Even your agent rejected you? That could mean you’re on your way

OK, so here’s the thing about rejection. We all get rejected and some rejections are worse than others. We get picked last for the volleyball team in phys. ed. Big deal, since we could care less about sports, but we feel the sting anyway.

We don’t get picked for the lead in the school play. Bigger deal, but we understand that there were other kids with more experience.

A boy or girl you like asks someone else to the Prom. Bigger deal still, since you had dated and you had every reason to think it was working out.

You are the experienced kid who everyone thought was a shoe-in for the lead in the high school play, but you ended up in the chorus. You are devastated. Bigger and bigger is this deal, and more painful the sting.

The love of your life leaves you. Biggest deal yet. You are heartbroken. Recovery time is gonna be long and painful. It is way past a mere sting.

Your agent no longer wants to represent you. Devastating, like falling off a cliff. And while you are in free-fall, you here those damned voices again, your Furies forcing you to agonize over all sorts of awful things. What did I do wrong? What is it about me? Am I not talented at all? Will I never have a career in theatre? Will I really have to get a full time job in some stuffy office where I’ll never be able to laugh or cry or be at all real?

Well, yeah. Sometimes life sucks. But here’s the thing I promised that could make it easier: WE ALL DEAL WITH REJECTION. If we didn’t experience rejection, we wouldn’t know the joy of being picked.

The other thing is: Don’t look around for something or someone to blame. Blame has nothing to do with it. Blame only keeps the downward spiral going and you and those damned Furies hounding you into the bowels of Hell!

So what do you do now?

You hurt. You experience the hurt, but without blaming yourself or your agent. Your agent needs to make a living and you, by not landing any audition he sent you to, are not helping his career.

The other side of that is, you need to make a living and by not landing any audition he sent you to, you got to see that maybe he isn’t the right agent for you.

So what do you do now?

Allow yourself to feel as bad as you can. That’s right. Scrunch up your eyes, make fists, and bring up all those bad feelings. Got it? How long can you keep your focus on that bad black hole? Not long.

It is too hard to keep that level of intensity going. All you can keep going is to make up stuff, letting your Furies think all sorts of made-up thoughts about the incident. These Furies would like to keep you thinking all sorts of things–true and not true–about the rejection, anything to keep it going, and sure enough, you can conjure up even more terrible feelings just by thinking more terrible thoughts.


  1. Take a deep breath. Take another. Dismiss the very next Furies thought and clear your mind of everything.
  2. Next, take this rejection and see what you can do with it. Look at it to understand how it wasn’t working.

You can only move on when you recognize this is a crossroads, and that there is no going back to business as usual. You need to do some things differently. Your job is to find out what you can tweak or change outright. For instance, if you were going on auditions for cute-young-thing parts and you were showing up with torn tee-shirts or bad makeup, try dressing for the part you are trying out for.

Maybe the material you are working with (scripts, monologues, special acting/workshop appearances) isn’t right for you. See if someone you trust can give you an honest assessment and change the material.

Maybe if you get who you are and what you are going for, you will realize the agent you had was not right for your goals. Find one who is. Do your research. Ask around.

Maybe this rejection is telling you what you have already glimpsed about yourself, deep down away from the blinding light of reason. Now is the time to bring it up. Should you be working in regional theatre instead of trying for a Broadway role? Do you need more acting classes?

Maybe you should consider that acting isn’t right for you and that you could, with a little more experience and education, be a stage manager and then aim for directing? Maybe your talent and interest really lay in design?

This is your golden opportunity to find other ways of breaking in. Talk to people who have done it. Read Martha Beck’s Finding your own North Star. Get a new direction to go in.

Oh, yeah. And wipe those tears. They are clouding your vision.

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Is higher education right for you? How to find the best fit

o mind here, as well as Viola Davis and many others. But don’t start writing your acceptance speech just yet. First, get the skills and practice you need, and that may mean higher education.

What is right for you here and now, based on what you’ve achieved so far, what skills you’ve mastered, and your temperament (are you outgoing or a bit of an introvert like me?) may work fine in high school, but college will most likely be a different experience. And you may need even more skills to hold your own.

