren’t always rational. Maybe they didn’t like your perfume, maybe you look like the musical director’s ex-boyfriend. Maybe you’re just not the right fit. What you have to do is realize you’re not the only one in that room. The best thing you can do for yourself is uphold your end of the bargain. Give your best performance and then let it go. Stressing about your mistakes will not change the director’s decision. All you can do is your part.