The following Career Dispatches essay was written by actor Josh Lamon, who can currently be seen co-starring in “The Prom” on Broadway.
My first audition in New York City was for the non-Equity tour of “Cinderella.” I want to say this was about 1999 or 2000. It’s no secret that I’m a bigger guy. Always have been. At this audition or cattle call, I was surrounded by about 600 other guys. All were drop-dead gorgeous. It made me feel so small. It made me feel like there wasn’t a place for me. I tried striking up a few conversations, but people either completely ignored me as if I didn’t say hello or would smile back and look away. By the time my number was called, I walked into that room just feeling defeated and out of my league. I sang 32 bars of “Bigger Is Better” from “When Pigs Fly.” I don’t remember their name, but the director had the biggest smile on his face and said, “Josh, I want you to know that I don’t have a role for you right now. But please keep coming back. It might be a few years, but you are going to work.” I left the building floating up 8th Ave. and back to the Greyhound station that would take me back to my crappy apartment in Philadelphia, where I was living at the time. What may have been my last audition in NYC became a launching pad of self-worth and perseverance—all because that man was so kind to me.
I still find auditions terrifying. I’m not one of those people who enjoy it. But I have found joy in being kind to everyone I meet at auditions. If I know someone’s work, I tell them how much I appreciate what they do. If I love someone’s sweater, I let them know how fabulous it is. And if I see someone who looks how I felt that day at the “Cinderella” auditions, I try and read if they are open to a friendly conversation. If they are, it brings me great joy to cheer them on. Not only does it make them feel less anxious, it makes me feel good, too.
Kindness is key in this business. We have all chosen to pursue one of the craziest and stressful careers on earth. We face rejection every day. It’s never (usually) personal, but it certainly can feel that way. So why make things harder? Casting is a puzzle, and our only job is to truly give casting and the team a fierce option. Sometimes we fit the puzzle, sometimes we don’t. That is out of our control. The only thing in our control is showing up prepared, passionate, and present. I’ve heard people say they view their competition as “the enemy.” I believe that point of view is poisonous. That “competition” is a member of my tribe. We are a small and hard-working community of people that chose something difficult only because this art form is so special to us. So let’s celebrate that. Let’s be kind and loving.
On a larger scale, I have seen so many careers flushed down the toilet because they were mean. Every job may lead you to another job just as much as every interaction may lead to another one. In my experience, nothing spreads quicker than a bad attitude. I’ve worked on projects where a person in the cast or creative team has behaved poorly. On all of those projects, I get at least three people who I don’t know super well reaching out “for the dish” because they heard so and so is behaving a certain way. By the time it is retold to me, of course it has been exaggerated and blown out of proportion, but that is now that person’s reputation. All it takes is for one person on the creative team to say, ‘Ya know what? I like them, but I have heard this…’ and then you are out of a job. I get it, we all have bad days, and I’m no angel. But don’t let it be your norm; if you get out of line, apologize. Learn from your mistakes and grow!
Remember: Most of us are broken birds and are learning how to fly. Lift one another up. Not only will you feel good, but every team in the world will rest easy knowing that there is someone they are hiring that will be kind and loving when the going gets tough. And it always does. So go smile at someone who needs a smile. We are all in this together.
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