How does that translate into where to get a higher education? Here are some things to keep in mind as you look for the where you belong:

  • Large or small?
  • Are you sure about what your specialty may be? If not, maybe a large performing arts department will give you the chance to dabble a bit before landing on what is right for you.
  • If you are sure about your talents and interests, do you know which of the colleges you are considering will give you the background to become your kind of professional? If you don’t know, now is the time to:
    • Research what professionals in your field actually do, and what courses they suggest you take.
    • List courses that you have to take. Then list courses you’d like to take.
    • Compare your course list to those offered at the universities, colleges, and conservatories you are considering.

Not sure whether a university, college, or conservatory is right for you? Read on.


You like crowds? You like being surrounded by loads of people who are either as competitive as hell or think higher education is a marking time device? Or large departments with lots of research, taught by people who have worked in the performing arts? A large and maybe prestigious theatre, film, dance, and music departments with plenty of people to compete with for the lead role? I’m sure Jessica Chastain could hold her own in that environment, but what about what you need? Is it too big, too impersonal? Too competitive?


College. Something smaller, with more personal attention, where it isn’t about competition but rather about picking up the skills and techniques you need. Now we are going from the large university, to something smaller and maybe more manageable: colleges within the university or stand-alone colleges.

Colleges—maybe something called the College of the Performing Arts—might be part of a large university, where you can get the university life along with personal attention. Or, as was my college, a liberal arts stand-alone college with a major in theatre.

With either a university or a college, you can earn a four-year degree, such as Bachelor of Fine Arts.

Don’t forget the two-year college, but if you want to go on to a four-year degree, be sure you know what courses will transfer and what courses are required for the degree from the four-year college you’re thinking about.


A conservatory is a place where excellence in the arts is at its core and it’s smaller than a university. You’ll take some general education courses, but nowhere near the requirements of the university and college degrees. A conservatory concentrates on the arts and the skills you need to achieve a career in the performing arts. Jessica Chastain and Viola Davis both went to Julliard, a conservatory. You get a degree, but your education is pretty much condensed to what you need to be a good artist. You spend more time on your art and less on academics. My niece, Sara, went to a conservatory (SCAD), and she is a bright, outgoing, talented, educated person, and has gotten the skills she needs to not only act, but to get into the profession of acting.

Liberal arts

Here comes my bias. A liberal arts college with emphasis on your art, is something any artist ought to consider.

At the heart of art, of making something that asks people to think about their lives, to feel empathy for other people’s trials, and to feel emotions in perhaps a stronger way than most people do in the course of their daily existence, an artist has to understand about the civilizations humans have created and evolved over time and why. Why do they change?

How do you make art that moves people? How do you capture someone’s soul, then recreate it for others in the way that moves them? By knowing what it is to be human. That takes education, observation, empathy, and thinking. Now we are talking about the kind of courses that takes in history, literature, music, science, psychology, philosophy, and the host of achievements and failures of human existence. A liberal arts–generalized studies–helps enormously in understanding what you are creating, why, what form it might take, how it fits in today’s civilization, and where it might be tomorrow.

If you found that last sentence out of your realm of expectations, maybe you are aiming too low. As Les Brown (motivational speaker) said, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Get the wisdom from choices already made

Ask your coach/teachers, guidance counselors, and people who have gone ahead of you what you need for the next level. Ask them to help you see things realistically.

I follow Sara and some of her friends on Facebook, and am able to see where the twists and turns their choices take them, and it is enlightening. The point is, ask for help in deciding what comes next. Ask others about their experiences and see how that might affect your decisions.

Your decision: are you up for it?

My liberal arts bias aside, what your authentic person wants to do is personal. It is up to you. At the heart of this kind of decision making shouldn’t be: What would Jessica or Viola do? But what do you need, right now, to get to the next level? What do you want to do? What is your next level?

Keep at it. You don’t make this kind of decision overnight. Know yourself, what makes you get up in the morning, what feels right, what you need to get where you’re going, and what kind of environment you need to get there. This is not about what your friends need or even your parents or teachers. This is not a right or wrong decision. It is a decision that needs self-knowledge, self-awareness, and mindfulness to make.

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What’s happening this summer?

It is already June, and I am soooo behind. My goal for this summer was to publish four handbooks, charging very little for them, so you could have a kind of road map to how a more productive and active summer than might be usual for those of you who just want to chill out for a few months.

Handbooks for the summer on Kindle

So how am I doing? I do have two handbooks finished and published in the Kindle bookstore. Two more scheduled now for late summer, but I take heart that maybe they won’t be so late after all because one of them is about what you can do to prepare for fall, whether you are in school still or not.

