For all my actors out there, it’s a fairly familiar scene: you spend hours prepping the material, taking those secret, delicious breaks thinking about what it’d be like to book the job (Career would be changed! All the hustle worth it!). Then, you commute to the audition in a torrential downpour (which you’re not prepared for), the casting director starts the tape before you’re ready, and it’s all over in a 2 minute blur of confusion and self-doubt. That was me last week, right down to the soggy socks.
I’ve lived in NYC for six years, but these post-audition moments never get easier. Before I get to the elevator, the hamster wheel inside my head begins, breaking down every moment in the room. Was that slate weird? Did I take her note? Did that last scene land enough to make up for the shaky beginning?
It goes on and on. And on.
As actors, we’re given the impossible task of pouring our guts into something we have little to no control over. Sure, you could kill the material, but sometimes circumstances are just stacked against you. You’re too short, not the right type… or, despite your lines being perfect five minutes ago, you weren’t ready when she clicked “record.” The only way forward is to let it go.
Don’t get me wrong: telling an actor to “let it go” is the least helpful advice maybe ever. That’s like telling someone “don’t think of the pink elephant in the corner,” and we all know how that goes. Instead, my goal after frustrating auditions is this: not to let those two minutes ruin my whole day.
By that I mean, I take all the moments I need to grieve. I let myself be frustrated, or cry on the subway (we’ve all done it) and throw the sides away as quickly as possible. But then, after a few deep breaths, I do something to show myself a little love. I’ll sign up for that fun workout class. Is that lunch place I’ve wanted to try open today? Done. An added bonus: self-care doesn’t have to cost anything. If it’s a nice day I’ll detour through the park instead of taking the subway home, listening to an album or playlist I love. Sometimes I’ll call a friend. Or sometimes, I’ll just go to Eataly and walk around. Because no matter what’s going on, window-shopping amidst huge wheels of Parmesan is an excellent way to spend an afternoon.
Some of that may seem simple (or silly), but for me, those moments help to shift focus and ground my thinking back to the present. The choice to gift yourself with something small but special is a conscious reminder that you are more than your auditions, and more than your performance on one given day. Not to mention, it takes a hell of a lot of courage to show up in the face of potential rejection. Just making it through and on to the next deserves recognition and reward.
There are moments when I am incredibly grateful to be an actor. It’s a privilege to be driven by that creative energy, to lock into someone’s words and experience that level of connection with another person. But, there are moments when it truly, deeply, sucks. For those moments, it’s self-care to the rescue.
All photos by Jesse Hsu, of Jesse Hsu Photography. Instagram: @jessehsuphotography.