3 Tips for a Healthy Mindset as a Working Actor

broadway industry inspiration Oct 23, 2023

Written By: Chelsea & Cynthia

You can practice your dance moves for hours a day and vocalize up to a high C with ease, but if your mindset is not supporting your goals, then you will stay stuck.

You've probably heard it before: "It's all about your mindset".

Okay...but what does that mean?

With a quick Google search, you'll see that it's the established set of attitudes held by someone.

These are the things that you hold to be true about yourself. The question is then, are those beliefs positive or negative?

Are you speaking to yourself with kindness and confidence? Or are you creating limiting beliefs about who you are and your capabilities?

As an actor, it's important that you have a healthy mindset to propel yourself towards success in the industry. 

Keep reading to read our 3 tips for developing your healthy mindset!

1. Recognize That Auditioning is The Job

As a working actor, auditioning will be the bulk of when you get to perform. We know that sounds so strange, but it really is the truth. Start getting into this mindset that auditioning is the job and you're excited that you get to wake up and sing in multiple rooms, in front of new people.

This is where expectation and reality can often be really disappointing, especially for folks entering the business for the first time. Maybe they've just gotten out of school and they're regularly auditioning. And in a school environment or even in more of a community theater environment, chances are you're performing a lot more. You might be doing a show each semester, but in real life, the bulk of your job is showing up to auditions. 

But the people who we know who find the most fulfillment in this industry are the people who find the excitement and the joy in performing, whether it's in an audition room, in a one-week run of summer stock, or an eight-show-a-week yearly Broadway gig. They just love to sing, love to perform, and they realize that auditioning is the biggest part of that.

Think about this with so many of the passion careers that people follow. They may open a restaurant because they love to cook. But, when you open a restaurant, how much of their time will actually be spent cooking, the thing that they love, versus hiring, managing staff, schedules, paying bills, mopping the floor, ordering supplies, making sure the food is fresh etc. 

Performing is a passion career for so many folks, but we have to get out of the mindset that the only time you are doing the job, or living the dream, is when you're on stage doing the two-week run of The Sound of Music. But you know, you audition for months and months to get to that point to do the two-week run of The Sound of Music, right? We have to get out of this mindset that auditioning is just killing time until you get to do your job. Auditioning is the job.

2. Take Risks (Broadly and in small ways as well)

Successful actors make bold choices in their audition rooms. This includes things they're doing in their regular day-to-day life, like daring to network, ask for help, or put themselves in new social situations. They continually dare to put themselves into a growth mindset, which can often mean a bit of discomfort. 

Casting and musical directors want to see you take a risk. There is nothing exciting or interesting about people making general choices and playing it safe. So you can think about this in every aspect of what you're doing in your work as a performer.

We had a masterclass with Mary Sugarman from Tara Rubin Casting, where she said, "There is never, ever a reason to be general". We wish we could sharpie that onto everyone's forehead. Not making a choice is boring. Dare to make the choice and be specific.

 Beyond making bold choices in an audition room, dare to reach out to others. If you had a masterclass with someone, send them a thank you note the next day and share what you learned from them. Then, the next time you see them in an audition room, push yourself to say that it's good to see them again and that you've been holding on to the things that you learned from their masterclass.

  Even asking for help is a gutsy, risky move. Sometimes it feels really scary to ask for help, to share that you feel stuck. But learn to invest in yourself. You're worth it enough to take a voice lesson or get into a dance class. Normalize asking for help.

Daring to put yourself in situations that are out of your comfort zone is really the only way that you continue to grow, evolve, and receive a feedback loop.

3. Have a Life Outside of The Theater

The attitude is realizing that your value and self-worth are not wrapped up in booking a job. You are a working actor, even when you aren't on a contract. Also, being an actor does not have to be your first and most important identifier. You can be a daughter, son, sibling, humanitarian, parent, friend - you can be all sorts of things that maybe perhaps feel most important or uplifting to you. These are the things that fill you with a sense of worth, a sense of purpose that has nothing to do with how you make money in the world.

The actors who have a sense of self-worth that comes from outside of their career are the people who are the most successful and have the best relationship with the industry.

There's a great chapter in Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Big Magic, that shares this idea that if you have a passion that you love so much, it's okay not to put the pressure on it to be the thing that makes you money.

For this reason, a side gig is great. It allows you to keep doing this passion without the pressure of having to make money to keep you afloat. Maybe you make most of your money on side gigs, so that you can protect this passion you love so much and there isn't this pressure where you lose your value and self-worth because you're not making money. 

To be honest, a lot of the folks we know who have some of the healthiest and most fulfilling relationships with performing are people who didn't move to New York and say, "I'm going to do theater in Cincinnati, Ohio, I'm going to perform, and I'm also going to have another other job."

There's not one way to be successful and there's so much more to life than our job. Those are obviously really important, but our relationships, hobbies, interests, and pets are the things that we can find value, self-worth, and joy in life that do not need to be wrapped up in whether we booked a job or not as an actor.

And yes, this is easier said than done sometimes. But where you put your time and your energy is a direct reflection of your priorities and of where you're going to derive your life's value from. Maybe put a mirror up to yourself and ask, is my life balanced at this moment in time? Does this feel sustainable to me? Does this feel like the life I want to live? 

Those are tough questions to ask yourself, but you will burn out in this industry if you aren't asking yourself those questions and not exploring them within yourself. It's tough work, but the sooner you can wrap your mind around it, the sooner you're going to feel peace about whatever may come your way as a performer.

If you're interested in diving deeper into this interview or exploring other interesting musical theatre conversations - check out the Broadway Vocal Coach podcast! Or check us out on Instagram, and get involved in the conversation! 

Are you a musical theatre performer and wondering what your next step should be? Take our Quiz - we can’t wait to hear your story and help you take the next step in your career.

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