Saturday, August 25, 2012

Theatre For Thought, August 25, 2012

joel fishbane

This week was a typical one for me. There was some good news, which stroked my ego; this was quickly followed by one or two disappointments that knocked it back to size. When you work in multiple formats you usually end up tripling your chances of being turned down;  when you’re acting, writing and dating, it also means you field three or more rejections a week. Does this make me an expert in rejection? If so, it’s a dubious skill and I’d be happy to give it back. 

Rejection remains a difficult thing whether it comes from a publisher, director or the girl at the end of the bar. The most common balm is the suggestion that we not “take it personally”. This isn’t easy for actors and less so for those hoping to find a date for Saturday night. At the end of the day actors are every bit like the singleton: both are trying to sell themselves and both find it all too easy to take the rejection as a personal affront.

Start going to the gym? Absolutely. Tell my parents? Definitely not.

An anecdote that represents the great convergence of these twin identities as a single person and a struggling artist: once upon a time, my agent faxed me a script that included several lengthy sex scenes involving my character and the two ladies with whom he was attempting to co-habituate.

“Is this a script for soft core porn?” I asked.

“Yes,” said my agent. “But I think it’s really important that this casting agency sees you.”

Obediently, I learned my lines and headed to the audition, not entirely sure what I would do if I actually got the part. Start going to the gym? Absolutely. Tell my parents? Definitely not.

Fortunately (or not, depending on your viewpoint), such deep ethical questions never came up. Although the casting agent told me I had done a great audition, she also said, that I “was just not what they’re looking for.” Which, given the project, meant she did not think anyone wanted to watch me engage in several lengthy sex scenes.

Yet both actors and the singleton cannot escape the fact that we are selected based on a perception of what we will bring to a chosen role. 

It struck me that I had received a similar response from the last girl I took on a date. We had a great time but it was clear I wasn’t what she had in mind (and she definitely did not ask me to engage in any sex scenes, lengthy or otherwise).

One can, to a certain extent, dismiss rejection with logic. There are always more actors than parts, just are there are always more single people than available partners. Yet both actors and the singleton cannot escape the fact that we are selected based on a perception of what we will bring to a chosen role. And since what we bring is always ourselves, those rejecting us are implicitly inferring we are nothing unique.

It’s not always a fair assessment. Auditions are essentially speed-dates for actors (just as speed-dates are auditions for bachelorettes). A few blissful marriages have been born of the speed date but I suspect it has failed more people than its promoters like to admit. Similarly, more then a few excellent actors have given a lousy audition. 

Perhaps what is most difficult is that our rejection usually comes in the form of silence. In the writing world there is a standard form letter that goes something like this: “Dear Author: We thank you for giving us the opportunity to look at your work but we’re afraid it does not meet our needs at this time.” It’s perfunctory but at least it’s something: for both actors and single folk, there are no explanations and we usually have neurotic meltdowns trying to figure out what we did wrong.

In the hopes of correcting this, I propose the adoption of the following form letter be sent to all rejected actors; naturally, it can easily be adopted by the single person looking to politely turn someone down:

Dear _(insert name here)____________:

I thank you for giving me the opportunity to include
you in my future endeavours. Unfortunately, you do not
meet my needs for one of the following reasons (I’ve circled all that apply):

1) You need to develop your skills.

2) You aren’t what I had in mind.

3) You gave a lousy audition. Please improve yourself and come back another time.

4) You came off as being “weird”, “problematic” or “difficult”.

5) I heard a rumour you were “weird”, “problematic” or “difficult”.

6) I myself am “weird”, “problematic” or “difficult”.

7) The position has already been filled and I was
simply seeing you to reaffirm that my original instincts were correct.

8) This is simply a case of preferring Pepsi over
Coke. In other words, you did nothing to distinguish yourself. 

9) It came down to you and someone I’ve worked
with before.


_(insert signature here)______________________

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