Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rejection Equals Opportunity

I recently had an incredible audition experience for "Sleep No More". Yup. I saw a listing for it on, and was floored when they contacted me for an audition. They said to prepare a short story (2 minutes or less with a beginning-middle-end) and a classical monologue. As much as I love the classics, I never really focused on them...many people have told me that I am more of the quirky, comedic girl and to not bother with classics. But, dammit! I love them! I digress. I spent my week of preparation cutting a children's story I wrote from 4 pages to less than one. And I put a much darker twist on it. While the original focuses on the importance of imagination, with imagination my new version, imagination is lost forever. Due to the nature of the show I was auditioning for...I shaved the story down to about 3 or 4 sentences distributed throughout a 2 minute piece focused on storytelling through movement. A huge challenge, but unbelievably fun. I found my classic monologue from The Arden of Faversham.  Every day last week I woke up at 6, worked throughout the day and night and did not rest until around 1 or 2 AM. Each day was an incredible, exciting journey where I felt ALIVE. Fueled by my own imagination, and breathing creativity.

It was nothing short of thrilling.

I even snagged last minute "premium access" tickets on Thursday so that I could see the show before auditioning for it. And let me just get this out of the way. If you haven't seen this yet, you must. MUST. Find a way to see it. Sleep No More is a remarkable, unique theatrical experience. I found myself curiously exploring rooms, and before I knew it, I was following screams. Running up and down stairs, chasing Macbeth...chasing Lady Macbeth. Reaching out to grasp Lady Macduff's hand while she experienced a moment of despair.  At one point I stood inches from Macbeth's face after he had committed a murder. I could have kissed him, that's how close I was. And of course, my favorite moment: following Lady Macbeth as she sleepwalked throughout the space, talking to herself and whispering in our ears. When it was over, I wandered out of the space in a state of shock. I was dazed. I stood outside the building, stared at it for a few minutes and then began to laugh. I was so overwhelmed, and so overjoyed with what I had experienced, that all I could do was stand there and laugh while I marvelled at the whole thing.

ANYWAY. Saturday came and I made my way to The McKittrick Hotel. The audition was in the space. I entered, and was led to Duncan's study. The room was vibrating with the energy of transformative, magical theatre. I had a full 30 minutes to warm up, so I did some movement exercises (we were told that there would be a group movement portion of the audition first.) I ran my monologue a few times, and before I knew it we were all ushered into the ballroom section of the space. We were told to walk around and explore the space. Then, to own the space...make it ours. Then, that the room was filled with information...and our bodies could read the information in the room. Everything we touched, everything we looked at was filled with information. I used the information my body was already picking up...those beautiful vibrations that are left-over after a performance ends. Then we were split into smaller groups, and told to walk across the room doing the same thing...but to make it more specific. I believe that I focused perhaps too much on the specificity, and not enough on the fact that this show is largely performed with dance.  I created a story for myself as I wandered across the room. Then, they made cuts.

I did not make the cuts.

So off I went, without having an opportunity to do the monologue and story I spent the week working on.
First, I felt disappointment.

But something interesting happened as I allowed myself to feel the disappointment. It began to taste like desire. And as I walked from the audition back to Penn Station, I grew hungry. Not for the pizza which I got once I arrived at Penn Station, but for more. More auditions, more sleepless nights spent preparing, and more creative challenges. And then I thought: "Oh, there I am!"

My first audition was in third grade, and it was for "The Prince and the Penguin"...some silly elementary school production. I was auditioning for The Empress Penguin, and I put on a silly, royal-esque voice and did my thing. The whole class was cracking up, and voted for me to get the role! When my teacher, Mrs. Brady, asked me if I would really do it like that on stage in front of an audience, I remember thinking: "Well, of course! Why wouldn't I?" I was the kid who put on productions of Les Mis in her living room when she was in first grade, dirtying my face with my mom's bronzer so I could look grimy like young Cosette or Eponine. I've always wanted to be in theatre. It's always been a driving force in my life.

Except for the past year since graduating college...I have been constantly questioning myself and my choices. Saying: "Is this what I want? What else can I do?" Constantly apologizing for myself when I told people I studied theatre, assuming they were judging my choices. But, when I thought: "Oh, there I am!" I remembered the 15 year old, who didn't care that her friends said she wouldn't get cast in a mainstage theatre production in her high school. Who said: "I'll keep auditioning until I do." I remembered the 20 year old who wanted more than anything to get cast as Martha in her college theatre group's production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf . Who spent weeks preparing, and eventually got the role. I remembered what it was like to WANT IT. 
And guess what, I want it. There is no question in my mind anymore. This is what I have to do, because it is my first love. My passion.

I am so grateful that I was cut from Sleep No More (yeah, it would have been kickass to be a part of that show, and it would have been an incredible learning experience) but when it comes down to it I know that I didn't get it for a reason. Keep that in mind in your creative endeavors! Rejection will equal opportunity. We just have to be strong enough and brave enough to remember that.

Rejection? Bring it. Not only can I take it, but it's exciting. It's a challenge.

So as you folks embark on your creative journeys over the next few weeks, keep that in mind. Don't let rejections get you down...but rather, allow them to inspire you. And if you ever get frustrated in your creative work, think back to when you were fearless. Or to when you first fell in love with this wonderful world called theatre. 

Love, Ariela

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