I’ve applied for 14 fellowships during the last three years. Yep, 14.
I’ve been rejected from 14 fellowships during the last three years. Yep, 14!
I’ve been rejected from writing fellowships, acting fellowships, production fellowships.
I’ve been rejected so many times that I nearly expect it.
Here’s the story:
A few months back I auditioned for the Bob Curry Fellowship at The Second City, a world-renowned improvisational school that has produced artists like Tina Fey, Keegan-Michael Key, and Jordan Peele.
So, receiving an improv fellowship would be like Black Santa gifting me with a special serum that would leave my natural hair tangle-free and perpetually shiny.
When I applied for the last fellowship, I told myself: “This is it. If I don’t get this, I’m gonna stop applying for fellowships.”
I was depleted from applying and having doors that seemed like the gateways to my dreams slammed in my face.
Then the email came.
I had cleared the initial writing round for the Curry fellowship and was invited to audition. I wasn’t completely shocked, though. My answers to the application had flowed with ease. The staff had asked the applicants to make them laugh, and I did. I knew it as I wrote it. It was one of the best applications I had ever completed. I felt myself getting better.
Still, I hadn’t performed improv on a stage in three years. (I had performed only on camera, and usually alone.) I knew that I would be rusty, and I had only two weeks to dust the rust off. So I asked all my improv friends where I could jam. They gave me a list of stages.
One week passed with no practice.
Surprisingly, I felt calm. Strangely, I felt no urgency. I only felt peace, sensed that I didn’t need to prep a lot. I chose to trust the feeling.
I practiced onstage (two times) the Saturday before my audition, and that was it.
Can you guess what happened?
I didn’t feel rusty. At all.
In fact, I felt MORE bold, MORE confident, and BETTER than I ever was in the past. (I credit this to self-producing.) It felt like a Christmas miracle in June!
I was excited for my audition and as prepared as I could be.
I arrived at the audition with a new monologue, courtesy of Anna Mae, the sexin’ granny, a character I created for 14 Days of Funny. When Anna Mae spoke, the Second City staff laughed. I was proud of myself: proud of my comedy writing and proud of my confidence and skill as a performer.
Anna Discusses Sensual Dance
But then I hit a wall. Scene after scene. It was the same wall I had felt when I practiced the Saturday before. The wall was my lack of advanced improv training.
I had graduated from a two year acting program, so my acting chops were good, but I had only taken two improv classes, both level 1 classes. I knew how to initiate a scene, how to create a relationship, how to respond honestly, and how to do it all in character, but I didn’t know how to advance my scenes. Every one of my scenes stalled.
I walked out of the audition room confident that only a second Christmas miracle in June would produce a callback audition.
But Black Santa didn't bring that gift.
He did, however, bring revelation about my current strengths and weaknesses:
My monologue writing and character creation are strong, but I’m clueless about how to strategically move a scene comically. In other words, I’m fairly good at creating funny characters that speak directly to the audience/camera, but my characters must learn how to play in the sandbox with others.
This rejection pinpointed my SPECIFIC next growth step: improv level 2.
Now, instead of viewing the rejection as a roadblock to my success, I see it as the roadmap to my success.
I’m excited to apply again.
This is the third installment of a four-part series on rejection.
Post 2 - The Rejection That Embarrasses You
How do you deal with rejection and failure? Comment below. If you want to read the rest of this series, subscribe!