We’ve all dreamed about that one moment that changes everything. Audra McDonald hears you sing karaoke at your mutual friend’s birthday party and asks if you’d be interested in singing a duet with her on her next album. Or you send a draft of your latest show to one of your former professors, who thinks it’s so amazing that she forwards it to her good friends Hal Prince and Margo Lion, who fight each other for the chance to produce it. These dreams are unlikely to come true, but stranger things have happened, so we still occasionally entertain those fantastical notions with stars in our eyes.
Maybe it won’t be that easy or magical, but if you’re working hard at your craft, there’s a good chance that you’ll eventually come across an opportunity that could be a turning point in your career. Be prepared for it! Have a killer audition song at the ready or a polished draft of something that you’re really proud of. If opportunity knocks, be waiting to answer the door as soon as you hear that rat-a-tat-tat.
When you’re just starting your career, this can be intimidating. When everybody else seems so ahead of the game and sure of themselves, you can feel like you have to scramble to play catch up. Instead of finishing one musical, you try to work on three at once and don’t have anything concrete to show for your effort. Or you’re so eager to build your resume that you perform in show after show that you’re not really into, and you never have the time for that monologue class that would really help you land the kind of roles you want to perform. Although it might seem counter-intuitive, this is the time to focus on quality and not quantity.
Realistically think about what could be that moment that helps get you to the next level in your career. Is it one really solid audition? Is it getting your script into the hands of an agent? Then start thinking about that moment. Pick one musical and finish it. Take a couple of weeks off from auditioning and work with a coach. Don’t let yourself get out of this by claiming to be busy. Sometimes we can trick ourselves into thinking we’re being productive just because we’re doing a lot of things at once, but if we’re not polishing that monologue or making edits on that one show, we’re making things harder for ourselves.
While you’re at it, make sure that everyone you know knows what you’re working on. Keep yourself accountable. When your friend asks if you ever finished that musical you mentioned the last time you saw each other, you’re not going to want to have to say no. Also, the more people that know what you’re working on, the more potential people that might be able to help you. Maybe your roommate’s cousin happens to know a really great acting coach, or maybe your co-worker moonlights as a dramaturg and would be willing to read your script. None of this can happen if your work exists in a bubble.
Lastly, don’t be discouraged if it takes a while for your moment to happen. Theatre isn’t a field with a clearly defined career path. Some people make their Broadway debuts weeks after being discovered on YouTube and some audition for years before they land the role that gets them their Tony nomination. You never know when your moment might happen, so you just have to keep doing everything in your power to be ready when it does. Be prepared!