We all have moments in life that serve as the springboard for the bounce back. For example, in theatre, it goes something like this:. The cast list is finally up. All your hours of nervous waiting are about to end. You dash to the director’s door (or, these days, to your school website) to learn your fate. You hold your breath, skim to the listing for your dream role, and you see someone else’s name there.

Your heart sinks, and you re-read the list a few times just to be sure. This can’t be right! Doesn’t the director know how badly you wanted that role? How carefully you selected your audition materials? How you practiced until you could do those lines in your sleep?

And just like that, it’s time for your bounce back. Don’t hang up your character shoes just yet. To quote Mean Girls: “The world doesn’t end. It just feels like it does.” 

Even though you’re disappointed, not getting cast in the role you wanted may be a blessing in disguise. Now you have the chance to prove you’re a team player. Here’s what to do when you don’t land your dream role.

Bounce Back Strategy #1: Don’t take it personally.

It’s natural to be disappointed or hurt after not getting the role you wanted. Being denied an exciting opportunity might leave you dejected, or make you think you weren’t good enough.

But before you accuse the director of not liking you, remember that casting decisions are based on many factors. Directors don’t always look for the overall best actor, singer, or dancer for every part. They’re looking for the best performer in that specific role. Yes, you’re talented. But the director wanted to take it in a different direction.

Remember there’s only one actor in each role, no matter how outstanding the auditions. Even if Sutton Foster  and Laura Osnes both audition for Glinda, there’s still just one of them in the bubble on opening night.

Another factor outside of your control is your physical appearance. If you’re small for your age, you probably won’t be successful landing roles that require a large physical presence like Shrek or Gaston. Likewise, a taller person likely won’t play everyone’s favorite red-headed orphan. This is especially true in school performances when actors within the same age range are cast to play a variety of ages. When working within a casting pool of actors who are roughly the same age, one of the tools available for a director to help convey age to an audience is the height of the actors. At the high- school level, taller students are going to automatically read as older, whether they are or not. From the audience’s perspective, it doesn’t make much sense for the 20-something Maria to be shorter than 5-year-old Gretel von Trapp, for example.

Chemistry between actors also may have been a factor. Not all personalities mesh well onstage or off. Perhaps a cold read revealed incompatibility, or maybe two potential romantic leads didn’t have the right spark. Singing voices need to blend well, and directors want to make sure that dancing partners can move gracefully together.

None of the above reflect on you as a person or a performer. Instead, they reflect the fact that different parts of a show need to fit together.

Don’t take it personally. Bounce back!

Bounce Back Strategy #2: Stay involved.

No one likes a quitter or a diva. Getting cast is still a big deal, even more so in competitive programs. And any role, even one you didn’t audition for, or hadn’t considered, can be a great one for you.

Use this unexpected casting decision to expand your acting range. Future directors will like to see that you’ve played a variety of roles in different kinds of shows. And multiple credits add depth to your acting résumé. They show your range.

Your director may even have your development in mind when casting you in this alternate role. Maybe they wanted to help you develop your comedic chops or showcase more gravitas. Or if you’re hoping to have a lead someday working up to a leading role, maybe the director cast you in a supporting role to get you accustomed to more responsibility.

Even if you weren’t cast at all, the advice is the same: stay with the show. Find something else to do in the production. Acting is just one piece of the theatre machine.

Ask the director or stage manager if there are other positions that need filled in the crew or backstage. Pitching in with offstage duties (from lights and sound to costumes to marketing) shows you’re a team player. These responsibilities help you build your skillset.

The alternative—dropping a show because you didn’t get the role you wanted—will reflect poorly on you. You want casting directors to know you’re dependable and committed to creating the best show. Show them you can set aside your ego and make the best of whatever role you’re given or task you’re assigned.

Your fellow actors and crewmates will remember what you do, too. Some of them may have also wanted the same role as you and are similarly disappointed. They may be dealing with their own rejection. Lead by example.

Stay involved. Bounce back!

Bounce Back Strategy #3: Keep auditioning.

As someone who loves being on stage, you’ll likely have a long acting career. Sometimes you’ll get exactly the role you worked and hoped for. But more often, you’ll face some disappointment. And all those setbacks will help you grow, if you let them.

Ask your director for feedback on your audition and make note of areas where you can improve. Actors know the value of good notes on their performances. Showing a willingness to grow and improve will endear you to the director.

Each show can be an opportunity for you to learn more about your craft. Try to stay open to the possibilities. Set your eyes on the next production and begin preparing for that, too.

Keep auditioning. Bounce back!

Andrew Koch is a writer and editor from Cincinnati. He most recently played Cogsworth in a community production of Beauty and the Beast but auditioned for the role of Lumiere.

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