In case there is still time for performing arts career direction, even though you might already be immersed in summer activities, here they are:

You can check them out by following the links to my Kindle bookshelf.

Online Theatre Repertory

What is it that has made these handbooks so late? Yes, I do live within walking distance of the beach, but at my age, sun is not my friend. No, I have been indoors, at this computer, writing original dialogue for what I call podcasts, but which are audio versions of theatre repertory. The dialogue ties together pieces and cuttings from novels and short stories, poems, plays, and essays around a theme. This next podcast is about the Summer Olympics in Rio. George wants to go to Rio. Martha, his wife, just laughs at him, knowing he expects the Girl from Ipanema will materialize on the beaches there.

I bet none of you know who the heck that is. Ask someone older.

So the podcast involves finding a theme, then finding and cutting pieces we can use (without infringing on copyright), rehearsing with me directing and acting, and teaching what I know about the techniques of oral interpretation of literature. Then we record it all and edit the recordings,

We’ve done three so far. You can catch the latest on www.theatrefollies.com.

I am also preparing a workshop for my community theatre on how to do Readers Theatre, a form of theatre I really enjoy because it makes good use of the voice.  It will be ready this fall and I plan to make it available online. You teachers out there may want to check it out on www.theatreowl.com.

If this issue sounds like a pitch to sell, or as the Car Talk brothers call it, “shameless commerce,” it is. Lots have gone into these projects and I would like to know that maybe some of it is useful or instructive, or merely entertaining for you.

All of this is going on in what are the hottest and most humid days and nights of the Florida seasons. But no sweat! I’m doing theatre!

What are you doing?

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The Blame Game and the Playwright

I’d like to blame it all on the person who is in charge of our readers theatre group. She tanked my play reading.

We all love to place blame and who can blame us? Blame must be found somewhere and it surely can’t be heaped on ourselves. Blaming ourselves would make us less than perfect (human, in other words) and would attract all sorts of negative vibrations lurking about the universe. Can’t have that. So let’s blame someone else.

Blame for what?

My group staged a reading for the board of directors of the community theatre that has agreed to produce it. My play had a very bad reading for the board. We read the play so the board could decide whether to produce it next spring. We read the play after a work day, after a two-hour board meeting, and in a room so dimly lighted, you could barely read the scripts. Also, (back to blame) it was miscast, un-directed, under-rehearsed, and just plain boring. Very little acting. Very little expression in that dim light. I was mortified. Poor me! And I wasn’t to blame!

Or was I.

My first take, blaming myself after all, was that how did I not know that I wrote a play that was too boring for words?

But wait.

How did blame get into this at all? Nothing to be gained by placing blame. To cast about to find culprits to heap blame upon, even myself, does absolutely nothing but make everyone feel bad. In this blame game, there are winners. If there are winners, there are also losers.

Winners and losers does not make the play more producible.

First, it wasn’t a successful reading. Second, the audience was bored to tears. That is the truth of it, and to acknowledge it, is not the same as placing blame.

Why didn’t it work? Is a better question than trying to assign blame. Because if I ask that question, it all comes right back to me. But not to blame me, but to see what I can learn about this magnificent failure.


Because I lost control of the project and I gave it away willingly. I knew down deep where I live, that reading the play without much rehearsal in a dimly lighted room, by a cast who had no experience with this kind of thing, to a handful of people who had just had a two-hour meeting also in this deadly dim room at night, after a their day jobs, was never a good idea.

Nor was me directing it a good idea. I needed to learn and see for myself what a director might make of the play. The thing is, the person who insisted on taking the directing away from me and direct it herself, did no job at all: called two rehearsals, had two read-throughs, and dismissed everyone without so much as a note for improvement.

But I gave it away, all because I didn’t want to direct it, with all the work that brings. I wanted to be finished with this project, to move on to writing the next play, which already has a good start.

The administrative side to the arts has to ask, “If I make this choice, what will happen to the product or service? What will happen to the customers or clients?”

I didn’t ask that and that is at the heart of this failure. Not to direct it, to make it as good a performance as we were able, was to let it fail.

Playwright’s responsibility

My responsibility, if I am going to bring a new art work into this world, is to give it the best launch possible.

The thing about writing is that the writer’s administrative responsibilities flow all through the process and the process consists of much more than writing. The writing, the product, is only the beginning, because what good is that product if it doesn’t do what it was meant to do. A car is made to get a person from place-to-place safely.

