Acting Teaching Drama

How to Deal: Not Getting the Part You Wanted

Written by Kerry Hishon

Teachers: Not getting the part you want can be devastating! If you have a student who is unhappy with their casting result, here is a frank and honest list that you can share with your students. It is aimed at helping them deal with their feelings and the situation. Check out the casting reflection link at the bottom of the post.


Students, imagine this:

Your teacher announces that the upcoming school production is your absolute favourite show in the world. You are psyched! You sign up for an audition slot with your heart set on playing “that” role–your dream role. You’ve picked the perfect monologue and practiced it forwards, backwards, and sideways. You’ve read the entire script, memorized the vocal score, and watched the film version. You go into the audition and absolutely blow the audition panel away with your effort and enthusiasm.

Then, the cast list is posted. You scan the list–and there is your name! You’ve been offered the part of…the paperboy. Or the maid. Or Pirate #6. Either way, it’s not the role you had your heart set on. What do you do now?

It can be really hard to not get the part you want. Being an actor truly takes having a thick skin. What can you do to deal with this situation?

Try not to take the casting choice personally.

There are a myriad of reasons why a certain student is cast into a certain role, and you weren’t. Another student may have more experience than you, or perhaps they had a stronger audition. Perhaps they are older and have taken more drama classes, or their vocal range fits the character better. No matter what the reason though, I can guarantee the reason is not because your teacher thinks you’re a bad actor or a bad person! Your teacher clearly saw something in you that they liked, because you got a role. But sometimes we can get a bit of tunnel vision–we may think that we are the best choice for a certain role, but that doesn’t necessarily fit with the director’s vision.

Decide if you want to take the role or not.

Here is an idea that some students don’t think about–if the show is an extracurricular event and not part of a mandatory classroom assignment, you don’t have to take the role. You aren’t being forced to participate. Sometimes framing it in a different light can help you make a tough decision. Say no to the role. If it’s truly your dream show though, then really it shouldn’t matter what role you’re playing–you get to be in the show!

If you’re genuinely unhappy that you did not get the role you wanted and have the choice to not participate, then be professional. Quickly make the decision to not accept the role. Let your teacher know right away, so the role can be re-cast.

Ask the director what you could improve on for next time.

It’s not always easy to hear, but getting feedback from your teacher can be useful. Perhaps they were looking for someone with a higher vocal range, or wanted to cast a senior actor in the role. Perhaps you weren’t speaking loudly enough in your audition, or the monologue you chose wasn’t actually the best selection for this show. This information can help you improve your performance for your next audition, and give you insight into what you can work on during the rehearsal process for this show.

Bonus Tip: Make sure YOU ask for feedback from your teacher, rather than getting your parents to ask you. Your teacher will appreciate that you took on the responsibility of learning and improving your own performance.

Consider your mindset.

The way I see it, if you decide to stick with the show, you have two mental paths you can take.

If you’re bitter and resentful because you didn’t get the role you wanted, then you’re just wasting your and everyone else’s time in the show. It won’t be a positive experience for anyone. You might even earn a bad reputation with the teacher and rest of the cast for making the rehearsal process unpleasant.

But…if you accept the role you’ve been cast in and make the best of it, there are so many positives you’ll receive. You still get to be in your dream show. You can take this experience as a learning opportunity and remember why you love to do theatre. You’ll learn new skills and acting techniques that will make you a better performer and help you throughout your theatrical life. You’ll grow your theatre resume. You’ll make new friends and great memories throughout the rehearsal process.

What choice would you make?

Try, try again.

If you truly love theatre and performing, stick with the show. Keep auditioning and participating in future productions. No matter what role you’re cast in, every show is a new chance to learn and have fun. Remember that the director cast you into the show because they genuinely wanted to work with you and they thought that you would be a great part of the team. So, take that with you as a positive, and keep trying.

Click here for a free reflection exercise for students.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer, and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. Explore her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.

About the author

Kerry Hishon

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at www.kerryhishon.com.

1 Comment

  • From the casting standpoint:
    Directors, teachers, choreographers,

    You need to be honest with young actors in your feedback. You don’t have to be cruel, but don’t just try to spare their feelings. It’s a tough biz and it’s not always friendly. Be precise. If it’s a musical and the lead role is for a soprano, but the student in question is an alto, tell them. Is it is heavy dancing role and they need to improve. Let them know. You’re not killing their enthusiasm, you’re looking at their potential and telling them exactly how to achieve it. Offer suggestions. Resources. Sometimes it’ something out of the actors control. Some people aren’t singers and no matter how hard they practice and how passionate they are, they’re never going to be one. Let them know that and talk to them about their strengths. Encourage them to shoot for those types of projects (and be sure to offer those types of opportunities from time to time). I’ve done Oklahoma 4 times, and I’ve always shot for the role of Judd, but it’s never going to happen, no matter how much I want it and how hard I work. I’m always going to be the peddler and the reason why is obvious. It took a good teacher to explain this to me, instead of the useless “maybe next time.”