Friday, May 25, 2007

The Audition Vs. The Teaching Interview

Several years ago when I first began making a serious attempt to enter the entertainment business, I was told by my theatre teachers and some people who already had experience in the profession that I should prepare myself for failure and rejection. I like to read and I read dozens of books about acting, auditioning, and attempting to make a career in the business. Almost every one of the authors I read said something along the lines of “That for every 1 role you get or project you are hired for, you will have 100 that you are rejected from.” I remember reading in particular one book that said growing “rhino-skin” (an emotional toughness similar to the skin of rhinosaurous’) was a must in order to survive for any length of time in the world of entertainment. Time after time I was told that failure and rejection would become two of my closest companions and that chances for success would be very, very, very small indeed.

All of these voices were mostly correct as experience has shown me.

The entertainment business, whether you want to act, write, or direct is an incredibly difficult business to make a living in. The guy or gal working a 9-5 job behind a desk would probably be so discouraged after the first audition that they would go home crying and never come back.

One of my friends gave the following rules to me when I was first in college and for the longest time it was a mantra of sorts for me:

  1. Life is unfair.
  2. Theatre is less fair than life.
  3. Acting is the least fair part of theatre.
  4. Humans submit themselves to nothing less fair than the audition.

For many years, I thought that was completely true. I have discovered that it isn’t. I’ve discovered something that is even less fair than the audition: a teaching interview.

When you audition for a play, commercial, film or some other project there are a myriad of reasons why you might not be chosen. You might have more talent than the person cast, but you just didn’t look like the role. Perhaps you looked like the role, but you didn’t look right with the rest of the cast members already hired. Perhaps the reason you didn’t get hired was because you wouldn’t sleep with the casting director. Maybe you had some words with that creepy high schooler in front of theatre, but you didn’t know he was related to the assistant director. You’re too old. You’re too young. You’re too fat. You’re too thin. You’re not muscular enough. You’re not chubby enough. You’re teeth aren’t white enough. You’re teeth aren’t yellow enough. You sneezed when you stepped into the room. The director hated the one play that you acted in and got rave reviews for. The reasons are endless. The thing is, if you want to act (or direct or write for that matter), you can’t let it get to you. That’s the nature of the business.

I thought education was different. When I felt called to teaching instead of going to film school in California, I thought I was entering a noble profession. I had several education teachers insist that was what teaching was a “noble” profession. I entered that profession because I felt led to. I also entered it because instead of working crappy jobs to support myself, I wanted to do something that was significant, meaningful, and full of purpose. I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to change many lives, but I felt that I would be able to at least engage students enough that one or two might be affected in some small, positive way. Unlike many starting out in the profession, I didn’t have very many high and lofty goals. I had spent 6 months substituting in all kinds of schools in Indiana and I didn’t have any of those idealistic expectations. People told me all the time when I was in school, that I shouldn’t have any problem finding a decent job. I wish people would keep their petty b.s. comments like that to their selves because it isn’t true.

A year and a half later after I received my certificate, around 100 applications later, and 17 interviews later, I still haven’t been offered a teaching position. I’ve tried everything I can think of. I’ve been myself, I’ve told people what I thought they wanted to hear, I’ve been completely open and honest, I’ve been confident and reserved. Nothing seems to work. What’s more frustrating is that many times a principal or committee will tell you “well, we’ll let you know for sure one way or the other by such and such time” and then you never hear back from those people. You send thank you notes and sometimes even little reminders. If you’re lucky they might send you an email saying, “Thanks for contacting us about the position, but sorry, we’ve already hired someone else.” Why didn’t they tell you that three weeks ago when they said they were? Why does someone I’ve barely met and who I very much would like to work for and with lie to me? You would think that in a profession that’s supposed to be nondiscriminatory that looks, social class, and where you’ve lived will have nothing to do with you getting a job, but it’s not true. Statistics have shown time and again that more men are needed in the teaching profession. What those statistics don’t tell one, though is that if you’re a male your chances of getting a job are actually less if you’re a female. Out of all the teaching interviews I’ve had, only one went to a male. The principal there told me he was wanting to hire a male for the staff because he didn’t have many and he was true to his word, three of we four finalist candidates were male. Sometimes a committee won’t hire you when they find out where you live and grew up. Other times they might offer you an interview, but it’s really just for show because they have already decided who they are going to hire, so-and-so went to the school or so-and-so’s wife coaches cheerleading, or whatever. Education shouldn’t be political. I know it is very political, but that doesn’t mean it should be that way.

Humans submit themselves to nothing less fair than the teaching interview. Trust me, I know.

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