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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why Don't They Want Me?: Bobby Keniston Talks About the Pain of Rejection

Yes, Rejection is Heartbreaking
Greetings to all of you out there, and welcome to Theater is a Sport.  My name is Bobby Keniston, and I will be communicating my thoughts to you through your computer screen.  If you like, imagine that we're sitting down over a cup of coffee or chicken broth, just shooting the breeze about theater.  Why not?  We're all personable people here, right?

Tonight I'm going to talk about rejection, particularly in terms of student and community theater, for actors, writers, and anybody who has ever been rejected.

Rejection sucks.  There you go.  I won't sugar coat it.  It's not fun.  People, by and large, will prefer acceptance over rejection any day of the week.  I think it has something to do with the whole "being a part of the human race" thing. 

Any time you audition for a school or community theater production, or, any time you submit a script, or portfolio of your designs or any other such creative endeavor, you are taking the risk of being turned down.  It's as simple as that.  Perhaps this is a part of what Fehrlingetti is talking about with "constantly risking absurdity". 

Make no mistake--- all creative endeavors are a risk, and you are going to win some and you are going to lose some (pardon the cliche, but it's true).  Even I, a veteran of over sixty plays, do not always get the parts that I want. 

There is a very small percentage of the human race who lets rejection roll off their back without too much thought about it, and are eager to go out and try again.  There is a much larger percentage of the population who SAYS that rejection doesn't bother them, and then go home and cry, cuss and wonder why the whole damn world is against them.  I am part of the latter group myself.  And then, on the other end, there is another small percentage who, upon being rejected, tell the rejectors in no uncertain terms how ridiculously stupid they are, right to their faces, effectively lighting a match and burning a bridge. 

If you are in the same group that I am in, my advice is for you.

Okay, so you've decided to take the plunge and audition for a play or submit a play forpublication.  Congratulations!  Good for you!  It's a noble pursuit that can change your life.  You've already shown tremendous courage by making the decision to put yourself out there. 

So you've worked hard, given your best audition, or best callback, and now it's just a matter of waiting.  Try to relax.  It's not easy.  As Tom Petty said, "the waiting is the hardest part".  It's nice to know one way or another, but resist the temptation to contact the theater group before they contact you.  You don't want to bug people.  This goes for publishing houses as well (only, with them, once you wait the amount of time they specify in their submission guidelines, it is okay to drop them a friendly, albeit brief, line to inquire). 

Finally, you get the letter or e-mail from the director or casting people of your local community theater (or, of course, the cast list is posted at school).  You take a look, and the message starts out "We want to thank you so much for taking the time for auditioning.  Unfortunately, when casting a play..."  Or you scan the cast list two or three (or ten) times, and you do not find your name. 



It's tough with acting and writing, because they are so difficult to separate from YOU.  You the person.  For an actor, your body is your instrument.  It feels very personal, because, in effect, it is. 

Or maybe you didn't get the part you wanted.  You wanted the juicy lead, but only got a small part with 8 lines, and you know, just KNOW that you are better than that fathead who got the part (who, more likely than not, is actually a friend of yours, or, a well-established nemesis... both happen a lot at schools and community theaters). 

It's okay, in the privacy of your own home, to vent.  It's okay to cuss, cry, and say things like, "That stupid place doesn't appreciate me!  I give and I give, and they just throw me a bone every time!"  or "I'm too good for that place.  They don't even deserve me!  Their plays are all crap, anyway!"  You're a human being.  Don't beat yourself up for feeling your feelings.  Anger is a natural response to having your feelings hurt.  Truly.  I'm speaking physiologically.  In the brain, when your feelings are hurt, particularly with something you are very invested with, you chemically are geared to the part of the brain responsible for anger and jealousy, and grief.

So, again, feel your feelings. 

But do not wallow.  After a certain amount of time, and it varies from person to person, pick yourself up, look in the mirror, and give yourself a pep talk.  I do this a lot.  And remember that pain is a part of life.  Granted, not a pleasant one, but it is sometimes necessary for growth.

And remember, casting a play is based on the opinions of the person (or very few people) who are in charge of the production.  And, of course, there are always other factors beyond talent.  For example, school and community theater, females have it tougher than males, at least statistically speaking.  Women try out for theater more than men.  That's why a male who seems "less than talented" can wind up getting parts.  Directors need men.  Not fair, but it's how it is.  Then there's the matter of casting to make decent "stage pictures" and "stage families", and that is all stuff beyond your control, so don't take it to heart (I know, I know, it's easy for me to say).

Also--- there are some roles that a person just isn't right for.  I hate to admit it, because in my heart, I feel like I can play ANYTHING, and would like to play EVERYTHING.  But, I do consciously know that no director is going to cast me as the typical "leading man" type, tall dark and handsome.  I'm short.  I look like a sidekick.  And, though I would love to play the part before I shuffle off my mortal coil, not many casting folks are gonna consider me for Hamlet, unless I mount the production and cast myself.  It's not easy to come to peace with such truths, but it can be very important to do so. 

If you find that you are getting rejected far more than you are being accepted, it might behoove you to ask the group or drama teacher why.  Now, this doesn't mean approach them demandingly, saying, "Why the hell don't you ever give me a part?"  That would not bode well.  Instead, if you take it from a different angle, you might get some good advice.  "I really am interested in acting, and I want to keep growing and learning.  Do you have any tips for how I might audition better?"  Drama teachers will be happy to talk to you, of course, and a community theater director should be, too.  It's all about learning, remember that.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case for professional theater by and large, and it is not really the case for writers either.  Maybe a writer, if they submitted a play to their local community theater for consideration, could have a conversation about what works and what doesn't with the artistic director, but editors and the publishing houses are usually too swamped to give personal feedback.  However, if you find that your script keeps getting rejected, maybe you could have an old creative writing teacher, or a person involved with theater read it and offer suggestions on how you might tighten it up. 

Most of all, if theater is important to you (and it must be if you are constantly risking absurdity), then keep trying, keep growing, and keep finding ways to act or write.  You're a strong, resourceful person.  Put up your own show, go to open mics, play scenes in a classroom, take an acting class, shoot a video... whatever--- just DON'T GIVE UP. 

I guess what I'm saying is, the only rejection that is permanent is the rejection of self.  And you're too good for that. 

You are.  I mean it.  I may not know you personally, but I know that any human being is too good for that. 

So, until next time, keep the chin up, cuss and cry if you have to, but keep playing that sport I call theater.

This is Bobby Keiston saying good night.!/pages/Bobby-Keniston-Playwright-Page/148232788536601!/TheaterIsASport

1 comment:

  1. A Fine sentiment...very encouraging