02 September, 2023

Ask Al: Not all opportunities are created equal...

 Hello Al, 

I am a mid-career American actor and would appreciate your professional advice!

As background: I am a professional actor in my mid-thirties, I've performed leading roles in regional American theater, have appeared on concert stages, albums, and have covered multiple roles on Broadway.

I've recently changed agents-- a move I'm largely excited about! However, the very first audition my new agents have sent my way is what I would consider to be a really "poor match" for me and I'm experiencing concern. 

  • Concern for how my new agents view me, 
  • and for a possibly warped view of how I see myself
  • concerned that my agent and I aren't on the same page 
  • and for tarnishing new relationships by turning down an opportunity (however inappropriate I think that opportunity might be)

Do I take advantage of the base "opportunity to audition" even though the role/job is not one I want?

The project itself is something I have a lot of history with, is in line with my skill set, my personal history/identity, is with a company I would love to work with someday (perhaps on something else), and is indicative of the theatrical work I want to be doing. But the role I have been submitted for is traditionally played by an actor 10-15 years my senior, and as a woman in my mid-thirties, the role seems to be at odds with how I see myself both as a person and in the casting brackets of the industry.  

While perhaps I am indeed perceived as older than I regard myself and need to have a reality check, I think the larger concern is that my new agents and I aren't quite aligned. 

  • Should I "suck it up" and take the audition? 
  • Do I pass on the opportunity and not mention to the agents how concerned this makes me? 
  • Or do I brooch a hard conversation with the new agents? 

I'm so conflicted. But equally, I'm surprised by how "emotionally activated" this situation has made me-- which usually indicates something deeper is at play—so I'm not responding with the clarity I'm accustomed to. I'd so appreciate your advice. 





Dear Concerned, 

First of all, congratulations on being a mid-career actor in her thirties who is represented, working at what sounds like an admirably high level of skill and professionalism, and still passionate and committed to her craft in the prime of life! That's a lot to be proud of, and I mention it specifically because I think we often forget to appreciate how much we've accomplished and how far we've come—especially when we might be stuck inside a thought loop. So brava: you made it this far in your manifested artistic life. 

Next, rather than focusing on what the "right" choice is (because there is no "right choice"), my first advice is to get real quiet with yourself and get to the root of these activated feelings before trying to land on a preferred solution. 

Might this be about... 

  • being perceived of as older than you are/feel/wish to be viewed and the judgements and emotions that brings up? 
  • feeling misunderstood or misrepresented? 
  • feeling anxious because you're a recovering people-pleaser, and saying "no—" especially in a new relationship—is extra challenging for you? 
  • potentially being perceived of as "difficult" and/or "picky" or "a diva" by this new agent and the casting director and THOSE labels activate you? 
  • a self-worth issue? ("who do I think I am to turn this down?") 
  •  ...or something entirely different?

No matter the reason(s), getting real with yourself about the underlying feelings creating anxiety in this scenario will help you navigate it with better clarity. And I'll add—not ONLY this scenario, but future scenarios that activate your anxiety as well! (And as a post script: your identity as a female on planet earth does not make the above perceptions easier. Women do indeed fight stereotypes about being difficult/a diva/high-maintenance, that in men would be applauded as "knowing their worth" or "having standards...")

Finally, after you've done that, I'd "change the lens" on this for yourself and regard it as an opportunity to have a deeper, more meaningful conversation with your new agent about the kind of work you want to do, the way you wish to be represented in the industry, and to engage in meaningful dialogue about that in a back-and-forth that can only provide data for you both going forward. Just like a misunderstanding in a friendship or romantic partnership, these moments can be ignored and cause fragility, OR they can be the catalyst for a deeper conversation that gives everyone a chance to gain more understanding. 

Your agents might respond with something simple:

  • "the casting director asked for you specifically and I felt obligated to send it your way!"
  • "I figured why not? An audition is an audition, right?"
  • Thank you for this feedback-- let's pass and then dig in to other opportunities! 

I'll lightly warn: there is the possibility that your agent will not respond positively, or with the open heart and mind of your design. They might get defensive, double-down, or use language that re-activates some of your fears (for example might say something like "you can't be so picky" or "a lot of my other clients your age are going in, why can't you just trust me?") That is a distinct possibility, and I offer that the quality of their response is equally good data for you going forward.

While opportunities are wonderful, not all opportunities are created equal

And while this audition opportunity is one worth considering, the opportunity for deeper discussion is one that should definitely not be passed up!



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