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Maybe you needed a break from the constant rejection.  Maybe you had too long a streak of bad luck.  Or maybe that last director just soured you on the whole thing.

But now that itch is back, and you’re ready to be creative again.

Whatever your reasons are for stepping away and wanting back in, if you’re prepared to jump back in, keep the following things in mind:

  1. Your auditors don’t care if you haven’t auditioned in a while–so don’t tell them. Don’t announce it, kid about it, or even behave like it.  It hasn’t changed that much, nor will it.  Walk in the room as if you want to be there, and this is your second audition today, and you love your piece(s) that you are going to show them.  They should feel like you’ve been successfully auditioning with this piece all month long.  Which leads me to the second thing:
  2. Don’t be rusty.  Just because your number one monologue was golden when you were using it, doesn’t mean it is now.  Work it for at least two weeks, every day, before you jump back in.  There’s a good chance it will feel different now…either by a little or a lot.  That’s probably a good thing.  But it’ll throw you if you don’t examine it, and set those changes–no matter how subtle they are–in stone.  It should feel solid and dependable, without being stale or predictable in a bad way.  And at least once:
  3. Visit your coach.  There aren’t likely to be any changes in the audition process, but best to check in with someone who’s experiencing it every day, both through their own careers and the careers of their students.  Your voice and movement needs to be re-assessed.  Plus you truly need that third eye to give you their impression of where your piece(s) at/are these days.  Speaking of third eye:
  4. Face the truth about your headshot.  Ask someone you trust: “Does this look like me right now?”  You’d be surprised how many folks think they still look exactly like their headshots, even ones taken just a couple years ago, when they just don’t anymore. Since you’re getting back into the game again, maybe you are trying to wait to get new headshots, but once you’ve been in it a while and know you’re back for good, get new shots taken.  Plus, that’s going to give you what you need the most now:
  5. Be confident.  Be fun.  Be funny.  Be entertaining.  Be YOU.  You haven’t lost that.  In fact, you’ve probably gained some new layers while you were “away.”

Have you done a re-entry or two in your career thus far?  Got any other tips you’d like to share?  Chime in, below!

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Let’s continue with that great article on MindBodyGreen, which talks about the 10 Habits of People Who Follow Their Dreams.

 

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Habit:  Cultivate yourself to release guilt and/or fear when you ask for what you want.

What?! An actor asking for what s/he wants?!  Impossible.  At least, not without getting a reputation as a diva…right??

Let’s be honest–we’ve all worked with folks who are difficult.  And the industry seems to be clear about the fact that you won’t get hired again if you are.

But what is difficult, anyway?  Refusing to learn lines, showing up late, upstaging fellow actors, disagreeing constantly with the director without discussion… There are a myriad of behaviors which are considered difficult.

While there are indeed several qualities which define one as a “diva”, there are other qualities which simply don’t work at that time, that place, with those people (or even just that one key person).  Your job is to read others and the situation accurately.  If you do that, guess what?  You can ask for anything you want–without guilt, without fear, even without a sense of unjustified self-entitlement.

Actors who are completely connected to their purpose and their passion have no fear of reasonable requests.  They know how to negotiate for what’s best for all involved–including and especially themselves–without turning anything into a demand or an ultimatum.

WRONG:  I want bottled sparkling water sitting at my dressing room stationed, perfectly chilled.

RIGHT:  Is it all right if I ask for a case of bottled water for the dressing rooms to share?  If there’s sparkling that would be awesome!

They also know when to ask.

WRONG:  (in front of entire cast and crew during post-rehearsal notes) Is it all right if we ask for bottled waters for the dressing rooms?

RIGHT:  (catching the producer/assistant in a private moment) Hey, would it be possible to have bottled water supplied to the dressing rooms for everyone?

This doesn’t just stand for amenities; if you are being sent to read for one role, feel free to respectfully ask if you can additionally read for another you feel passionate about.  The way you ask is once again relevant:

WRONG:  I’d rather read for this other role, if you don’t mind.

RIGHT: Is there any chance I could additionally read a short set of sides for the role of _____, time permitting?  I’m also excited about that character and would love to give it a shot.

