Always called back, but never cast?
Updated: Jul 24, 2022
It can be frustrating as a performer when you show up to audition after audition, put your all in, get called back, run yourself around in circles for a company or production team and then don't get cast in a show. I have experienced this many times. As most seasoned auditionees know, 'you get knocked back twice as often as you get cast'!. But how do you keep bouncing back from this, especially when you find out how many roles are being offered to the same people over and over again.
Is it because they are just better than you?
Should you just give up and accept that you are not all that talented?
Do certain aspects of your skills require more practise?
Should you concede that unless you are part of the right clique you will never have much of a chance? Are you doing something wrong?
Should you ask for feedback, and if you receive it, is it honest, fair or helpful?
I have asked myself these questions over and over again...
Here is how I have learned to deal with the grief and self-doubt that accompanies constantly hearing phrases such as "In this instance you have not been successful".
Denial, anger or bargaining does not help - move onto the depression stage and allow yourself to grieve.
Know that it is ok to feel disappointed if you have not achieved what you have strived for. But be mindful regarding your reactions. Know that you are grieving for the loss of an experience you really wanted, not for any loss of talent or self-worth. These things have not actually been affected. You are still as talented, hardworking and worthwhile as you have ever been
2. Ask for feedback only if you sincerely wish to take on board constructive criticism - otherwise you will likely re-live the initial grief.
It is always a good thing to receive constructive criticism that will allow you to better your audition skills and work on certain areas of your craft. Becoming aware of some of the idiosyncrasies that you don't realise that you exude is invaluable. However, sometimes you will receive feedback that focuses on a very small part of the audition process; something very specific for that role or something that is particularly important to a certain director or production team. This is more likely to happen if you auditioned well but lost your intended role to someone slightly more appropriate. Be mindful of not hyper focusing on these traits, because you may want them in a different situation.
3. Be realistic regarding how well you prepared for the audition - could you have done more?
Know the difference between a less than worthy audition and lack of talent. Very talented people can still present poorly in auditions, especially if they are underprepared. If you have the time, my advice would be to 'over prepare'. - This can be hard (we all have lives).
1. Know more about the production and characters than is required
2. Know more of the repertoire than is required
3. Have your presentation memorised
4. If you are unsure how to present, have questions prepared (first - make sure that you cannot find the information elsewhere, and don't ask too many)
5. Be humble and honest, but present yourself confidently
6. Be friendly, but professional
Ask yourself if you achieved all of these things to the best of your ability?
4. Be aware that 'Who you know' can make a difference regarding the outcome of an audition.
Most production teams and companies attempt to be as fair as possible, but it would be naive to assume that previous knowledge of an auditionee is not considered during auditions. This is just a part of life - and not specific to the performing arts. Many people receive higher consideration during employment interview processes if 'they know someone'. Directors and production teams selecting 'safe' options as opposed to other competent candidates that they don't know very well is also not unheard of. If you are evidently aware that you are disliked or someone else has been favoured, attempt to rise above it. If need be, find a positive outlet to deal with your frustration or grief as opposed to contacting people, or leaving negative comments on social media - for example: I document my experiences in hope that it may help others experiencing similar grievances. Conclusively, it is so important to remember that any type of preference based on these qualities is not largely a reflection of your talent or abilities.
5. Don't assume that the information pack regarding the role is correct
Sometimes you will receive an information pack outlining what skills an auditionee must have to receive a role - don't consider this gospel. It will be exceedingly frustrating for you when the person who receives the role - does not fit the criteria you were working from. The most common change is the need for a trained vocalist - unfortunately more often than not, this is code for an actress or dancer that can sing - and their voices usually get weaker as each show goes on, due to their lack of technical control (sucks, but it is true).
6. Unfortunately - looks often matter.
Certain roles require specific looks or backgrounds. This includes ethnicity, weight, height and other features. It is better to consider auditioning for characters that you could reasonably pass for without huge amounts of makeup or cosmetic surgery (Joke). However, I have definitely auditioned for roles where I naturally looked much more like the character than the performer that was actually cast. There are many reasons for this, but it can depend on how you look next to other cast members rather than your overall look. Remember that this cannot be helped and does not reflect on you at all.
7. Focus on your own creative endeavours. Attempt to stretch your creativity and performance skills in ways that you envision - as opposed to focusing on someone else's vision.
Although there is excitement in being a part of bringing large production to life. You will essentially be presenting someone else's idea of perfect. You may not agree on what that is, but you have to deliver it regardless. Focusing on your own creative endeavours, whether big or small allows you reach new heights regarding your idea of creativity and perfectionism. In the long run, it is often more meaningful. For me, writing, directing, producing, musically directing and performing in my own productions are also a serious demonstration of skills beyond that of a stage performer, if achieved- this is something to be proud of.
8. Hold onto the things that matter most
An oldie, but a goodie: "It could be worse!" You have the things you couldn't live without (I hope). Safety, family, love and connection that will never be less important than one person's opinion or 50 lead roles. This is what you actually can't live without. Lean on them, but don't take your frustration out on them, they love you and will support you, whatever comes your way.
Almost every performer suffers through the same grief, know that it is normal, common and often necessary to build up the thick skin required to work or perform in the arts industry. Keep your head up and know that many people out there are walking the same path as you in their own way. Know that 'You Will Be Found' by your clan, if you keep striving you will eventually be 'Defying Gravity' and work to stay 'Rainbow High' no matter who or what is bringing you down.