A play is meant to be acted and be seen, to hold up some kind of mirror to what it means to be human.

And all of that means, you must follow the whole process, all of it, pleasant or unpleasant.

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Modeling can be a form of acting

I watch ANTM. Yes, I do, and though I fast forward through all the tiffs and angst brought about by so many young women living in the same house, vying for the distinction of becoming America’s Next Top Model, I learn a lot about what it takes to rise above all that and become a performing artist.

I do think modeling can be a performing art and one that draws from other arts: a vision of what the art director sees, of how a costume enhances your character, and how a performing artist brings a sense of self to fulfill that in his or her own unique way. There are other arts brought in, movement, posing to show the costume and the model in the best light. How it looks on a body like yours, how to convey meaning through your voice and body.

It’s acting, in other words. Acting on many stages: runways, commercials, editorial attitudes, and meeting the right people at go-sees – all performing art.

I was watching the first episode of reruns of an early cycle of ANTM to see how people were chosen from what seemed like hoards of would-be models. I noticed a familiar face: Jaslene. I remembered her, how she grew into a real model with coaching from Tyra and her guests, turning into a model week after week before our very eyes. I remembered that she overcome all the obstacles, that she stuck with it and learned and grew as an artist.  She won.

I almost turned off the episode I was watching because I had already seen this cycle. I had spotted a contestant, Jaslene, who I remembered, but I continued to watch anyway. I wanted to see how so many girls would be eliminated and why.

I got a surprise. Jaslene was one of those eliminated and I saw her determined goodbye to Tyra when she was sent home. “I am not giving up,” she said or words to that effect. “I will be back.” Indeed, she did come back to a later cycle and went all the way to the top and won the competition and got modeling contracts and the whole bit.

I got it. The lesson of ANTM and life. You have talent. You and a whole lot of other people. But you know that only gets you so far. As does hard work. You need both, of course, but that is not all you need. To me, the most important thing is the growing part and that means growing into the person you were meant to be and not staying stuck in that holding pattern that keeps you in that “poor me!” mode. You have ambition, talent, and you acquire skills and technique. Then you let it go – the “wanting it soooo bad!” It will happen if you stick with it and grow and get the skills and mentoring you need and just let it happen.

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Theatre is a business

It may come as a surprise that I sometimes talk about theatre as a business. If you are interested in pursuing theatre and have already taken theatre classes, they most likely emphasized the creative and artistic side. All very good, but even the most creative and artistic people eventually have to make business decisions and when are hired to perform and find themselves having to fit into a reporting structure, something typical of business.  It also will give you a greater appreciation of how the performing arts fits into our lives.

As most artists find out, there are always career decisions to make. For example, let’s say you want to be a costume designer. If you are serious about it, there are steps you would do well to follow: take drawing classes so you will be able to sketch your creations, maybe take fashion design so you know what goes into designing clothes and accessories.  History classes are a must to not only find out what people in all levels of society were wearing, but even more important why those particular clothes. Did you know that there are thoughts, even philosophies behind what we wear? You’ll take theatre classes, become familiar with plays from different periods, and when you can, sew costumes, become an assistant to a designer, and learn as much as you can about the theatre and the performing arts. Oh, yes, and a little talent and lots of the right personality traits would also help.

Mapping out a strategy to get to where you want to go follows a business model. And if you are an artist, these steps and strategies won’t take anything away from your innate talent one little bit. It will make you hirable. Or at the very least, a more informed theatregoer.

And guess what? Summer and maybe more free time is almost here. The perfect time to get busy and to map out your strategy to meet your goals, whether in the performing arts or where ever you want your life to take you.

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That toxic …ooops!….special person

You love someone. They love you back. But still, something’s wrong. It’s not working. You both are miserable. You don’t leave because the good times seem just so good and if you can only get you both back to that time when it was fresh and fun, etc, etc. But even that isn’t working. And so you stay; thinking, hoping, and wishing for the specialness to return.

Your friends call this relationship toxic. You think of a million logical things to “tell” this special person so that he or she will see the light, see just how much you love him or her and then, in a flash of insight, they will get it and come back to you just the way you have imagined they will, back to where he or she belongs, in your loving arms.

I got news for youse. Unless you are writing a country-western song, this isn’t going to fly.

