This week, I auditioned for a summer Shakespeare company. Had they hired me, it would have been the perfect gig: they were doing three shows that I'm perfect for, the theatre is close to both my apartment and my job, and I would have had the chance to perform Shakespeare (aka "serious grad school acting") while also maintaining my better-paid Disney job. I would have been able to perform in a beautiful outdoor ampitheater, possibly with my boyfriend and some friends. Needless to say, I really, really wanted to book this job. But I was very prepared not to- every actor is.
What I wasn't prepared for, however, was to not even get a callback. Especially when my boyfriend and my friends did get callbacks. Because giving somebody a callback is very different from casting someone. In my opinion, it is a sign of respect, it is a nod of, "yes, we acknowledge that you are good at what you do, that you would be right for the parts in question, we would like to see more from you, we are professionals acknowledging that you are also a professional, and we are mutually deserving of each other's time." Not to mention, I totally nailed my initial audition.
But regardless of why they did not give me a callback, for some bizarre, unknowable reason (because that's the other thing about actor- you never really get to find out "why" you didn't get something. Sure, you can email them, but that will probably annoy them a lot, and also, they will almost never tell you the truth, because the truth is almost always something either embarrassing or subconscious, like they promised the part to their daughter, or they just always pictured Miranda as brunette), the fact remains that I will not be going in to show them more material tomorrow. The fact remains that I will have to deal with this disappointment- a disappointment I've never really felt before, because this is the first instance I can remember in which I did not, at the very least, make it to callbacks- and figure out how to move on.
And since disappointment is an inseparable part of being an actor, I have inevitably developed some tools with which to manage the feelings of hopelessness and self-loathing and anger and self-righteousness that arise in the face of glaring rejection. My main tool is not a unique one: my main tool is reminding myself that "everything happens for a reason."
I am not a religious person. In fact, I am an atheist who becomes desperately uncomfortable at the mere mention of God, Jesus, or Christianity in general. I also wouldn't call myself "spiritual," mostly because people who say "I'm not religious, but I am spiritual" drive me a little nuts (like, just commit. Either you don't believe in God, or you do believe in God. And also, what do you mean by "spiritual"? Like, you feel the urge to be connected to something bigger than yourself? I'm pretty sure that's just the innate human condition.) But I have found that, when shitty things happen, it is necessary for me to believe that there is some cosmic order to our lives: that everything does, in fact, happen for a reason. Sometimes I call this cosmic force the "Universe," as in, "The Universe is telling me this wasn't the right thing for me" or "The Universe has something better in store for me." But I don't really believe that the Universe is doing anything or telling me anything. It's just the way I've learned to express my urge to be connected to something bigger than myself, than yourself, something bigger than all of us.
My boyfriend poses this sentiment more secularly: his version, he says, is something more like, "what is the lesson I can take from this?" Maybe the most accurate verbiage to describe my version is something like, "how am I going to choose to move forward?"
Because everything is a choice, isn't it? The Universe can't tell you a goddamn thing if you aren't willing to listen and do something about it.
The lesson I think I will take from this is pretty simple: moving forward with my auditioning life, I will no longer expect to always get a callback. I probably won't ever stop believing I deserve a callback, but I can stop feeling entitled to it.
And as far as how I plan to move forward...well, as a fellow Frozen cast member repeated to herself over and over in the dressing room a few days ago, "there is no rejection, only redirection." Maybe by not getting this show (in the most spectacularly aggressive way possible) I am simply being redirected in the work I am meant to focus on in this particular moment of my life. Philosophically, the "Universe" could be telling me that instead of using my limited energy to regurgitate a dead white man's words (words which have been regurgitated MILLIONS OF TIMES, that we have all heard too many times before, that very likely are not particularly relevant and certainly are not daring in this day and age), regardless of how beautiful the words and how well-executed the regurgitation, I should be using that energy to create, produce, and seek out chances to perform in new work; work I write/direct myself or work written/directed by other women or people of color or queer writers. After all, the Universe refused me this opportunity right after it gave me the opportunity to produce an amazing new collaborative play I created with three other diverse female artists. Maybe the "Universe" is telling me to take the time to focus more on my non-theatre-related writing: maybe this blog will take off, or maybe I will finally get some work done on my YA novel (lol).
