I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve beaten myself up over an audition that didn’t go as planned. The second I left a casting room, I’d unleash a mental peanut gallery, each voice louder than the next questioning my choices, talent, and even the shirt I was wearing. I’d stare blankly out the window of a downtown 1 train wondering what business I had trying to get paid to tell stories.
But as I got older, something shifted inside of me and I started to surrender to all the variables out of my control. I realized there was nothing I could do about how I looked, the way I was perceived, or how “right” I was for a part. And rather than be frustrated by those realities, I chose to be liberated by them. I took solace in the realization I could want something without needing it, an insight that made me happier and the work more fulfilling.
I also decided to invest my time and energy in what I had agency over: my attitude and work ethic. As a result, I stopped taking myself so seriously and developed the ability to leave the audition in the room. Here’s how.
1. Toss the sides.
I learned this trick from actor Michael B. Jordan. After an audition, good or bad, he’d toss the sides so there was no visual reminder of the event.
Don’t amble into the land of shoulda, woulda, coulda; it’s a lonely place devoid of reason or answers. Instead, cleanse yourself of regret, worry, and doubt. Give yourself a big ole’ pat on the back for showing up and putting your best foot forward.
2. Do something completely different.
After an audition, I’d often take a stroll or grab a cup of coffee with a good friend. Keeping the company of solid folks never goes out of style. Ring a friend and hit up a museum or wander aimlessly through Central Park. Time away from your hustle will remind you there’s more to life than impressing a casting director.
3. Support a student production.
Back in high school, one of my best friends was a standout on the women’s soccer team. Trying to get her to talk about anything other than her love of the game was like parting the Red Sea. When we graduated, she earned a scholarship to play at a well-known Division 1 school in southern California. She was elated. But before she even had time to break in her new cleats, her passion for the game was forever tainted by her new coach, who took all the joy out of playing, eventually leading to her quitting the team.
READ: How to Audition
Unfortunately, the entertainment industry can have the same effect. I’ve seen countless actors who were once madly in love with telling stories lose the bounce in their step by the need to self-promote and think in terms of revenue.
So go back and check out a student or community production. See the bliss that emanates from actors who need to be dragged off stage. Let them remind you of why you fell in love with the theater in the first place. Then cling to that feeling and protect it at all costs.
4. Take time to volunteer.
One of the best ways to stop dwelling on your worries is to lessen those of others.
When you’re of service to your community, you gradually develop a clearer sense of the big picture, which can get fuzzy in our day-to-day lives. Lend a hand at a shelter or sign-up to be a tutor. There are plenty of people who could benefit from what you already know.
5. Focus on what you already have.
Before you stick your head in the sand over an audition that went south, take a moment to realize you had the opportunity to showcase your work.
As a young actor, I was so caught up in advancing my career that I rarely took the time to appreciate my great fortune. I was dashing through the greatest city in the world reading for television, theater, and film. Had you told me I’d be doing as much five years earlier I would have questioned your sanity.
Your career may not be taking shape exactly the way you thought it would but getting the chance to pursue what you love means you’re living on rare air. Write a note to yourself and tape it to your mirror or -it, set a notice on your touchscreen. Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself you're already living the dream.
*This post was originally published on Dec. 11, 2017. It has since been updated.
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and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Backstage or its staff.