We don’t like to talk about it, but we all think about it. Rejection is a big part of life, but almost seems like an even more integral part of the acting business. It’s never easy and it feels extremely personal. Am I good at it? My family thinks so. I know the truth, though… it still eats at me, even though I’m better at handling it than I used to be. I hope some of these tips can be helpful to you as you navigate your way through not only college auditions, but the rest of your life as an actor!
The other day, I had just signed onto a Skype lesson with a current MCA student. At that very moment, an email notification popped up on my screen… a rejection email. I read it and quickly told myself, “Eh, whatever.” Then as I started the lesson, I realized I totally didn’t feel that way at all, stopped my lesson, and told my awesome student… “I’m sorry. I just need a second. I just got a rejection and it feels really awful.” She knew how it felt and was so sweet. I took a minute to explain why it hurt and then told her, “This is good for you to see. It’s a teaching moment to see how your coach - who is supposed to be good at this - processes rejection.”
There you have it. We are all figuring this out. Your coaches - the people who are supposed to make everything better - still get hurt and still don’t have all the answers. If it bothers you, talk about it. It’s not a faux pas. Be honest with yourself that it hurt.
Then, move forward. Don’t let that hurt linger. You are already better today than you were yesterday because you are hard-working actors and good humans. Celebrate your accomplishments and keep working toward the next. Life is too short to wallow in it and there are too many opportunities waiting around the bend that require your specific talents!
“But my friends have already been accepted and are choosing between programs and I’m still waiting for just one acceptance!” Our MCA coach Justin Petersen says it best, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” While we spend time comparing ourselves to our peers, we rob ourselves of our unique qualities. What makes an interesting actor? An interesting person. If I’m trying to be more like my friend who is booking jobs left and right, I’ve become a photocopy version of my friend rather than a full color painting of myself.
Here’s a conversation I have with myself on a fairly regular basis:
“Why should I even bother? There are so many good people out there. No one wants me. I hate auditioning.”
“Then don’t. You can stop anytime you want. No one is begging you to be an actor. The world needs computer programmers. The world needs doctors. Go do that.”
“I don’t want to do that.”
“It may sound cheesy, but I feel like my purpose is to communicate something important to the world through art.”
“Okay… so your purpose is not about how much people like you or need you for these jobs?”
“Yeah, I’ll go back and audition. My ego was bruised. It’s not about my ego. It’s about something bigger. The right thing will come along eventually.”
We are inherently selfish people. How can we not be? Our only experience of the world is through our own eyes. BUT part of what makes being an actor so rewarding is that you can learn to make everything less about you and more about others. When you go into that college audition room, make those auditors feel something - joy, excitement, hope, pain, growth! They need to feel! You have a few minutes to give an experience to others that’s wholly different from anyone else.
“What happens if I make them feel great in the room, but they still don’t accept me?” Casting is a puzzle. I recently helped cast a show and it was difficult. Some people came in and killed it and technically deserved a lead, but you have to consider the whole. Some people can fit almost anywhere and others can only fit into specific parts because of voice type, acting ability, or dancing ability. The same can be said for colleges. If I have 12 slots to fill, I can only have so many of each type. If I have three amazing leading lady types who are all more talented than my leading man, I still have to have a leading man, so one or two of those ladies gets told no. It didn’t mean she wasn’t good enough to be in the program. This is why you audition for so many programs. You’ll fit somewhere in the puzzle; it just depends on the other puzzle pieces.
No matter what happens, you have a place in this world and in this business if you want it. The way I’ve learned to handle it over the years is to remember that if no one wants me for a while, then it’s time for me to create my own projects. I’m not good at just taking classes without a goal. So, I set myself a personal goal… create a gig for myself - forcing myself to write a script, sing, play my instrument, etc., or my friends and I create something together. The world needs inspiration. I can’t give the world hope if I’m hopeless. So, I let myself be sad and then I get to work.
Acting for the Song Coach - My College Audition
Erica is a NYC based actress and an Acting for the Song Coach for My College Audition. www.ericaspyres.com
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The Holiday Season is officially upon us, and it’s time to get creative about holiday gifting!
The obvious and ONLY choice? TICKETS TO HAMILTON ON BROADWAY, OF COURSE!
Just kidding … That’s impossible.
So … What do you get a theatre lover? Especially one in the throes of preparing for their college auditions!? Well, tickets to a show are always a great (and welcome) idea, but I have a few others you might want to consider.
