So, I have taken my first steps into the world of being an actor in Los Angeles. Now, let me tell you… that first step is a doozy! I have been an actor for most of my life, and there has never been a point where I have stopped learning. I think that is part of what I love about it. There is always room to grow, explore, and create.
I am a baby actor out here in LaLaLand with hardly a film credit to my name. That makes it tough for people to want to take a chance on you (especially when you aren’t represented either). But I am trying! I am putting myself out there and I am working. The real “work” part of being an actor comes before you’ve been cast. You have to prepare and promote yourself, study your craft, network and connect with other people in the business, get yourself in front of the people who can give you a job, audition tons and do it well… Right now, I may not be a paid actor, but I am certainly a working one.
Over the last few weeks, I have had several auditions, interviews, and casting calls. I’ve had solid auditions, mediocre auditions, and just plain terrible auditions. I am learning so much, and I am getting better at it. I try to look at every audition as a chance to perform. An opportunity to do what I love and (hopefully) make someone fall in love with what I do. I think it’s the only way to keep your sanity intact in the world of show business. I have not always enjoyed auditioning, but I am starting to just a little bit more. Afterward, I like to go back over the audition in my head. There is nothing you can do to change what went on, but I think it’s important to recall the experience. Think about how it went, what you could have done better, what you did really well… Take in the experience, and learn something from it.
Today, I had an audition that I had no choice but to learn from. It also reminded me of the first audition that truly schooled me…
My background is in musical theatre. I started taking dance as a child, and I was the clumsiest, least coordinated girl in the class. But it was fun, and I always got back up after I fell down. Then, I discovered that I was a singer. Singing was my most favorite thing, and because of that, I discovered acting. I fell in love with musicals. The movies I remember watching most growing up are Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The King and I, and Grease. I wanted to sing, play these incredible characters, and dance a little bit too. So, that is what I did. From elementary school and on… I was that girl in the play, that girl in choir, (that girl who tries to dance). I never wanted to do anything else. Theatre was my life.
Now, maybe you are wondering how the theatre kid ended up in Los Angeles pursuing film. (Truth be told, this is a very good question because I was quite the theatre snob). And if you’re not wondering, I’m going to tell you anyway. 😉 After high school, I toured with a company called the Jeremiah People. We traveled around the country for 9 months performing a show called “Dear Diary.” It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of the most rewarding. (Plus, it’s how I met my husband so I never regretted it for a second). While on tour, I was told about Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Their musical theatre program was just what I was looking for. And, in God’s perfect timing, one of the four auditions out of the entire year was happening while my tour was in Nashville. I knew this was where I was meant to be. So, I tried as hard as I could to prepare for my audition while I was on the road, but I was ill-equipped. I went for it anyway! My audition was terrible. It turns out I had chosen all the wrong things for a musical theatre audition. The wrong songs, inappropriate monologues, an awful dance routine. To top it off, truly poor performances in the music theory and dance assessments. I don’t know that I did a single thing right, but I didn’t really know any better. A week later I got my acceptance letter to Belmont University as well as my rejection letter from the musical theatre department. I was in shock. I had never felt more rejected or confused in my life. Wasn’t I good enough? Wasn’t that where God wanted me? How could this be happening to me? It took me a long time to come to terms with it. I was not used to being turned down. I was angry with God, but I still felt like Belmont was the place I was supposed to be. I had fallen in love with the campus, the atmosphere, the idea of it. I found out they had a straight theatre program and decided to give it a shot. I figured I would start there and audition for the musical theatre department again in the spring. Well, that never happened. I learned to love straight theatre. I learned to love film. Of course, I missed music, but I discovered so much about myself as a person and performer. I became an actor. An actor who sings and occasionally dances (when someone is patient enough to teach her). I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. I want to tell the truth. I want to tell stories that need to be told. I want to make the world move.
That is where I started. And thanks in large part to a truly horrific audition experience, I am in California working to be a film actor. Of course, I will also pursue theatre when given the opportunity. Even a musical (I do miss it)! So, when I saw an audition that combined all three things, I knew I had to go for it. A film centered around girls who sing and dance… I felt like I was perfect for it! Then, at the audition this morning, I realized it was clumsiest, least coordinated girl in the class who showed up instead of me. No holds barred, I was horrible! I was out of practice. I didn’t even make it past the dance audition… it just had to be dancing first. Sigh. It doesn’t matter how many musicals I’ve danced in or how many ballet, jazz, and modern classes are listed (and truthfully!) on my resume… I am just not a talented dancer. Honestly, I had no business being there with all those girls who could hear the choreographer call out, “Double pirouette, rond de jame, chaines!” and just do it. I am not that girl. But I am still that girl who will get back up when she falls down. I tried to just have fun and go with it (Like all of us non-dancer dancers are taught to do). Even though I knew that I was out of my depth, I stuck with it. Honestly, it was pretty comical. And honestly, I am still glad for the experience. Just because I was the worst one up there doesn’t mean I didn’t do my best. Dancing will never be my strong suit, but now I know that I really need to keep practicing for opportunities that may come up. I know what is expected and next time I will be better prepared. I may not be naturally talented at it, but if I work hard enough, I might be able pull it off. It’s also a good reminder that it’s okay to play to your strong suits and be proud of the things you can do well.
Every audition is a chance to learn something new, try something different, and do what you love. I will not book every job. I will not be right for every role. I will not be discouraged by that. I am not defined by every rejection (or every acceptance), but I can use each and every experience to become a better actor and a better me. So, that is just what I’m going to do.