Five Things About The Musical Theatre Industry That Aren't True, But Feel True

1.  The casting director hates you.  

The casting director does not hate you.  He/she is not sitting in silent judgement, waiting for you to be a hot mess.  He/she is sitting in silent prayer, hoping that you're The One upon whom all the creatives will agree.  From the actor's standpoint, it seems as though the casting director yields great power.  After all, time and time again, you have to prove yourself to him.  In reality, the only perk to a casting director's job is finding out how fabulous you are.  So make their day.  Treat the casting director like one of your biggest fans, and soon he or she will be. 

2.  You are fat. 

You are not fat.  Or rather, sometimes you're maybe just a little fat, but who gives a shit?  Your weight is not what's keeping you from getting jobs.  But your perception of yourself at your present weight may be.  

Confession: when I was 28, I was getting callbacks, but not booking.  I went on Weight Watchers, lost 20 pounds, and began working again.  I'm not sure if this was because I looked better or simply because I felt better.  I suspect it was the latter.  But never at any point during this time was I actually fat.  Accept yourself as you are, fix what you can, and figure out where you fit in.  Self-hate gets you nowhere.  Neither do excuses. 

3.  I can't make a living doing this, and only this.

Tell that to Telly Leung.  Or Megan Hilty.  Or Cameron Adams. 

Sure you can.  Now, you may not be starring in a Broadway play every second.  You may have to work on a cruise ship.  You may have to swing a show when you'd prefer to have a track.  You may have to look for work in commercials or TV.  But you can work consistently as an actor.  It's possible. 

For better or worse, your reality will fall right in line with your expectations.  If you expect to move to New York and wait tables all the time, you will.  If you expect to work as an actor, you will.  "Reality is merely an illusion," said Albert Einstein, who was no dummy.  "Albeit a very persistent one," he added.   And while you can't think yourself onto Broadway, you definitely won't end up there if you don't really believe you can in the first place.   

Don't be afraid to aim high.  It helps to diversify.  Get a commercial agent.  Take a voiceover class.  At the very least, find a day job that doesn't make you want to slit your wrists.  Dreams can come true.  They're just a lot of hard work.

4.  This showcase/student film is bullshit. 

No, it's not.  Showcases allow influential people to see your work in New York.  You get to work creatively, and small projects blossom and grow.  Student films provide the young actor with valuable reel footage and on-camera experience.

Sometimes we too readily embrace the "lightning bolt" philosophy.  We think that suddenly something huge will happen to us, and the answers to all of our problems will fall into place.  It's not that that doesn't happen, but it's about as likely as getting hit by lightning.  In general, we progress incrementally.  

It's kind of like drinking.  You can take a shot and get tipsy really fast.  But to sustain that feeling, you have to have another, and then another.  And then how do you feel the next day?  Not so great.  In this industry, shots are hard to come by.  Better to sip a martini.  Same feeling, less expense, no hangover.  Treat your career like a martini. 

5.  They're only casting black/white/Asian/men/women/belters/screlters/whatever I'm not." 

This is a tough one because sometimes this is true.  I'm not going to be cast in The Color Purple any time soon.  Cynthia Erivo isn't going to take over in Bright Star.  My chances of getting cast in Book of Mormon, King and I and Hamilton are pretty low, but I turned down the On Your Feet audition twice now, which shows that they were willing to cast white Irish girls in a show that I did not feel at all suited for.  Broadway is changing.  It's #TonysSoDiverse this year after #OscarsSoWhite.  I'm really proud of our community for that, yet there is still work to be done.  

The key is not to get bogged down by the no's you hear, regardless of the reason.  If you feel strongly about the lack of opportunities in a certain area, do something about it.  Attend an Equity symposium, write to your council members.  Get together with your friends and start making great theatre yourselves.  But don't tell yourself you're not working because you aren't what people want.  That's a downward spiral of victimhood.  You want to catch the upward spiral of optimism.  Tell yourself, "I can have a career anyway."  Make it your motto for everything!  Inevitably you're going to face setbacks.  Some agent doesn't sign you?  "I can have a career anyway."  Didn't make it to final callbacks?  "I can have a career anyway."  They're producing an all-male version of Steel Magnolias?  "I can have a career anyway."  

There are a lot of people trying to do what we do.  Every day, another hundred people get off of the train-- ostensibly to audition for Broadway.  The competition is literally fierce.  But so are you.  Find where you fit in the industry, and give it all you've got.