It’s the first day of a new contract, and even though you just put it on you’re already sweating through the stellar “first day” outfit you meticulously put together the night before. You’ve been waiting for this day since the moment you received that email from your agent or casting director with the word “OFFER” in the subject line. So why are you dreading it now that it’s finally here?
At the beginning of this year, I worked on my first equity show! It was a great experience, and I grew quite close to many of the people involved. But as I sit here and think back to my first day of school, so to speak, I realize it was in no way reflective of the experience I would have. I left that very first rehearsal at 6pm wanting to hole up in my room and cry. It wasn’t for any particular reason. Everyone was perfectly kind to me, and the material wasn’t particularly difficult. I just let all feelings of doubt, anxiety, and insecurity take over. After some reflection, I’ve come up with a short and trusty checklist of things to do going forward that can combat or at least quell those overwhelming feelings of fear and doubt when heading into the rehearsal room for a new project.
Do Your Homework
Do👏your👏homework👏. What does that mean? Do whatever it is you need to do in order to feel completely prepared and comfortable walking into your first rehearsal. For me that means having read the script at least twice; having a good portion of my lines memorized; knowing most, if not all, of my music; having strong ideas about my character; and having sufficiently stalked my castmates on social media.
The more prepared you are walking into your first rehearsal, the more confident you’ll feel about what you’re bringing to the table. If, for some reason, things change and the director asks to work on your scene--the scene that was scheduled for the end of the week--you want to be able to roll with that. Rehearsal periods in this industry are getting shorter and shorter. The more work you put in outside rehearsal, the more time you have to PLAY and RISK and LEARN inside rehearsal.
2. Be Upfront & Honest
Be transparent. Don’t promise anything that you can’t deliver. Be honest about what you know and what you don’t know. The process of collaboration is dependent on honesty. I was very sick the weekend before my first rehearsal, and I could barely produce sound the day of. My song was on the schedule for that day and rather than be upfront with my music director about my lack of sound production, I spent a wasted hour trying very unsuccessfully to sing through my song.
Don’t waste time. Speak up.
3. Know That You Are Enough
Know that you are enough!!!!! As a new gig approaches, those feels can start to creep in: imposter syndrome, self-doubt, insecurity, fear, etc. We begin to question our ability, our talent, our worth. With that comes a burning desire to prove ourselves or put on for others. This creates a space in which we can’t feel free to be our true authentic selves, and that space negatively affects the work. Before rehearsals for your next contract begin, do whatever you need to do to remind yourself that you are enough.
Light a candle and pray or meditate.
Spend an evening with your tribe--the people who make you feel really good about your most authentic self.
Take a bath and journal about your accomplishments this month.
You worked hard to book, and you booked because YOU CAN DO IT. Somebody noticed that you can do it. Trust that, and everything else will fall into place.
KIM ONAH is an actress, writer, and singer based in New York City. She graduated from Harvard University in 2015 with an AB in English and Music. Theater credits include Effie White in Dreamgirls, Mrs. Crowe in A Man of No Importance, Joanne in Rent, Dionne in HAIR, Nettie in Carousel, and Martha in Spring Awakening. Kim's interests outside of music and theater include playwriting, composing, and running.