YOU’VE PRACTICED for weeks — researched the show, learned your lines, auditioned nervously. Now, the moment has arrived: The cast list is posted. You take a deep breath, step forward to scan for your name, and … nothing. You didn’t make the cut. Your heart sinks as your mind races with disappointment, embarrassment (maybe a little anger), and a thousand questions.

What went wrong? Does everyone know you failed? Who got the part instead of you — and why? How did your hard work and dedication fail to pay off?

Most important: What are you supposed to do now?

Being passed over for a role can feel similar to a breakup or, if we’re speaking dramatically, like death or even the end of the world. Of course, it’s not the end of the world, but understanding the root of those natural human emotions surrounding rejection — and dealing with them in a productive way — can sometimes require a lengthier exploration.

Students check the callboard at the International Thespian Festival.

Students check the callboard at the International Thespian Festival. Photo by Don Corathers.

STEP 1: TAKE A DEEP BREATH

Taking a moment and accepting the reality at hand is an important first step, and not just because it sets you on the path to rebounding but also because it can help you avoid unproductive negative thoughts and petty grievances about the audition process. There might be a thousand (completely subjective) reasons you didn’t nab this part, but it’s hardly a blemish on your permanent record. This thing is over, and the next thing is waiting.

STEP 2: CIRCLE THE WAGONS

Nothing feels better in the aftermath of rejection than spending time with the people who care about you and want to see you happy. Hang out with family and close friends. Watch movies. Laugh. New opportunities will come your way soon, but right now might be time for a mini-break to unwind from the tense audition process.

STEP 3: GATHER INTEL

Now that you’ve had a moment to process, schedule time to talk to the director about how your audition went and what you could have done to make it better. Limit your questions to things that have direct impact on your performance — and be prepared to accept the resulting feedback in a productive way.

STEP 4: LOOK FOR OTHER OPPORTUNITIES FOR INVOLVEMENT

Remember that aside from wanting the role, there’s another reason you auditioned: You love theatre and you knew you could make this production great. Guess what? You still can! Lend a hand by monitoring the show’s Facebook page, selling tickets, or joining the makeup crew. It’s often through such secondary jobs that we learn to appreciate theatre’s full scope. It might even make you a better performer.

STEP 5: GET BACK ON THAT HORSE

It’s natural to feel uncertain after your first big rejection, but if you followed Step 4 and found other ways to get involved, then you’re probably already aware that your skill set goes far beyond that one inconsequential role. Set your sights on another opportunity — whether it’s onstage or behind the scenes — and go after it! Theatre life is full of highs and lows, hits and misses, so the sooner you jump back in, the better off you’ll be.

This story was excerpted from the February 2017 print issue of DramaticsSubscribe today to our print magazine.

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