Or maybe, from a more practical stand point, this recent rejection is actually a sign that I shouldn't be stressing out about working so much. Maybe it is a sign that it is ok for me to simply commit to my Disney job, make money, and spend my free time on activities I enjoy- crafting, sleeping, hanging out with Jonathan and my cats, blogging, etc. Maybe it is a sign that I should finally force myself to actually go to yoga class at least once a week. When I visited Disney World in January, the little TV in the ride vehicle on the "Spaceship Earth" ride at Epcot asked me a question that stuck with me (like, really stuck, like, "get this thing out of me" stuck): the little TV asked the question, "do you live to work, or work to live?" And I answered, without hesitation, that I "live to work"- because I am an actor, an artist, my life is my work, my work is my passion, my identity is inseparable from my art and therefore is inseparable from my work. I exist in this world only to do my work. I'm not one of these "normals" who just goes to their job and comes home and watches TV and goes out to dinner or to the beach on weekends, I'm an artist, goddamnit! But as I journeyed past the Ancient Greek animatronics and the robotic Steve Jobs, I couldn't stop thinking about that question- specifically, I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that "working to live" actually sounded kind of nice. I realized that since I started Frozen, I had pretty much been doing just that- going to work, and then coming home to enjoy watching TV and doing some macrame or embroidery on my couch. I was enjoying going to Disneyland or to the movies on my days off, I was enjoying being able to sleep in and go out to dinner with friends and go home to visit my parents. Granted, "going to work" still meant performing, which was (and is) amazing. But when you do the same show multiple times a day, four days a week, eight hours a day, it starts to feel pretty routine, more money-driven than passion-driven. More like "just a job" than a "dream job."
And the truth is, when I was first cast in Frozen 13 months ago, I never imagined I would be auditioning for other shows while working in this one. I didn't realize that doing outside shows while being in a Disney show was a thing. I am glad that it's a thing, but I had no idea that from Day One of doing this show, I would feel such tremendous pressure to always be searching for something bigger and better. Part of why I've started auditioning other places these past couple months is because, after hearing my cast mates talk endlessly about all the other auditions and shows they were doing, I felt like I was also supposed to be doing all these other things; and more importantly, I felt that I was supposed to want to do these other things. I really did want to work for this Shakespeare company, but I think a bigger part of me just wanted to be able to tell people that I was working for this Shakespeare company. Somehow, I have developed the idea that if I just do Frozen and nothing else, if I simply am "working to live" for awhile, I am not a "successful" actor. If I don't have fancy things to post about on social media, if I don't have theaters fighting over me, how do I prove that I am a professional? How do I prove I am talented? I want the things that other people have convinced me to want, but when I really think about it, I have no idea what I actually, really, truly want.
It is highly probable that the reason I haven't been booking anything from the auditions I've been attending is because I have been too unyielding with (and honest about) my Disney work schedule. On every audition form I have filled out, I have promised to make myself available for all tech rehearsals and shows, but only to be available after 7:30 pm on days I work at Disney during the regular rehearsal period (just to be clear, the rehearsal periods in question are made up of mostly evening rehearsals). I have also been honest about the fact that at the end of May, my Disney contract will be up for renegotiation, meaning I don't know for sure what my schedule there will be (though I have also made it clear that if my contract does change, it would likely only make me more available for another rehearsal process). And I have not checked the box labeled "I will accept any part" or "I will accept ensemble" on any forms, because I cannot take time off from my high-paying job to play an ensemble role for cheap or for free. I have filled out my audition forms in this way primarily because I want to be an ethical and honest person. But I think that maybe I have also been filling out my forms like this because part of me isn't ready to commit to something outside of Frozen. A big part of me. Maybe most of me. Most of me is not ready to lost the good thing I have going at Disney. Most of me is afraid of consequences such as losing my guaranteed hours, losing my employment status, or having to call out sick so much I get fired. Most of me is afraid of losing the work that is allowing me to live.
Auditions for summer projects are largely over, and summer itself is usually a slow time for theater auditions. I'm not giving up on anything, but I think I probably won't start seriously auditioning again until the fall. In the meantime I will pick up extra shifts at Frozen. I will spend time with my family, I will craft and I will watch TV, I will sleep in and I will write, I will update this blog and my jewelry Instagram. Jonathan and I might move into a bigger place soon. I might have redecorating to do. I will enjoy working to live, and all the while I will worry that I'm not doing enough, I will worry about what might happen if Frozen were to close, I will worry about my future, I will go back and forth about looking for an agent, I will feel like I am wasting time, I will feel less then.
But also, maybe I will start to inch closer and closer to a happy medium, my happy place wedged perfectly between "working to live" and "living to work."