It’s Not the End of the World: What to Do When You Don’t Get the Lead

The sad truth about theater is that in every show there is one lead, and usually only one. There is one part that every actor has his or her eyes on and unfortunately only one actor will get that part. (Unless it is double-casted, but you get the point.) So what happens when you dump your whole heart and soul onto the stage going after a part that you don’t get? Well, here are some good tips to keep in mind.

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Mental Preparation

Before you even audition, you need to remind yourself that no matter what your parents say, you are NOT the most talented actress or singer on the planet. No offense, I’m sure you’re really good. But so is every other kid who’s auditioning for that same part. Remind yourself that the director knows what’s best. Seriously, he or she has studied theater for WAY longer than you, and they have an image of what they want the show to look like in their head. So, I know it’s hard to think about the possibility of not getting that lead, but you have to mentally prepare yourself for either outcome. Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.

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Getting the (Not So) Bad News

So, the cast list just came out and you didn’t get that part. You have a huge knot in your stomach and a lump in your throat and you want to cry into your pillow for the rest of your life, right? Yeah, I thought so. It’s totally ok to be upset at first, but at some point you will have to get over it. Punch a pillow, scream as loud as you can, eat a gallon of ice cream, do whatever you need to. But once you are out of tears, remind yourself that it wasn’t personal. I can promise you that the director did NOT sit there and say, “Well Sally is perfect for the part, but I really hate her, so I’m gonna give it to Lisa instead, even though she totally sucks.” I’m sure the director considered you, but there are a thousand things that go into casting a show and sometimes there isn’t much you can do. Just remember, you aren’t going to die. You may think that this is a life or death situation, but I promise, it’s not. Life goes on.

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Finding Some Maturity

You’ve broken the bad news to your friends and family. Now all your friends are telling you that the director was an idiot and the kid who did get it isn’t even that talented. You’re sitting there thinking, “Yeah… Lisa does suck and Mrs. A is just a stupid person. I should kill them!” DON’T DO THAT. Seriously, I know imagining your rival dead can be comforting, but you don’t need to stoop that low. It’s really easy to be bitter and angry. It’s really easy to have a slumber party with all of your best friends and spend the whole night gossiping about the girl that you hate because she “stole” your part. It’s not worth it. Be happy for her. This is the hardest thing an actor can do, but it will pay off. Petty competition with someone who has already earned their role is useless and will make you feel worse in the long run. Trust me, I’ve been there before and I’ve seen many of my close friends in the same situation. Giving in to that anger only proves that you are too weak and immature to handle the pressures of getting a lead anyway. So if you admit that you are weak and immature than don’t bother reading any more of this. If you are better than that, please continue.

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Loving YOUR Part

So what DO you do? Look at the cast list one more time. Which part DID you get? A supporting role like the best friend or the mentor? Or maybe you got the villain? Is it a narrator? Or a show stealer? Or maybe you are a small ensemble member? Either way, start sinking your teeth into YOUR part immediately! Remember, being Ursula in the Little Mermaid or Brooke Windham in Legally Blonde or the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland or the Mysterious Man in Into the Woods can be super fun! I’m speaking from experience here – supporting parts are way more exciting than leads and you will learn more in the process.

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The Crocodile Girl

One time, my sister was cast as the crocodile in Peter Pan. Yes, the crocodile. She had no lines. She just danced around the stage clicking her tongue like a clock while Captain Hook ran away from her. The director accidentally forgot to include her in the program because it was such a small part. At the end of the show, guess what the audience couldn’t stop talking about? I kid you not, they were OBSESSED with how amazing that “crocodile girl” was. They were dying to know who played that part. AND SHE NEVER SPOKE A SINGLE WORD! So what’s the point of this story? That a good actor can turn even the smallest part into a show stealer. You create your own reality. So wipe those tears off your face and start discovering your character. If you impress your director with how you stole the show by working so hard at this part, they will be even more inclined to give you the next lead that comes around. Don’t give up!

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Don’t Give Up!

With Kidz Konnection actresses preparing for Legally Blonde auditions in April, I know everyone wants to be Elle. And I know you think you are absolutely perfect for the part. But look in the mirror, record your voice singing the songs, and pay attention to your acting style. Did you ever consider you might be more suited for Paulette? Or Vivian? Or Serena? Or Brooke Windham? Do you even know who those characters are? Because they are good parts. I would be ecstatic to get one of those parts. And they are honestly much more fun than the ditzy blonde who follows her crush to Harvard, but that’s just my opinion.

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Comments

It’s Not the End of the World: What to Do When You Don’t Get the Lead — 1 Comment

  1. Very well said and love that you took the time to share the thoughts and emotions that so many young actors feel at times. Love this. 🙂

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