Here are 10 awesome (and practical) gifts that will spread some holiday cheer and set your student on the path to success:
1. Vocal Steamer!
The value of a good vocal steamer cannot be overstated. Steaming relieves inflammation and congestion of upper respiratory mucous membranes, moistens dry nasal passages, thins and loosens mucus, and helps clear congestion. It can help ease symptoms of the common cold, sinusitis, allergies, and laryngitis, and it is an absolute lifesaver after spending hours in a dry airplane cabin on your way to auditions!
Vicks makes a great steamer that is super portable and guaranteed to get the job done. For an upgraded model, check out the MyPurMist I invested in a MyPurMist a few years back, and I absolutely love it. Best of all, MyPurMist is self-cleaning!
2. Belt Box
A singer’s best friend. Warm up anytime, anywhere, and never feel self- conscious. Belt Box looks like a little fabric face mask, but it has the ability to muffle your voice up to 30 dB. It’s an awesome way to keep your chords warm in public, and also to ensure that you’re singing by feel, rather than by sound (every audition space will resonate differently!). Plus, you’ll never be the cause of any hotel noise complaints during your travel!
3) Portable Speakers
Some schools now require that you provide your own speaker device and accompaniment for your audition. But never fear! A quality portable speaker is something you can reap the benefits of way beyond college (think every self-tape you will ever make). Pros recommend models like the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom and Cambridge SoundWorks OontZ Angle 3 Ultra. Or head to your local electronics store and find the model that speaks to you! Look for something with great sound quality, bluetooth capability, and enough volume to fill those auditions rooms. Invest now, and thank yourself later!
4) Mini Clothes Steamer
Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles! This may not seem like the most exciting gift, but the magic of this My Little Steamer cannot be overstated. Not only is it extremely portable, but it heats up in less than a minute, and it gets those wrinkles right out of your audition clothes! This is my secret weapon, and I cannot recommend it enough!
5) A Reusable Water Bottle
A great water bottle is a non-negotiable for any performer. Your body is your instrument, and one of the very best ways to stay in tip-top performance shape is to stay hydrated! I love S’well Bottles because they are super durable, never leak, are easy to clean, and have awesome insulation. Plus, investing in a reusable water bottle is a great way to cut down on personal waste. Hooray for healthy hydration and hooray for sustainability!
6) LaDuca Character Shoes
If your student has been extra good this year and you’re willing to splurge, consider an upgrade to their dance shoe collection: LaDuca Character Shoes or Boots. LaDuca’s are the Broadway gold standard, and for good reason: LaDuca’s have a flexible split-sole construction to allow for more foot articulation and better contact with the floor. “LaDuca shoes were created with the dancer in mind and position the body over the center of the shoe, alleviating unnecessary knee and back pain and creating a healthier dance experience."
If these are way over budget, consider a gift certificate to help get your student started and give them some motivation to save for the rest!
Pro Tip: LaDuca holds an annual sale at their Manhattan store (usually in July), which is a great time to snag a new pair. Keep your eyes on their Facebook page for more info!
A great way to make sure you can tune out and get in the zone! I swear by these Bose headphones for my daily subway commute in NYC. Absolutely a splurge, but the noise cancellation is amazing. These headphones make listening to voice lessons, jamming to your favorite tunes, or any type of travel a PLEASURE. Looking for a more budget-friendly option? Consider investing in an earlier model.
8) A Subscription to a Meditation App
As Coach Stephanie wisely instructs us, “peak performance is 90% mental and 10% physical.”
A consistent meditation practice is an incredible way to promote greater clarity, presence, and rootedness, and it can also help to combat nerves or performance anxiety - all positive things for acing an audition! Starting now and committing to a daily practice (even just 10 minutes!) can have a massive impact on your mental preparedness and audition success.
Meditation apps, like Headspace or Calm are GREAT for beginners and seasoned meditators alike.
9) A Subscription to Broadway HD
Auditions are exciting! But sometimes we all need a BREAK. If downtime for your drama kid still means Broadway, consider a subscription to Broadway HD. Broadway HD is basically Netflix for live theatrical performances - aka the stuff of every theatre nerd’s dreams! A subscription costs $8.99 per month.
10) The Academy at MCA
If you’ve spent time coaching with us, then you know how passionate and committed MCA is to the artistic and personal growth of our students! We are thrilled to now offer 6-week intensive courses in Musical Theatre, Acting, and Dance through The Academy at MCA. These courses are specifically targeted to challenge young artists by providing intensive, pre-professional training in essential performance skillsets, such as “Shakespeare 101,” “Improvisation,” and “Music Theory Bootcamp!”