Bottom line:  How well you do is dependent on a combination of yourself and others.  You can do your utmost and your best until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t ask for things here and there, you won’t be able to advance your career.  For actors, this means a strong, collaborative relationship with your agent, manager, casting directors, directors, cast members, designers, etc.  You’ll be a lot healthier as an individual, and therefore as an artist, if you have boundaries in place. 

self-confidenceRemember, asking for what you want doesn’t just apply to individuals, it applies to the universe.  If you are an AEA actor who keeps accepting non-paid showcase roles for productions you know won’t be seen by folks you want to be seen by, stop taking those roles.  Your ego is cashing in on something your career can’t afford.  Non-paying is a fine choice if the production manager has guaranteed the folks you want in the audience seats.  You can respectfully inquire into anything that is part of your master career plan, AND that fulfills your passion, without fear or guilt.  And, as MindBodyGreen states, “Best of all, this is a trait that earns [you] respect from others.”

Let me hear from you:  What “diva”-like behavior do you dislike from other theatre artists?  When have you been difficult and found yourself spiraling out of control–even just a little bit?

rejection

I was reading a wonderful article on MindBodyGreen, which talks about the 10 Habits of People Who Follow Their Dreams.  I was reminded that while actors are obviously working very hard on pursuing their dream, whatever in particular that may be in the industry, our methods involve far more rejection with far less payoff.  A software startup seeks investors, a culinary shop used Kickstarter…you get my drift.  If an aspiring actor tries to raise funds or borrow money to pursue their dream, they are perceived the same way a teenager is when he says, “Dad, I’m going to be a rock star!”  They are not taken seriously. 

So I’d like to go through these steps and apply them to theatre artists who are seeking to make a life career from what they love. 

HABIT: They’ve learned to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

As actors, we have so little control.  At auditions, our fate is in the hands of the auditors.  On stage, what happens next is greatly dependent on the other cast members.  And who knows what the audience is experiencing…we cannot make them feel what we would like them to feel.  If we could control all these things and more, we could be perfect…right?

Nope.  And here’s the simple reason why:  You’re already perfect.  Sound like psychobabble?  Maybe.  But it’s true. 

Ok, there’s definitely some thoughts toward embracing your perfection.  For one thing, your perfection–your own brand of individuality–needs to be a product of dedication.  So, if you are not working toward training, and practice, and marketing, and pounding the pavement in some way, then it’s going to be hard to realize and see your perfection.  Yes, we are perfect as we are, but none of us feel great when we are just expecting things to happen.  Everything takes dedication.  Some folks call it hard work, but honestly, that’s off-putting in my mind.  Dedication makes room for passion and excitement.  “Hard work”…not so much.  Plus, making your plan and dedicating yourself to your dream feels more like challenge than work.  Even when you have days where nothing worked out in your favor, if you at least had great intentions you put into action, then the coffee you spilled on your shirt, the train you missed, the audition you were late for, the rehearsal partner who didn’t show–those won’t feel so defeating.  They might even be humorous by day’s end, if you adopt that perspective.

All that discomfort can defeat you.  If you choose to embrace being uncomfortable, the itchy costume during your big song on stage, the green smoothie stain on your pink shirt before your Broadway audition…nothing will faze you.  The key is, “make the decision to move forward despite the discomfort.” Then the next step will fall into place.

Your exercise today:  find something that is creating discomfort in your acting career path.  Allow yourself to experience it, then move on.  Don’t let it hold you back.

Let me hear from you:  What is the most uncomfortable thing you can experience as an actor?  Auditioning?  Wardrobe malfunction?  How did you deal with it?

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Treat Yourself Like an MFA Student: 10 Things to Do Every Weekend

Plenty of actors would love to get an MFA.  They may want the piece of paper, the training, the immersion.  But the cost, the time away from the industry, and the fact that your social and family life is taken hostage, can be less appealing than the accomplishment itself.

The one thing you can’t argue with, though, is the discipline that an MFA program forces on you.  You have a tight schedule that you must adhere to, or risk expulsion.

