It’s been six years since I made the radical decision to step away from pursuing a career as a professional actress, yet so much from that period still resonates today. Time and time again, I reflect back on how I handled challenges then to help equip me in getting through my current life situations. Below are some of the most impactful thought processes I developed.
1. Act as if the Role Is Yours
When preparing and planning for auditions, I would work to learn the script and characters as quickly as possible, and set my heart on whichever role I felt most called to. Once I recognized which role felt the most interesting and dynamic for me to portray, I would begin to speak, think, and act as if it was mine.
When I walked into the audition room, I could then have a calm confidence in knowing that this audition wasn’t for me to prove my worth or talent, but rather to identify if my depiction of the part was the best fit for the way the director saw it. This mindset empowered me to perform at my best, and give honest interpretations, because I wasn’t worried about “how I was doing” or “if I impressed the director.” Don’t get me wrong, there were times I didn’t get the role (or even a role), but I never took it personally because I knew I was the best fit in the production I envisioned. The director just chose someone else due to creative differences that were out of my control.
In the same way, trust in your own abilities and skill-sets when you’re taking a chance at an interview, client interaction, or life opportunity. You’ll never know if your dream adventure could’ve come true, which may haunt you with regrets later in life. It’s best to just go for it full throttle, believing in yourself so others believe in your potential, and be proud that you put yourself out there.
2. Be the First to Show Up and Last to Leave
One way I was able to demonstrate my dedication to each production I was cast in was by deciding to have the highest level of personal commitment. This meant being the first person there, to be warmed up prior to rehearsal, have notes ready to discuss with the director after, and check in on the rest of the cast to help them where I could.
In doing this, I branded myself as someone the team could rely on, and further demonstrated I would thrive in more demanding roles in the future. By maintaining these high levels of personal standards, I eliminated the option of throwing in excuses to compensate for a lack of results. It never mattered to me how many lines I needed to learn, accents to perfect, songs/ dances to know, my standard was to be the most prepared person in the room.
Building a strong reputation takes time, patience, and persistence. If you can stay steady in doing quality work over a long period of time with a positive attitude and a coachable spirit, you will be surprised later by the blessings that come your way.
3. Invest an Hour with Every Line
I’ll never forget getting advice from one of my directors that the amount of time required to be excellent in your performance was by investing at least one hour in memorizing, flexing, and playing around with each line. To some, this degree of dedication and rehearsal may seem excessive, but in doing so I was able to reflect more deeply on each moment I was in to yield an incredibly engaging and real performance.
The other benefit of practicing this way was that I could trust my instincts in adapting to unforeseen circumstances and changes that occurred each night. This flexibility and intuitiveness gave me the authority to stay committed to my character’s driving forces while responding to what had happened on stage that wasn’t planned.
Never settle or apologize for having an intense work ethic and strong confidence. If you want to be excellent in your field and role, you must expect to stay diligent in doing the daily actions to succeed. I heard recently that there are no “big” wins, but rather a series of “small” wins that add up to an impressive amount.
4. Go Big or Go Home
Taking chances, staying present, and being authentic in your presentation were things to be celebrated. Sometimes, in rehearsal, I would add in different flavors, backstories, and twists to uncover different layers to my character and create more depth. Oftentimes, these experiences would result in humor, and in other situations they resulted in critical discoveries.
What I appreciated about this was that if you want to be the best performer, you needed to be the most authentic you. This meant to go for it and mess up big! Through celebrating your uniqueness and challenging what you’ve done before, you avoid stagnation, and foster the right environment for creative liberty.
Often, we’re afraid of how our actions will be judged, but in doing so, we prevent change from occurring. We must have the courage to combat this, as life will reward you most for taking risks and following through on your gut instincts. Next time you’re in a team meeting, 1:1 session with your manager, or group event, speak up and be candid about your ideas. The worst case is that nothing further comes from those ideas, but your team and leadership will respect you more for contributing and stepping out. In the best case, your new perspective will be the catalyst for lasting change.
5. Break a Leg
During Tech Week, the week leading up to the first round of performances, we would add in new dimensions to the show – music, lighting, set pieces, and audio – to create a more layered show. In doing so, as you can imagine, there were setbacks, confusion, and breakdowns. This was to be expected, despite how prepared everyone was for their respective contributions.
What I’m most grateful for about this stage of production was that the more issues we experienced, the more chances we had to fail, and the more confident we could be in ourselves that the show would be a smash. Being able to go into the last hour like that, celebrating failure (and failing fast), and knowing we would somehow pull it all together, taught me to embrace imperfections to trust the journey.
Treat any and all obstacles, disasters, and shortcomings in a period of your life as the “Tech Week” leading up to your breakthrough. By doing this, you can have a light heart about the situations you find yourself in with faith that these learning experiences will yield the performance of a lifetime.
In closing, I know not all of us are lucky enough to have the opportunity to stretch ourselves on a stage like this. With that said, I’d love to hear about how these strategies apply in your own life and industry. Please comment below with any thoughts you had on this article, and how you can utilize some of the content shared!
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