You know what you have to do but you don’t think you have the courage to do it. Think again. Or better yet, don’t think so much.

Here’s why you take this psychology stuff from a theatre coach. This relationship is doing nothing but distract, in the worst way, from your other passion: a career in the performing arts. So that’s my stake in your private life.

So change, already

I want you to get out pencil and paper (or a laptop or whatever device you use for writing things down) and do the assignment that follows. (Yes, seriously.)

  1. List the things you want most in a relationship. Call it “What I Want.” Be thorough. Include every detail: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, how they treat you, the interest they show in you, what do you want them to notice about you, how you treat them, the discussions you could have, the interests you could share, the books and movies and music you could enjoy together, the new vistas this person could open – all of it. Let your imagination run wild! Remember all the people who you have ever been attracted to, in any way, and list those characteristics, too. Let this be a gigantic wish list. Let it include the improbable.
  2. Of all these things you’ve listed, tick off how many of the things on this list you actually get from this special, toxic person you know you should dump but can’t.

    If you have done this honestly and you see that you are getting more than you thought from this person, you should either rethink the relationship or make another list of the things you don’t get and see which list tells the real story.

    If you tick off only a few things on your “What I Want” list, you have to ask yourself why you stay.

  3. Make a plan. Now make another list. Call it “My Plan.”
    1. Pick out 5 to 10 things that you must have from another person.
    2. Make a plan: what do you need to do to find this person? List things you can do right now and list things you wish you could do.

What I’m suggesting here is that you make a quarter turn in your thinking. You want to see things from a slightly different angle and from a slightly different perspective. To see things slightly differently is a kind of transformation and that is exactly the outcome I’m preaching. But the transformation has to come, not because you force it and make yourself do the right thing, but because you begin to see things from a new perspective. You can’t just drop a person who you have loved. But you can begin to see the relationship for what it is. That new perspective will give you the boost you need to begin to act differently. And acting differently means a different outcome. That’s it. That’s the Big Whoop.

I want to be clear. I’m not talking about redoing yourself to become a completely different person, one who sees a toxic relationship and automatically runs from it. (Who does that? There is always that Thing that attracted you in the first place, looming and beckoning.)

You are you, who you are, and you are the one who knows down deep that there is more to your life that needs honest expression. Honor that part of you that endures this relationship for how you saw it in the first place. Remind yourself that it wasn’t all that bad once. But also remind yourself that your hopes and dreams have value and must be honored and if this person is an obstacle to that, it is time to move on.

What now?

Go back to your list, the one that has your plan for finding the person of your dreams. How would you need to change your perspective, today, in some small way to start work on it?

A life coach I know has a short post that might help: Worry. Be Happy.

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The Big Transition: summer and beyond

There comes a time when school ends and you are faced with Your Life: a new reality series starring you. It was fun while it lasted but now you are faced with being tossed into college or out into the world where you are expected to support yourself, make good choices, and kick-start your career as an actor, dancer, musician, scene designer, stage manager, etc. etc.

Do you have a plan?

If you have a plan for your career, you have already decided where you belong in the performing arts and you have begun following up with classes and what you do for the local productions you are involved in. You have people who can advise you and you listen to them, acting on some of the advice, rejecting some of it (for now.) If you have followed a strategy and were able to put your goals together at some point and thought about “what if…” you have already gotten a start managing your career.

You know, for instance, what that next big step is and you are not among those “OMG-ers” who are wailing that the college they got accepted to doesn’t have the classes they need, or they are in the Big Transition and are howling about having to get a job and support themselves while auditioning.

You have already confronted this Big Transition and have some plans for it. While you are not quite sure how it will go, you have a good idea about what you need to do and that you must stay positive and focused.

Put together a strategy

If you have put together a plan for your career, you are already managing it.

