Yes, I am a public speaking coach but I am also many other things— as we all are.
Part of what makes me great at what I do is that I am a performer, director, and theater maker who has been on countless stages. And, like many performers and creatives, I have had my fair share of rejection. Some of these rejections have hit me harder than some, but they have also helped me give less shits over the years (excuse my french). Oftentimes, these rejections are received by email, a call from my agent, or yes, total silence. It is also not encouraged to contact the director or casting director and ask why you weren’t chosen for the job——oh, and as a side note: feedback in casting is tough because most of the time it has nothing to do with you. This can also sometimes be true for applying for fellowships, residencies, and grants. Regardless, most of the time, artists put hours of work and heart into an audition, application, or proposal to receive nothing in return.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with an amazing human at the Drama League in NYC about an application I submitted for a residency. This application is more than just an application, it is a process in which you have to really dig deep about your why, your vision, how you’re going to facilitate your creative process, who you are as a director, how you will be inclusive with your creative team, etc. All of these questions are quite challenging to answer because they are important. Along with this, you are asked to submit writing samples of your work, your CV, etc. I submitted for a theatre piece I have been developing for the past few years that was inspired by the mysterious death of my father.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the residency. Instead, I received an email that said I was not selected and a polite thank you for submitting followed by an invitation to speak with somebody one-on-one about why my application wasn’t selected. Now, let’s keep in mind, this was a highly competitive residency where over 600 people applied. That generous offer to chat with each of us is one heck of a commitment on the part of the folx at the Drama League. And I, of course, responded with a Yes, please! Sign me up!
I recently had my conversation and in my 10 minutes, I learned that I was on the right track and that my writing samples could have been stronger, which is tricky for devised theater, but I agreed! Yes and yes!
If I hadn’t had that meeting, I might not have been as clear about why my writing samples weren’t that great and I might have felt discouraged because it is so easy to get into your head with negative self-talk when rejection looms— I am certainly guilty of this.
To have the opportunity to hear somebody share back what you can work on is a huge gift. I can’t tell you how many organizations I’ve submitted to that don’t do this. And let me share with you what I feel this offering does for the applicant/employee of an organization:
✔ It builds a more inclusive community because people feel heard and a part of something
✔ It inspires applicants to keep moving forward with their projects and ideas
✔ The applicant now has the opportunity to improve their work
✔ It shows that the applicant and their time is valued
✔ It shows the dedication of the organization and their commitment to what they value
If you are an organization, whether that be nonprofit or for-profit, when your employee or applicant submits a proposal, a grant, or a concept, it is an act of generosity to offer to sit down with them, if you’re not going to say “yes” to that idea now. This generosity of time is a beautiful gesture that could potentially give that little extra nudge of encouragement or inspiration to make that idea eventually shine!
So the next time you have the opportunity to receive feedback, take it. If you are in a place where you can give constructive and mindful feedback, give it.
I really do appreciate the Drama League for taking the time to show artists that they care and value their work. And just because it was a no today, does not mean it will be a no tomorrow.