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Rejection

No actor (or regular human) is immune from it. In fact, most actors spend the majority of their time in the Land of Rejection.

So how do you cope with frequently being told you’re unwanted?

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Well, one thing you must remember about being rejected from a role, a production, even from getting an audition in the first place is thatΒ it is not personal. Like most humans, I’ve experienced a lot of rejection in my life, particularly since I moved to the UK, and much of it has felt horribly personal. Rejection of person is difficult to swallow. It hurts, it breaks you down and makes you question your perceptions of yourself.

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For the past 5 years, I’ve allowed various rejections–silent and spoken–to hold me back, hold me down, keep me in a place of complacency tinged with fleeting despair and tempered only by wine and denial. Rejection has fuelled my depression and anxiety, and I have allowed some it to change my sense of self worth.

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I don’t think I found myself again until that first evening back in the ‘classroom’ in January, working on some Shakespeare. I remember sitting on the bus on the way home thinking, I am an actor. That is who I’ve always been and who I always will be. And I am good. I am a fucking good actor.

So that’s how I’m going to handle professional rejection this time around. I will allow nothing to erode that one belief in myself I have had since I was a child. That one thing I have, that I know, that I will not let anyone take away from me. That I am a good actor and I must keep trying.

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These past couple weeks have been super reject-y. And I think it will be beneficial, perhaps to other people out there struggling with these feelings, to discuss how I’ve worked through various rejections.

Just like auditions themselves, rejections comes in all different shapes and sizes. The easiest for me to deal with is when I feel/know/agree I have done something poorly and am worthy of rejection. Like that commercial casting–I would have seriously questioned their judgement if they cast me. I was not prepared to have a successful audition, and I was not good! And with Othello, I was immediately embarrassed by what I’d done compared to what I knew I could do. These expected rejections were easier to take.

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And also redeemable! Even if I couldn’t re-audition for that girl, I could prove to myself that I make a passable Edmund and film the monologue to share with you guys. And commercial castings–I just need more practice! There is a tangible solution to that failure: take some film classes (bleck)!

Other rejections are a bit… harder to deal with.

I was called in last Tuesday evening to audition for multiple roles in a series of Black Mirror-esque plays being staged at the end of August. I was really pleased to get the audition in the first place and felt good about the opportunity. I was feeling confident and positive, if not a bit lost, when I ran into (almost literally) the director of the Othello thing on the stairs in the building where my audition was scheduled to take place.

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Shortly thereafter, I was waiting outside the studio to be called in…. and what appeared to be the entire cast of Othello arrived for a rehearsal in another studio next door! Fortunately, my mood of the day found the circumstance humorous rather than humiliating, and I smiled to myself as I waited to the soundtrack of my rejection playing Zip Zap Zop (or Zip Zap Boing as they call it over here) in the other room.

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Eventually, it was my turn to audition. I got called in with 3 other actors for a GROUP audition… which luckily turned out to be much more tolerable than that Group Interview I told you about last year. None of the other actors in the room were competing for the same roles as I was, so that made for a fairly relaxed setting. The panel had us read through several scenes from the various plays and gave us direction. I have to say, I ended up having a bit of a blast. Rather than an audition, I approached it as a fun opportunity to get up and do some acting with other talented actors.

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And I thought I’d done really well. The panel seemed pleased with my performance, and I completely got the vibe from them. The vibe is when the people you are auditioning for get that look in their eye, that glint, that indicates that they want to cast you. I’ve never been wrong about the vibe–I’ve always ended up being cast once I’ve felt it. And boy, I felt it this time, I felt I’d absolutely smashed it.

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I was riding so high on Tuesday night through to Wednesday morning, when I first woke up at 5am ready and thrilled to start my day working on more auditions! I forced myself to go back to sleep, but the thrill was still alive when I eventually tackled the day at 7am. My happiness cup ran-eth over even into Thursday, where I didn’t particularly mind as much as usual getting up and going to work… for there was a light at the end of the tunnel! I would soon be cast and the snowball would be gaining momentum!

Late Thursday morning, I received an email on my phone.

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Rejection.

That sickening jolt to the stomach, like you’ve been punched.

Rejection!

Regardless of the vibe and knowing I had done my best, amazingly even… I had not been cast from that Tuesday night audition.

I allowed this disappointment to cloud the rest of my (miserable) work day and my hot-as-hell commute home. This one little rejection caused me to momentarily despair that I’d never get anything else, maybe I’m totally wrong about my talent, I will rot in this office until the end of my days. I even briefly contemplated not bothering that evening with the video submission that had been requested of me for another audition.

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But that is all ri-di-cu-lous. Ridiculous thinking.

I’m glad to say that I didn’t allow myself to entirely fall off the cliff edge as I sometimes do. I’ve only been back at auditioning for two months, I reminded myself (okay, Cordelia also reminded me). And I’ve done incredibly well to even GET any auditions in the first place. This is a process.

