No matter how we slice it or dice, rejection in this business is never-ending. Each time you put yourself out there, you stand a chance of being rejected, not matter what it is. After completing my statistics class, I realized that the rate of me failing, even after I did my 100% best, was higher than the rate of me succeeding. We can put on our best face, we can prepare all we want, but there is still that chance that no matter what you do or how hard you try, you could still lose. Sometimes the loss is small, and sometimes you have put it all on the line and lost everything (literally every materialistic thing that matters to you-money, food, a home, the list goes on).
When I arrived at a conservatory to study music after completing my undergraduate studies, I was surprised that the students took a rejection so hard. I was always asking “are these people nuts?”. Then it dawned on me after I received a not so nice review in my first year of touring a broadway show and going out for role after role and not getting it, somewhere along the way……..It became personal.
People always say “Don’t take it so personally”. My response has always been “Are you nuts?! It is what I do for a living! Everyday no matter what I am going though in my personal life, I put it all out there on the line so people can take their minds off of their problems! What do you mean DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY?!!!”. I went from 0 to 100 with my emotions anytime I saw a review (that is not good). What I realized, is that it is my business, so there will always be part of me that takes it personally. However, what I needed to do was learn to deal with rejection.
After receiving my M.B.A. in International Business, the first thing you learn is that you can not be all things to all people. I decided to translate that into my performing arts career. As a person, I will never be able to be all things to all people. There are so many things that are out of my control as an individual. Maybe the critic is having a bad day, maybe he hates his job, maybe he hates the director because they were in a relationship, maybe this, or maybe that. I can not control that. What I can control is how I react, what I can do within my control to make it be the best performance I can (get enough rest, practice, memorize, eat right, etc.).
That being said, here are some strategies to help you master the downside of rejection:
- Allow yourself to feel the pain, the disappointment…..and dare I say it, the sting of the rejection. When we do this, we also help ourselves to remember that we are human. We understand that we can not be all things to all people.
- Pro – Tip Strategy: Designate one notebook for auditions. Anything you schedule regarding an audition should be written in the book. Immediately after the audition write down a few notes (how you think you did, what you did right, if there was something you were working on and you feel as if you mastered it in the audition, etc.) right everything about how you did. Once you hear that you got the part, or (for the purpose of this article) you did not get the part, ask a few questions: Who got the part? What experience they have vs. your experience? Who do they study with (for singers)? This process usually puts things into perspective. It helps us realize that there are some things about this business that go beyond our talent and comes down to who and what the other person knows. Often times, and sad to say, it comes down to who has the bigger name.
- Personal Perspective: I used to be looped in the same category as Audra McDonald (think Master Class days). If there was an audition, and I found out she was already considered for the lead. I already had a hunch. After one audition I had to ask myself why did I not get the part. I stopped saying “well look at her, she can bring in the money to the box office, etc”. That is when I started writing notes from my audition. It made me realize, that although she was further along in her career (box office name). There were things that I realized WHY she may have been the better choice! I also realized that we both have qualities that are uniquely our own, that should be celebrated. This business can be very cut throat, but when start recognizing your own unique gifts, it creates a shift in how we work and deal with our colleagues.
- Don’t believe the hype – So you got the job because you obviously have talent. You are singing in front of thousands of people. You have been told all along that you are amazing, you have a gift! You did not just call yourself and actress, singer, etc. you went to school and TRAINED for it, you spent THOUSANDS!! According to everyone in your world, you are the bomb-dot-com (yes I said that) right? WRONG!!
- Pro tip: When you have been rejected based on your talent, it can be a tough pill to swallow. Was everyone wrong? Have I been wrong? Don’t do it. Always be humble, always know about how fickle the performing arts industry is. Always understand, that you have to know who you are, and the reality of your own talent. You have to know the good, the bad, and the ugly side of what you do and who you are as an artist. You will be able to emotionally whether the emotional storms of a not so great review from time to time.
- Personal Perspective: One review in Canada, was so negative. When I put it down, then read it again……and again. I started reading between the lines. It was not me, it was the SHOW in general that the critic was upset about. Me being who I am, tracked down the critic and to my surprise was treated to lunch, and a great conversation. We talked about the business, touring, my road to singing in classical music, and everything in between. What I learned that day, is to remember that the reviewers job is to review. I also learned that the reviewer loved classical music. From his perspective the show should not have been mic’d (if you know old school singing, you don’t mic a performance) . He thought that the show should have had more this or that for the amount of money people paid. He also saw the show two years before I joined, and I found out that the show was a “skeleton set” of what he saw in the past. My eyes were opened. He had an entire history with the show, a life with the show, a life of classical music that he loved…..and this one performance did not stand up to the hype. He went on to add that columnists have their own back story as to what they are bringing to the performance. What I did was, to take the time to find out what HIS story was. We still talk to this day.
- Throw yourself a party! You heard it right! Throw yourself a PITY PARTY! Yes we know it is so wrong, but it feels soooooo good to do that sometimes!
- Pro – Tip: Go ahead, send out your invitations after a disastrous review, performance or audition. I like to call it self therapy. It sort of goes back to tip #1. Sometimes you have to allow yourself to feel like crap. You can do it yourself (which I do not suggest), or just tell your most positive friends that you would love to meet up. The reason why meeting up is important, is because it gets you out of your house, and into some fresh air, which in turn helps clear your mind. Anyway, the tip is you meet up, you share that you did not get whatever it is (part, audition, review) so you wanted to go out and get your mind off of it. Give all of them a hand written note that thanks them for their encouragement. It works every time. You also have to have a limit on your pity party (three hours tops), after that you go home and do something constructive that helps you be a better performer (read a good book, magazine, find inspiration in a Netflix movie, etc).
- Personal Perspective: In college I had a teacher who would always ask me if I “had a pity party”. She would always say, “That’s ok, just don’t let it go on for days”.
I hope these tips and strategies worked for you. Let me know some of your tips and strategies for dealing with rejection in the performing arts world.
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