For instance, you are managing if you already:

  • Have saved some money to tide you over for a few months after college or a conservatory.
  • Have a workable physical fitness regime.
  • Are already living within a budget and are ready for the inevitable adjustments to this budget (food, shelter, and transportation at least will change.)
  • Decide what city you will live in and what opportunities are there.
  • Know what kind of housing you need.
  • Have an idea of what it’s going to cost (housing, food, transportation etc.) to live in that city.
  • Have put together a few audition pieces or a design portfolio.
  • Have professional and current headshots.
  • Have an updated resume.
  • Have a way to organize and store auditions information:
    • What, when, where.
    • Dates.
    • What materials did you use? Was it a cold reading?
    • Casting director’s name and contact info.
    • When are callbacks?
    • When should you hear back?
    • Any follow-up on your part?
    • What was the outcome?
  • Are familiar enough with unions to know how and when you should join.
  • Understand about personal representation and when and how to get an agent.
  • Have a professional email address that you check often.
  • Have a reliable mobile phone that you keep charged and usable, and that you check regularly for calls and messages.
  • Know that it is performing that keeps you alive, so performing becomes your focus:
    • Work on audition material.
    • Take classes; develop technique and skills.
    • Work for free if it means adding something meaningful to your resume and adding to your experience (workshops, student film, stuff like that).
    • Put yourself in with other positive people in your situation who have something useful to add to your plan and who keep you in touch with your performing arts community.
    • Stay away from the negatives – people, places, behaviors, and substances – whatever is a major distraction from your focus. You must stay in shape – physically and emotionally for your art.

If this is all new to you, maybe before that next Big Transition, you’ll give it some thought and formulate your own strategy. Do it right now and stick to it, change it when circumstances call for it, and add to it when you can. Find people who can help – like, oh, parents, teachers, guidance counselors, therapists, life coaches, mentors, and financial advisors (my Uncle Andy was my financial advisor) who can help with a budget and a plan for your financial future.

Just know that others have done it before you, had your breaks and hardships or others just like them. Just know that with realistic planning and knowing where you are going, you can get there just like those before you.

See also: Are you in “Woe is Me” mode?

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Wanting a career in the performing arts

Just wanting it isn’t enough. There is wishful thinking and there is intention. You may see yourself getting curtain call after curtain call, getting your due for the talent you possess.

And what happens when you don’t get cast in the Fall musical? Some people think this is a wake-up call to give up these silly dreams and go do something practical. Like study quantum mechanics.

I got news for you. It is a wakeup call but it has nothing to do with talent or sex appeal or even wishful thinking. If you want a career in the arts, you must be willing to turn that dreaming into practical intention.

There is a big difference between thinking about doing something and your intent to do it. Just look at the law. You can go to jail for planning to harm someone. They call it “intent.” You won’t go to jail for having a random thought about how life would be without that annoying someone around you. The “intent” is only wishful thinking.

This brings up that pesky word “planning.” This is a word right out of a business model where if a company wants to make better and cheaper widgets and corner a market on them, they have to do some “planning” that takes it out of the wishful stage and puts it squarely on a course to succeed. What happens between the wishful – gee, I “wish” I could be in the movies – to taking an acting class? You have thought about the steps it takes to be an actor and turned dreaming into practical intent.

I had a discussion with my hairdresser – a talented person if ever there was one – about why she was not cutting hair in Hollywood for the movies, something she has wanted to do forever. It all boiled down to not wanting to take seriously the business end of creativity. She didn’t like having to “marketing” herself. She is a creative person and “marketing” is something she thinks she couldn’t possibly be good at. It was all about business. Like working in a salon isn’t business? And she said this after handing me her business card, something she had designed herself.

Here’s the thing about performance art and marketing. I have a friend who acts in Chicago. She relentlessly sends out postcards to producers and casting directors that has a head shot on the front and what role she is doing or has done recently. She asks them to come and see her in whatever the current thing is. I got more news for you. That is marketing and my friend has worked almost non-stop in professional theatre – with awards and everything – for almost 30 years.

I think the reason my hairdresser doesn’t like the business end is because she was told or tells herself that business is directly opposite to what is artistic. What we aren’t taught – in high school, anyway – is that business and art go hand in hand.  Just watch Nashville if you want to get up close and personal with the business end of show business, in this case the country music industry.

So I guess the question for you is, “What are you doing today that is on your plan for a career in the performing arts?”

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Are you in “Woe is Me” mode?

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.

  1. First, Butch up! Yes, you do have to take a job to support yourself. Get over it.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.

  1. Whether there are auditions for you right now or not, prepare for them by having four two-minute scenes ready:
    1. Classic drama
    2. Classic comedy
    3. Contemporary drama
    4. Contemporary comedy

    Get someone who knows (a former prof, a working actor, etc) to coach you with the scenes.

  2. 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.)
  3. Find out (contact the director/theatre) what the auditions require and plan for that.
  4. 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.


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