Discovery / Fulfillment

The Conundrum Of Casting, Auditioning And The Ever Elusive Big Break Status

About a month ago, I played one of the title roles in our devised musical entitled Traces. Together with eleven other people, I wrote the libretto (book and lyrics) of this brand new musical. At the end of the process, we had our first public performance at the Main Theatre of the Ivy Arts Centre.

In it, I played wife to Alzheimer’s stricken James (I know right? What are the odds?), and mother to two very white, blonde children. It took me a while to wrap my head around the fact that I was portraying a role in which I was mother to two blonde children with a Brit/brunette husband.

The experience got me thinking about the process of casting in general. False modesty aside, I knew that I was up against very talented people. In fact, I was up against the triple threat in our class. She’s someone I often call, West End-ready or Broadway-bound. Hence, I had my white flag ready and up in the air. By some weird twist of fate, I was given the role. It came as a surprise because:

  1. I didn’t see myself in the running. Hence, I didn’t even try that hard.
  2. I knew my singing had improved vastly but still did not merit a lead role.
  3. I guess deep down, I was still an insecure person.

So, that was that. The show happened. To cut the long story short, I got ill, lost my voice, gained it back and managed to power through the shows. Still, it seemed surreal to me that I was given that role. I gave myself a pat on the back for bagging a lead role after years of waiting in the wings.

Then along came Carrie and The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. The auditions and recalls happened the same week we were performing our devised musical. Yes, I was all over the place, but to my mind, I did well during the auditions and even better during the Carrie recalls. I felt particularly proud of myself because I read for multiple roles and seemed to have impressed the director. In fact, at the end of the long recall session, he said “Thank you for coming in. I would consider that an excellent audition. Well done!”

I will be honest. I thought I had it in the bag. After that callback, I was expecting a supporting role at the very least. Thus, when the cast list came out, I was disappointed to find my name at the very bottom of the list (as part of the ensemble). Then again, I was pleasantly surprised that people normally on the wayside, were finally given the chance to shine. Was I disappointed? Yes, of course! Happy for others but a little bit down? Yes, without a doubt! More so because I hadn’t done that well in auditions/recalls in YEARS. YEARS. For the first time in forever, I didn’t flinch at the opportunity. I just walked in and delivered my best.

All this brings me to my conclusion that auditions (whether gone wrong or otherwise) DO NOT always determine your fate. Add to that, this preoccupation with castability still puzzles me. Should I have gone for another role? For an older/supporting role instead? I don’t think so. I have no regrets and in every sense of the word, proud that I went all in. Besides, why box yourself or preempt your castability when the people behind the desk will always have their own casting pegs and vision for the show anyway?

While things didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, looking at the cast list with an air of maturity (and a lot of humility) made all the difference. Years ago, I would have been pulling my hair out, complaining, crying and lamenting the experience of waiting in the wings. I would not have taken it well. To have looked at that list with full acceptance and an overwhelming sense of peace, that was a major milestone in my theatrical career and life in general. It felt like I had unlocked a new level of adulting. Ha-ha.

Over time, I’ve learned to become more process-oriented while still keeping my goals in check. I guess I grew up and in the process, grew a pair. After all, this industry, this path, this life I’ve chosen for myself, is not for the faint of heart. You must leave your ego at the door and brace yourself for constant rejection and failure.

Being an actor means living through a series of hits and misses, and striving to hit the target no matter what. Roles and shows may come and go but it’s the kind of artist you become that will carry you through and conversely, the kind of person you turn out to be that makes all the difference.

Tomorrow, we begin again. Here’s to failing, trying, beginning and working towards my next big break.

[Originally posted in]

About the Contributor

Isabella “Sab” Jose is a theater actress and entrepreneur, among other things. She is the Marketing and Public Relations Director of The Sandbox Collective, a multimedia theater organization and sister company of Nine Works Theatrical (No Filter, No Filter 2.0, Imaginarium, Pillowman, The Boy in the Bathroom, Dani Girl). She also co-owns and manages The Black Fleet, a line of luxury vehicles, alongside her siblings.

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