I recently saw a show on PBS that drew me in for multiple episodes called “Broadway or Bust”. (I couldn’t resist. Once upon a time I fancied myself an actress and I have a degree in theatre from Barnard. “What does one do with a degree in theatre?” you ask. Well… That individual becomes a professional triathlete, of course.) Back to the show… “Broadway or Bust” follows sixty teenagers who have all won their respective regional musical theater competitions and consequently have received an invite to New York City for a week of dorm-style living and musical theatre boot camp. During this grueling week the kids practice their solos, learn group numbers, get critiqued by producers and directors, and are coached by actors and choreographers all in service to one huge show on the last day of “camp”. On that final day, the teens take over the Minskoff Theater (usually home to the “Lion King”), put on their production, and effectively audition one last time to win the Jimmy Award for best actor or actress.
What’s great about “Broadway or Bust” is that you get to go behind the scenes. Not only do you see what life is like backstage, you get to see the most confident kids struggle with their nerves and even more intriguingly, you get a rare glimpse into the audition process. The show lets you in on the closed door sessions where theatre bigwigs come together to whittle down this enormous pool of talent to a very few and then again to just two. Your heart almost breaks when you see the director of the program cavalierly remove headshot after headshot from the row of kids still in the running to win the big prize. Not so much because you liked this kid or that kid, but because you know that these teens will see this episode and will relive that terrible moment when they got cast aside. It was at this point in the show that a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, who was on the judging panel, spoke to the TV audience about rejection. In summary he said rejection is a way of life for people in this industry. It happens every day to thousands of wonderful, very talented people. Not getting selected just means you weren’t the most perfect fit for that role on that day. Should you stop auditioning? No way. Should you give up acting? Hell no. You go out tomorrow and you try again. For if you dwell on the rejection, he contends, you will never succeed.
After hearing some harrowing stories from St. Croix 70.3 and Ironman Texas, I could not help but draw a parallel between racing and theatre. Race day is like one big audition. You rehearse and practice and rehearse and practice (and rehearse and practice some more). Then you and a hundred of your closest friends all vie for the same spot and only one of you will get it. Only one of you will have everything come together just right, on that day, on that course. And what if you don’t get the part? Will you hang your head and retire your running shoes? Avoid certain races? Avoid certain distances? I don’t think so. The best athletes will learn from the experience and use what they now know to become better athletes. There is no use dwelling on the negative for that is only a reflection of one teeny tiny day. Keep fighting.