Play Your Own Game

[Ask Exene] I'm a struggling college actor in a small, biased theater department. What do I do?

DEAR EXENE: I am a 19-year-old college student, and acting is my passion. I go to a small liberal-arts college; the theater department is tiny—and biased. I am talented and humble; I know I have so much more to learn! However, when it's auditioning season, I am continually being overlooked and rejected—by the same director. I am aware that in my career, this will be nonstop, but I'm in college, and I need some assurance and security that I am enough! I find the confidence and hope to think positive about myself, but in the end, I feel stupid and worthless. In comparison to the other theater students, I breathe this stuff. My passion is through the roof, and my talent is evident. What do you suggest I do to deal with this rejection? How do I maintain hope?

Love, Chloe


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Exene Cervenka is a writer, visual artist and punk rock pioneer. The OC transplant is the lead singer for X, the Knitters and Original Sinners. If you want to ask the legendary vocalist for advice—on your love life, politics, your musical career, filial relationships—send an email to askexene@ocweekly.com.

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DEAR CHLOE: Bad news first: The theater/film/acting world is egomaniacal, cruel, competitive, superficial, full of desperate people driven by narcissism, hoping to get famous and rich. There are some good people who will encourage you, but there are also selfish, jealous gatekeepers who block actors from succeeding in every step of the process: directors, casting agents, producers, coaches, other actors, etc. Rejection is the reality there, so get used to that.

Good news: Talent and persistence can overcome these obstacles. Most actors give up once they see the reality. Don't give up if acting is your love, but understand it is a hard life. What are your strengths? Improv? Comedy? Character type? Drama? Great acting (pretending to be someone else) comes from knowing, feeling and being real. Know thyself first. Listen and watch people in everyday situations that may be new to you; explore your city, neighborhoods, events. You can't fake that kind of life experience. Be an observer of the human condition, but participate, be a soul that travels freely into every world.

Are you gonna let a college director make you feel stupid and worthless? Because that's just one person holding onto a precarious and somewhat minor role. The Actors Gang in Culver City is a great example of what is good about theater. Get out into the world of grassroots theater, or start your own. You have some great advantages already—desire, youth, talent and passion. A majority of the people whom I encountered starting out as a singer/writer/ musician tried to tell me no, not you, go away. Hahaha. You can do it, be tougher than them because, really, they are the weak ones.

Love, Exene

 
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