Give your student the gift of continued learning and a jumpstart on their collegiate and professional success! Check out our site for more information or to see the other great classes being offered this session!
That’s a wrap! Sending love, light, and Happy Holidays from all of us at MCA!
Got any other great gift ideas? Sing out (Louise!) in the comments below
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Did you know that achieving peak performance is 90% mental and 10% physical?
Though it is important to always be working on your craft through voice lessons, acting classes, and dance classes, it is just as important to be working on your mental game. No matter how much you train physically, if your mind isn’t in the right place it’ll get the better of you as you walk into that audition room or onto that stage. All of a sudden our limiting beliefs and habits fueled by our stress, fear, and anxiety come to the forefront and we are no longer able to perform to our highest potential.
By creating a personal mental training program, you can re-train your mind to work for you and not against you. Your practice can support you through the preparing, auditioning, and performance process. And even though setbacks are inevitable, having your practice as your foundation will help you to be more resilient and bounce back faster.
Mental training programs are a combination of a variety of fields including sport psychology, positive psychology, and mindfulness. It is important to create a practice that connects the mind, body, and spirit. Most importantly, it is important to create a practice that works for and supports YOU!
Here are 3 tools to get you started on building your practice.
1. Self Talk – The inner monologue that we all have continuously going on in our heads is called Self Talk. Most thoughts can be put into three different categories: Positive, Negative, and Instructional. Instructional being thoughts that help us direct our actions. For example, when executing a pirouette you may say to yourself, “Keep your core engaged and remember to spot. Ideally, we want to amplify our positive self talk, aka our “cheerleader,” and limit our negative self talk, aka our “gremlin.”
The first step in this process is to simply observe our thoughts and acknowledge them. Once we acknowledge our thoughts, we can then start to shift them. Creating a list of personal affirmations, or a personal “litany”, can help to begin this shift.
A litany is a group of positive statements that we have created ourselves that we can then say out loud or silently to help practice positive self talk and create authentic confidence. When creating your litany remember that the statements should be positive and in present tense. For example,
I love to perform.
I am confident and free when I am performing.
I approach every audition with confidence, strength, and openness.
I deserve to be here.
Once you create your litany, it is important to say them every day. The more we say something, the more we start to believe it and then embody it.
2. Visualization – Visualization is a technique where one closes their eyes and uses mental imagery to simulate or recreate a physical place, scenario, or event. Visualization can be used to improve self-confidence, acquire new skills (like learning the dance combination at an audition), manage pain and stress, hone our concentration and focus, and for relaxation. Like everything else, visualization is a practice. It may come easier to some than others, but the good thing is that through repetition we can become more skilled at it.
When visualizing, it is important to clear your mind and create vivid and clear images. Think of the five senses (see, hear, touch, taste, and smell) as a starting point. Be as detailed as you can when visualizing the images or the scenario. Next, implement your mental and emotional feelings into the visualization. This allows the visualization to penetrate and connect the body, mind, and spirit. Finally, make sure that you are controlling your mind by not allowing outside thoughts to distract you or negative thoughts to creep in.
A great way to start practicing is to close your eyes and begin to visualize your bedroom in as much detail as possible. Do this every day for 5 minutes. Once that becomes easy to do you can start working your way up to seeing yourself in the audition room crushing your songs, monologues, and the dance call!
3. Breath Work - Our breath is our life force and the foundation to our being. Many times when we are feeling anxious or stressed, our breath becomes short and quick, which only activates our nervous system to freak out even more. Instead, we want to be able to control our breath so that it supports us, whether that be to remain grounded and focused or energized and clear.
There are many different breath exercises we can learn. Deep breathing is a wonderful way to begin creating a breath practice and is helpful for when we need to get out of our head and calm our nerves. Begin by closing your eyes and inhale through your nose on a count of 4. At the top of the breath, hold your inhale for a count of 4. Then, exhale out your nose for a count of 4. Repeat this sequence several times and then gently open your eyes. This exercise will help you to become more centered, grounded, and calm. From this place, you will feel more confident and ready to tackle the task at hand.
By creating and practicing a mental training program that supports you, you will be able to focus your mind, build self-confidence from the inside out, manage performance anxiety, and navigate stress more easily. There will be no room for your gremlin, just your cheerleader so that you can show up in that audition room and on that stage as your best performing self!
Dance Coach/Mental Training Coach at My College Audition
Stephanie is a NYC based coach, speaker, and director/choreographer/performer. She is a graduate of Emerson College, Smith College, and soon to be Columbia University. You can learn more about her journey as an artist and lover of creativity and curiosity at www.stephanie-simpson.com
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