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Careers Clinic: Am I entitled to audition feedback?

John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher John Byrne. Photo: Catherine Usher
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I thought I was about to have my big career breakthrough, but at the last minute, things have come crashing down to earth. Having been on the musical theatre circuit
for a few years, I’ve worked my way up from fringe shows to small tours to West End auditions.

My agent put me up for the lead in a major new musical and I was delighted to get two recalls. Finally, three others and I were booked to audition for the original Broadway producers who flew over specially. They were very positive on the day, but I have since heard that one of the other singers got the role.

My agent is trying to get me feedback, but so far it has been polite but vague. Friends in musical theatre tell me this is probably all I will ever get, and I just feel very deflated by the whole experience.


John Byrne’s advice

Believe it or not, three or four recalls is not unusual. Repeated callbacks seem particularly common for musical theatre roles, but I have known many actors who have gone through similar processes for dramatic parts.

You are absolutely entitled to feedback, and I would encourage your agent to try to get some more for you. Unfortunately, from a professional rather than a moral point of view, I agree with your fellow actors: it is not guaranteed that you will get anything beyond a polite “not this time”. I wouldn’t necessarily blame the casting director. A gifted CD can certainly spot and champion talent, but ultimately the power to bestow a part on one person rather than another is down to producers, directors and other people involved in the process.

Sadly, there aren’t any mechanisms that will allow you or your representative to force out more feedback than is actually forthcoming. So, in the worst-case scenario, the time-honoured ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again’ is the best advice that applies.

For the sake of your ongoing motivation and general mental health, it is worth teasing out what that ‘picking yourself up’ process might actually look like in more detail. The first thing I would suggest is to allow yourself to ‘feel your feelings’. Just as an athlete would when competing in an important race, you have to give your all when going for an important role. Not only does that involve intense physical effort, but also putting yourself out there mentally and emotionally.

It follows that if all that outlay of energy doesn’t result in your securing the part, it can be a blow on several levels. Give yourself the freedom and permission to feel that blow and take time to recover from it, preferably with the help of close friends. A good indicator of real friendships, in and out of the business, is that the people in your life who celebrate your successes are also there for you when there are setbacks.

Just as important as allowing yourself time to grieve is setting an end date for that part of the process. Try to reflect on the good things that have come from the journey (if you had that number of recalls, you have impressed a lot of people) and then get back in the game. Rest assured that, while this outcome has been disappointing, the lessons learned and the opportunity for influential people to see you at your best will help you in the future – and may well secure career opportunities that are even more significant than this one.

Contact careers adviser John Byrne at dearjohn@thestage.co.uk or @dearjohnbyrne

John Byrne is also a writer, cartoonist, performer and broadcaster. Read his advice columns every Wednesday at thestage.co.uk/author/john-byrne

Editor’s View: All theatre needs to embrace change by telling auditionees #YesOrNo

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