You feel helpless, wondering where the old confidence has gone, the old I-can-do-anything! You feel deserted.
A situation I recently heard of brought it all back to me. I have felt like that and I bet you have, too. Or might some day.
You get your degree. All through college, family, friends, professors praised your work and the guts it took to succeed in the performing arts. You have big plans for the future. They will love you in (pick your destination) New York, Hollywood, Broadway, television, movies, Cirque du Solei. Based on past glowing reviews, you have it made.
But then IT, the Woe is Me, thing appears in the form of Stark Terror! You just graduated begins to weigh you down. What do you do now?
Maybe you’ll delay the Big Career a little, get seasoned, whatever. You look at graduate school. You look at an acting studio. You pick one, and of course, with your undergraduate credentials and strong resume, you get in. You are safe. Again. For a while.
Again you graduate. And now you face….Square One (read more about this free fall in Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star.) Nothing. You are nowhere and there is no direction, no safety net. Dad, who always thought you should be a nurse or teacher, something you can always fall back on, is out of money and just can’t support you anymore. It was that graduate school that broke his bank.
And here you are, trying to live on your own, and are faced with the dilemma of having to find a means of support. An acting job? You look at the want ads. Fat chance, they say, finding anything in the arts. You do, though, see an ad for job sweeping hair and cleaning hairbrushes in a hair salon.
But there is a problem. A mighty big one. Your confidence is gone. You aren’t sure you know how to sweep hair. Your resolve has dissolved. If you sweep hair today, you will never have the time, the energy, or even the will to go to auditions, much less prepare for them. And with your current luck and past successes, it is inevitable that you will soon be made manager of the salon and working 24/7 to keep the place afloat. Acting? When will you ever do that? Maybe, your diminished self tells you, you were never meant to act.
You don’t get out of bed. You get this storyline embedded in your head that you will never again see the inside of a theatre. You have no identity anymore. You have no roadmap, no direction. Your life as you knew it is over.
Woe is you!
What do you do? What do you do?
Guess what? You are not alone. This is what happens to almost everyone when there are big life changes. You feel like someone set you adrift in a row boat in a huge hurricane and not only is your dream port nowhere on the horizon, you just realized that you never learned to swim, even though your sainted mother tried her best to get you to take lessons. “Who needs to know how to swim on Broadway!” you said, wishing now that you could take it back.
How did you get from confidently knowing you belonged on Broadway to worrying about how you’re going to convince someone that you’d make a swell hair sweeper and still have time to get to auditions?
What auditions? How will you find them? What should you do to prepare for them? None of these things seem to matter much now that just getting out of bed is something you: 1) Don’t want to do, 2) Forgot how to do, or 3) Just not an option today.
You are in a place that has never been on your horizon. And yet this is what happens when big life changes happen. You are set adrift.
So what do you do? I would advise spending a little more time in bed muttering to yourself, “Oh, Woe is Me!” and trying to feel just as bad as you think you do. Then let things settle. Then put one foot on the floor and soon after, put the other one down. Head for the bathroom or kitchen taking baby steps. When you no longer have to think about how to walk and can do it on your own, I would begin to make plans for getting out of this situation.
- First, Butch up! Yes, you do have to take a job to support yourself. Get over it.
- Next, find others who were in the same boat and get their story or even their advice. (Yes, read Martha Beck’s books. They will give you heart, courage, and a plan.) (So will this blog.)
- Make a list of all the things you need to do to go on that very next audition. You probably know what those things are – the same stuff you did in college. Guess what? You also need to do them in the real world.
In case you need reminding, here is what I would do in your shoes.
- Whether there are auditions for you right now or not, prepare for them by having four two-minute scenes ready:
- Classic drama
- Classic comedy
- Contemporary drama
- Contemporary comedy
Get someone who knows (a former prof, a working actor, etc) to coach you with the scenes.
- Get online to everywhere auditions are being held in your area. Remember that Broadway isn’t the only venue. There is probably a regional and other professional theatres near you. Be well-suited to. Leave out the parts you know you can’t play with your limited background. (For example, you would have a hard time convincing a casting director that you could play Hamlet in a classic version of the play if you are a girl.)
- Find out (contact the director/theatre) what the auditions require and plan for that.
- Heck, contact the theatre to see if there are other, part-time jobs you could take (working in the box office comes to mind or working in the costume/scene shop) while you go to auditions. The big advantage is that you are right in the middle of where you want to be; theatre people now know you. You fill in some more reasons yourself.
No matter what you think you know about success and the making of a career, it doesn’t just happen overnight. You do what you need to do to make sure you are at least in the running. You get out of bed RIGHT NOW and do it, even if you are terrified. Remember Babe Ruth? The Home Run King? He was also the Strike-Out King. You gotta be hitting at speeding balls all the time to finally hit one out of the park.
Courage, after all, isn’t possible without fear.
It’s time to get out of bed.