I got home, dusted myself off (errrr wipe all the sweat off), and taped another damn audition.

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So what?

So, none of my work this week has borne fruit. Or has it? Isn’t each attempt a step in the right direction? Good practice? Immunity-building? And what if, rather than breaking you down, each rejection makes you stronger and more determined?

As I was considering these questions on Friday, I came across an incredible passage in East of Eden, greatly condensed for you here:

What do I believe in? What must I fight for and what must I fight against? Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man. […] If the glory can be killed, we are lost.

‘The glory’, as Steinbeck defines it, is what I have described in my Tuesday-Wednesday euphoria. I suppose it’s only right that that should come with a little pain. The worst thing would be for it to never come at all.

For then we would be lost.

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xWeekes

PS I’ve also been thinking about how lucky I am that I don’t have to deal with rejection AND discrimination like so many actors who are BAME, full figured, or otherwise deviant from the very narrow expectation that is considered ‘the norm’. Major props and admiration for that even steeper uphill battle, to which I hope I am an ally.

PPS Obviously none of these photos of the glorious social reject/outcast Winona Ryder are my own… thanks, Google!

 

12 thoughts on “Rejection Leave a comment

  1. First off, yay for the Winona pictures!! “I myself am strange and unusual,” is one of my favorite movie lines :)). Now, as for rejection, believe me, I know my way around a rejection. However, I do notice a difference in my attitude toward a non-fiction rejection and a fiction rejection. Although rejections (mostly) roll off like water from a duck at this point (that immunity thing you mention), the fiction ones always sting a little more since I feel like I’ve put myself, my creativity out there more than with a non-fiction idea.

    Still, I only have to deal with a faceless emails to send out my “auditions” and rejections. Having to interact face-to-face with the people judging me would be awful and it would be really hard not to take it personally. But you’re out there doing it, getting auditions, and learning from them. THAT is the best (albeit painful) way to improve. Seize that dream, girl!!! After watching Heathers once more, of course.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Winona is THE BEST AND I AM OBSESSED WITH HER. Yes, rejection is much harder to not take personally when you have put yourself–your person–out there creatively! Awful. But hopefully we are only getting stronger and stronger… because probably nothing worth creating is ever created without rejection? Or something? Ho hum, thank you for your encouragement – and I urge you to keep seizing that dream too! And try not to snap and go all Heather in the meantime…..

      Liked by 1 person

      • Can you imagine what an ass the person is who never once got rejected? It’s humbling to get knocked down a peg (or ten) and does make you work harder to improve yourself. And how funny that I just listened to the Beetlejuice soundtrack last week…we are channeling Winona!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. “Rather than an audition, I approached it as a fun opportunity to get up and do some acting with other talented actors.”

    This is always how I approached auditions, and it helped so much. A slight twist for my thought process: “This may be my only chance to play this role, or act in this play, etc., so let’s kill it and have a blast.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totes – it’s a good thing to remember but sometimes goes out the window when I get really nervous. Your second tactic/thought process does NOT work for me, unfortunately!!! As soon as I start thinking along any lines that are ‘only chance’ and ‘one shot’ and ‘I really want this’ (which is EVERY TIME), I get incredibly nervous and do horribly. Pressure. My latest opposite technique is to tell myself that the project is probably terrible, I hate it, it’s no big deal, I am merely gracing them with my presence, obviously I will be the best thing they’ll see. It’s sometimes hard to convince myself of these liiiiiiiiies! πŸ™‚

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  3. Thanks for this inspiring reflection, as told through Winona’s on-screen history! πŸ™‚ Rejection-pain is like no other, and it’s def. hard not to internalize. Bravo on finding the will to continue on with the work (and the glory!). This description of the highs and lows is so spot on; when I’ve confronted them, I tell myself they exist because I care and I hope (and want to keep doing both!). And, with every attempt brave and weather, I like to think that we become more of ourselves and discover good things to give (and as you write, no one can take that away!). Your post is so expressive of grit and resilience and digging deep. “Now you are a lioness”! (said C.S. Lewis).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lioness, yes, I love it! I realise that every day shouldn’t feel like some sort of battle I need to be strong for… but that’s just my reality right now. Roar! And you’re right, it does force you to become more yourself–when you don’t give up and give in to the lows. Thank you for your encouragement and empathy, Shirley ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. DAMMIT! Sorry, I went to hit “delete” and got “send” instead! Let’s try again… So yes, it’s awesome to see you putting yourself out there and working towards escaping the office in favour of persuing something waaaaay more satisfying. And the occasional rejection is going to be a part of that – but if you KNOW that, and you’re ready to take it in your stride, you really will be unstoppable! Plus this post is a timely reminder to all of us not to let those disappointments drag us down. Cheers, Weekes! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

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