I have had a long history of baggage associated with rejection; there's always someone prettier, someone taller, someone who can dance better-- and since high school, being rejected in theater has hurt me more than is really necessary or mentally healthy. It all started with what I consider my most embarrassing failure, junior year of high school.
We were having auditions for the worst musical in all of history, Lil Abner. I didn't even care that it was the worst musical in all of history, because our school only put on one show a year and dammit, this was my time to grab the lead and establish myself firmly as Queen of The High School Theater Scene. Because that would make me Popular and Feared among all the other people, muahaha. (So I staunchly believed)
I was certain to get the lead female role of Daisy Mae. Right?
Then the cast list came out.
I was a nameless chorus girl.
My best friend Kelly saw the cast list first, and in her wonderfully sardonic fashion, disregarded the whole thing as pure idiocy.
I didn't take it so well.
My life was over. I was not established as the Queen of the High School Theater department. No one would look upon me with envy. No one would ever think anything of my skills. They would all go to the girl who was pretter and more popular who landed the role.
I had a wonderful family, wonderful friends, a bright artistic future, and I thought I had nothing to live for because I wasn't the lead hillbilly in a terrible hillbilly musical. That's how out of proportion I was.
The girl who did land the role, as you can guess, was a gorgeous, absurdly thin blonde, and all the little high schoolers went "OOH SHE'S SO TALENTED OMG BROADWAY."
Of course I compared myself to her. I was nowhere near as pretty, or thin, and she really DID look good onstage.I cursed the director, I cursed the girl who snagged my role, I cursed my luck. Why would these kids praise this girl?! I was the one who had been working in theater since I was six! I was the one who'd been in over forty shows! I was the one who had a professional voice acting job for five years! I'd worked in regional theaters everywhere! Why the hell had casting come down to this, where I was reduced to working with a chorus of ambivalent teens who would never make it in a real acting career like I already had?! I was smug and hurt at the same time.
My failure was tormenting. Daily I wallowed in self hatred and pity and spite for the world.
Still, my failures began to add up. I nurtured my bitterness, let it stew. And even when I went off to college, for every show I didn't get cast in, it would weigh me down, like I was carrying all my rejection in a giant backpack.
But that backpack kept getting bigger every time I didn't get cast.
Freshman year passed and I wasn't cast in All Shook Up, Carousel, or Bare...
...or Spelling Bee, or Quanah, or my 2nd favorite show of all time, City of Angels. In fact, I have only ever been cast in one faculty show, winter of Freshman year when I played the understudy for a workshop musical. (which is a whole nudda story.)
My backpack of self-loathing was quite heavy at this point.
I wish I could say I went through a period of enlightenment, and suddenly became a generous, forgiving person who understood where I needed to improve, but it really got me down. I was so discouraged by all the rejection, by all the ways I needed to improve as a performer, that all I could do was suck it up and audition outside of the city like my director told me to.
And then, after one little non-equity open call for the Wizard of Oz one morning, I got a callback for a dance call.
Then I went to that dance call. Got another callback.
Went to that callback. Sang some more. Well, this is nice, I thought, but with my history of rejection, it's not gonna go anywhere.
Then I got another callback. This time for the producer.
I got a call from the casting company saying I had been picked to play Dorothy in next year's tour.
I think it was the fact that I finally had to accept my defeat-- since my "defeats" weren't really defeats, they were just, well, other people being more right for a role than me.
So all I needed to do was suck it up.
I guess the lesson here is: there will always be someone better for a role, until there isn't, and then that's your turn. But you have to wait your turn.
The other lesson is that high school theater sucks, but don't worry, life just gets exponentially better after high school is over.
So don't let rejection get you depressed, because something better will eventually turn up and you'll be rewarded.