Girl Talk: What I’ve Learned From My First Year As A Working Actress
Earlier this year, I auditioned for a Broadway show to play a girl … from Wiltshire, England. I hadn’t really considered the note that, “using a regional accent would be an advantage,” until around midnight the night before. And to clarify, “would be an advantage” means, do it.
That’s okay, I thought to myself, I’ll just wing it. Because you know that we all try to sound like Harry Potter from time to time. Wingardium Leviosa!
The day of the audition, I used my fake-it-till-you-make-it confidence and tried to channel my inner Hermione Granger. I started reading the audition scene opposite another actor. He had the first line. As the first few words came out of his mouth, all I could think was, Wow! His accent is good! And I don’t even know what a Wiltshire dialect should sound like! I mean, this guy could actually be from England. Heck, he could be the mayor of Wiltshire’s son. His accent was too good. I felt the focus melting out of my fingertips.
One blackout later, the audition was over, and I was shaking like a leaf. I was Hermione with Parkinson’s. But still, I walked out of the room consciously trying to hold my chin up high.
People have said to me that every time an audition goes terribly, I am one step closer to being great. I’m starting to see what they mean. Bombing an audition is character building. At least, I hope.
I should back up a little, though. At age 13, I decided that I wanted to be an actress. Not that I had really done it before—honestly, I had thought that TV was real life until I was about 10. But being an actor seemed to me like a good way to see the world, since the idea of becoming a famous pop star seemed a bit less attainable. In high school I was dubbed, ‘Most Likely to Become an Actress’ by my classmates. See, I was already a star! They could see my inner glow! I seriously thought that I was going to graduate acting school and several months later be a guest on “Live With Regis and Kelly”, telling my “oh, fame just fell in my lap” story.
That’s not how it went. After graduating from theater school, I moved to New York City with visions of Frank Sinatra dancing in my head. But in New York, everyone’s a star. The idea of competing against such extremely talented performers soon led to struggles with my self-confidence. All I felt was: paralyzing fear.
It took me months to work up the nerve to go to my first audition. There is nothing a teacher can say to really prepare you for life as a working actor, aside from the usual, “GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN!” I had my headshots, had my resume. Well, a ‘minimalistic’ resume. Now what?! I didn’t quite know. So
But then I would have moments of clarity, when I saw a movie or watched a comedy group perform, where everything in my being yearned for what those actors had. I could cry I wanted it so bad.
I began blogging, and quickly I found a new love and creative outlet. When I couldn’t get an acting job to save my life, I could at least go home and write about how rough it was. There’s a certain freedom in not having to ask permission to blog. I can write whenever I want and about whatever I want. Like about what I ate for lunch.
I really like inspirational quotes, so I put them all over my walls in my bedroom. One Post-it I stuck up there states plainly, “MESS UP!!!” I realized that in auditioning, I can be extremely hard on myself when I make mistakes or simply don’t make the best decisions. It quickly spirals into me feeling like I am the stupidest woman on planet Earth. But I’ve realized that perfection is a goal only insane people make. And that by judging myself for mess-ups, I’m doing nothing but putting that much more pressure on myself the next time. So I didn’t get one part. Why beat myself up and make sure it happens on repeat? I’ve learned that in auditioning, I need to let go and not try so hard. Not fear making mistakes. Because if you go through life trying to avoid failure, you won’t do much of anything.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since I finished school. It did not go as I imagined it would—I’m still not famous!—but I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned that being an actress is hard, not glamorous, but that it’s the diligent and persistent who are successful. I’ve learned that only through trying new things and making mistakes will you discover what you’re good at and what works. And I’ve learned that life unfolds in a way that is completely unpredictable.
You have to go after your dreams without being afraid of failing. Because you’ll never know if you don’t take a chance.