It's 1998 and I've been doing the Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival Summer Camp at California Lutheran University for 3 years. I am 12 years old and the play in question is Twelfth Night. I am told that I can choose whichever role I'd like, since I'm so senior in the program. I choose Olivia, as I'd already played the cross-dressing heroine in As You Like It last year. I am queen of the castle.
It's 1999 and I am auditioning for a stage production of Bugsy Malone at my new school. 3 of us had auditioned for the drama scholarship - the boy who ended up getting it was playing Bugsy. A teacher comes up to me and says "I heard a rumor that you were fantastic in your audition and that it's between you and one other girl for Tallulah!" The other girl gets it. The other girl is tall and skinny; I am short and chunky. I play the little male janitor who sings the tap number "Tomorrow". They don't even allow me to tap - I have backup dancers, as I sweep the floor in drag.
It's the year 2000 and I am auditioning for Little Shop of Horrors. The girl who played Tallulah in Bugsy Malone gets cast as Audrey. I am not on the cast list. I quit acting forever at the age of 14.
Rejection is not something I traditionally handle well. Like many of my generation, I was told as a child that I could do whatever I wanted to in life, and that didn't jive with the reality I was seeing form around me. After some early romantic disasters, most boys who I had a crush on in high school and college never knew about that crush - I never told them, for fear of being rejected. As an adult, the few months I was out of work between my job selling t-shirts at HAIR on Broadway and finally accepting yet another unpaid casting internship were some of my lowest. There was a constant, silent hum of rejection that followed every "mail sent" notification, for jobs that would never even acknowledge my existence. Now I work at a software company that provides support for Casting Directors, and every day I overhear the support end of calls from actors: "I'm so sorry, I don't know why you aren't getting work. Your resume is filled out and your headshots look good. Sometimes it's just up to the casting director's discretion." A lot of 14 year old mes calling in to ask why they feel so rejected.
I'm now in the "pounding the pavement" chapter of the Mallow & Hop story, and in all honesty it's actually been wildly successful so far. Of the many businesses that I visited with samples last weekend, 2/3 have responded to my inquiries, 1/3 with interest. Actors I know would be elated to book 33% of their auditions! But still, those rejections - personal or no - they are what play through my head on repeat as I fall asleep. What went wrong? So and so doesn't like this particular flavor - are they right? Is my whole life a LIE? WHO DO I TRUST NOW?
Three times this week I've rushed home in a panicked frenzy, dashed to my kitchen, grabbed a marshmallow, popped it in my mouth and finally relaxed -- No. This IS good. I like this. This happens all the time: I made a Strawberry Porter marshmallow a few months ago and brought it into my day job to pawn off on co-workers; I wasn't the biggest fan and just kind of wanted them out of the house. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive. People have different tastes! It's cake vs pie, writ small in marshmallows. If I was on the other side of this equation 5 years ago, I probably would have told the person trying to sell me flavored marshmallows that I don't really like marshmallows, but best of luck.
So here is what I do when I start to dwell on No:
- I remember all the times I said no to someone and the lack of ill will I had when I said it.
- I read 1 star reviews of the top 100 films of all time on IMDB.
- I remember just how much I love Cato Corner's Hooligan Cheese, and just how much my friends hate it (they are so so so so so wrong).
- I make marshmallows, and put together more sampler packs to give out to people, to get more Nos. With hopefully a Yes or two thrown in.
Next up: A recipe or two and a place or two where you will soon be able to buy Mallow & Hop!