When it comes down to it, though, all you need is a schedule and willpower.  After all, MFA students choose to stay in the program (for the most part), and they are following a tight, full schedule.

Many of my students wonder if they should have gone for an MFA, when they bemoan not having enough auditions or the types they want.  My answer—create your own MFA program!  Plenty of actors on Broadway and on camera had no formalized training.  The lack of an MFA doesn’t stop people—lack of discipline, willpower and belief in self does.

What you’ll want to do is take these 10 things and make sure they happen on your weekend.  For those of you with jobs that are not M-F 9-5, try to persuade your boss to regularly let you have 2 days off in a row, since that will work best for you.  Will you be super busy?  Yes.  Will it be worth it?  Absolutely, if acting is your goal.

1.       Movement

  • 90 minutes both days
  • Try a class in Viewpoints, Suzuki, Laban, or another acting movement foundation
  • Take a class in:  dance, trapeze, martial arts, yoga, gymnastics, stage combat, etc.
  • No class?  Make sure you spend 90 minutes that day being creatively physical, from dance choreography to a complete yoga session—whatever pushes you.

2.       Voice

  • 45+ minutes both days
  • Full vocal warmup you’ve learned along the way
  • Class in Linklater, Berry, Fitzmaurice, Rodenburg, etc.

3.       Singing

  • This is important even if you are not a singer
  • Non-singers:  20+ min both days.  Find some recorded vocal warm-ups with a great guide, and warm up your singing voice, no matter how wobbly.  Then get the sheet music for a song you love to sing and that you don’t sound half-bad at, and have the accompaniment recorded, or download online with the recording already there for you.
  • Singers:  45 min both days.  Fully warm up your voice and go through the songs in your book that are active right now.  Make sure you are performing the song, not just singing it, whether that is with stillness or simple blocking/choreo.

4.       Run your pieces

  • 30 min both days.  Take all your monologues and run them!  Choose a few to work and play with, continuing to discover and deepen; and polish up the ones that are just about there.

5.       Acting Class

  • 2-4 hours either day.  Take a class that lands on one of your MFA days.  Think: scene study, monologue workshop, camera/voice-over.  Something where you are working on character.
  • Partner rehearsal – 1-2 hours either day.  Schedule rehearsal for your class scene/project with your chosen scene/project partner, if you have one.

6.       Acting Coach

  • If you are in the industry, always always always have a coach.  My students range from beginner to AEA MFA working actors, and they all get far more gigs when they are regularly studying with me or with any acting coach.  I’ve heard my actor colleagues say the same.   At minimum, I recommend 45-60 min sessions every other week to keep your momentum, for auditioning, character work, stretch work, new monologues, etc.

7.       Read a Play

  • Most MFAs are required to complete a very long reading list in order to earn their degree.  Read all the titles off of a list.  You can Google MFA Play Reading List, or here is a link to a pretty good list.
  • Once you are done with the list you’ve chosen, read the Pulitzer Prize-winning plays that were not on the list, as far back as the list goes.
  • Once you are done with that list, start reading the plays that were Tony- and Obie-nominated the past few years, and then keep up that habit going forward.

8.       See a Play

  • Never go a single weekend without seeing a play, whether it is a friend’s or on Broadway.  Make it happen.

9.       Watch a movie that won best actor

  • Check out the Academy Awards and Golden Globes websites and watch the movies that had best male actor and best female actor wins.  Go as far back as the list goes.

10.   Rehearse/perform

  • Perform in something.  If you are currently rehearsing or performing a role in a piece—perfect.  If not, volunteer for a staged reading, or do a monologue at an open mic night, or create a webcast/YouTube video that folks are going to see.  Just put yourself out there in front of an audience to continue to learn and hone that skill.

Remember, treat yourself like an MFA in training.  Be serious about your work and play, by turning down social engagements, creating your uninterrupted space at home for it (or finding space, indoor or outdoor), and putting your money toward it.  Truthfully, if you would have been willing to earn an MFA and come out the other end with easily $50K+ in loans, then putting your hard-earned cash toward these things should become a priority—especially if you do it well and do it right.

Questions?  Contact Reneé at renee@organicactingcoach.com.