I responded angrily to a rejection — can I get them to consider me again?

A reader writes:

I’ve applied twice to a long established small theater troupe on a farm. I followed the specific instructions to apply to this summer and last summer’s first session apprenticeship.

Well, last year I was rejected and here starts the problem. It seems I must have missed the deadline because their response said they were full. When I read the rejection email, unfortunately I reacted defensively and aggressively. I wasn’t used to being rejected, and this is a small dream I so wish to fulfill and I really desperately needed and wanted to go away last summer.

Fast forward to this March. I applied again by writing another letter to same coordinator. This time I was not only on time with their strict deadline, but early! I also sent it certified mail by the post office and tracked it until said it arrived.

When I hadn’t gotten any response by the date she had replied with a rejection mail last year (May 8), I decided to try calling her. I was told by someone to email her as that only way to contact her. A few days to another week passed with no response, so I wrote asking for a yes or no answer to my application. I then wrote few days later, but I think more demanded a reply.

So finally a week before the session I applied to was to begin, the coordinator finally responded. She apologized for waiting so long to reply. She goes on explain that she delayed because she “did not know how to respond.” She said she saw a few red flags from my reaction to her rejection last year and I was too demanding in asking for answers, and that being a part of a team is integral. (I know this well. That feeling I had of being part of a theater team was why I joined back in thee 90’s for three magical days. They came to my college and I joined.) Also, she explains that the farm is a very intensive, co-op type of environment, with camping, an outhouse, and most of all working and living together, pulling your own weight, etc.

I can see her perspective, of course. The “red flags” could be a tad bit of … anger, maybe trust issues. But I believe and know that most of these would be eased and I could handle myself and hold my own. Because (1) I would feel accepted by my dream, and (2) I thrive when I’m doing my passion. I’m in love with the theater creative process. I would be too busy for any negativity.

I’m writing here to ask if you could please give me advice to get me a second look or chance for the last session? Would there be any way of writing to change her mind?

I didn’t tell you worst part of her second rejection email. She mentioned red flags and instead offers that they will be in New York later this year, and “if you feel you can get up there and stay on your dime, of course we will allow you to join us there.” She then says if she thinks it work out, then the following year I should apply again. (Total of three times!?)

I’m 50 and even though they take all ages, apparently this is it for me. My health is getting worse and I’m losing hope in this long-time dream I always wanted or thought would come true.

This particular theater isn’t going to be the one that fulfills your long-time dream, I’m sorry.

Generally, when you send a hostile response to a rejection, that closes that door permanently. When an organization has lots of applicants (or even when they don’t), it just doesn’t make sense to take a risk on someone who has been hostile and aggressive toward them. That’s true of any employer, but it’s especially true in a set-up where you’ll be living with people and working so closely with them. It wouldn’t be fair to the other people there for them to risk bringing in someone who, with very limited contact, has already shown they’re willing to be rude and lash out when they’re disappointed. They’re of course going to worry about how you’ll respond when something else doesn’t go your way once you’re there. They can’t take that risk.

You say that you think your tendency toward anger would be eased if they accepted you. Maybe that’s true — but it’s also one of those things that people tend to want to believe about themselves even when it doesn’t turn out to be true. Either way, though, it’s not reasonable to ask them to take that risk. Keep in mind that they have very few data points about you — they’ve had really limited contact with you, and each of those contacts has gone badly. They can’t responsibly bring you on, given what they’ve seen so far.

That means that no, you definitely should not write back and try to change their minds. Part of the problem here is that you’ve already demonstrated that you’re not good with hearing “no.” Pushing back again would reinforce that impression.

Frankly, they’ve already been incredibly generous with the offer to join them in New York at your own expense. If you really want to pursue this, you could take them up on that offer and make sure you behave impeccably while you’re there. But to be honest, I’m concerned that you’ve already created an impression with them that will be hard to overcome, and you’re probably better off accepting that this particular group won’t be the one for you, and instead finding another where you can start fresh.

It sounds like this particular group was a dream for you. But all of us realize at one point or another that not all dreams get fulfilled, or at least not exactly the way we originally envision them. That can be painful, but it gets less painful when you realize how universal that experience is.

However, none of this means that you’re shut out of theater forever. It just means that this one theater group — out of thousands — is closed to you. There are others. Why not explore local community theaters to start with? You can find ways to involve yourself in theater if that’s what you want to do. But respect what you’re hearing from this group.

{ 586 comments… read them below }

  1. Dennis*


    Agree with Alison that you just have to let this go. I wouldn’t recommend investing in a trip to NYC, either. Given the delay in response, it seems like the coordinator was uncomfortable and probably offered that to soften the blow.

    Just a learning experience and I’m sure there are similar projects out there. Good luck!

    1. Jennifer*

      Yes, she was trying to be nice. She was much kinder than many people would have been.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yes and I think it was misplaced niceness TBH, because it sounds like it kind of muddied the water. She should have stuck to her guns which might ultimately have been kinder.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Yup. Continuing not to respond at all and blocking OP’s email address probably would have been my reaction (sorry, OP). I wouldn’t want to give any false hope that there was a chance it could ever happen when I know OP’s behavior was extremely off-putting and would make the rest of my troupe uncomfortable, thus, we could never move forward with her.

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            My guess is that this is a thing that some people do, and that she offered it in the sense of “well if you’re really committed, come out on your own dime like these other 20 people are all doing, and we’ll see how it goes from there”, and not as false hope.

            That said, this program desperately needs a boilerplate “Thank you for your application, but we have many more submissions than we can accommodate each year. Unfortunately you were not selected…” mass email they send out on a certain date after making their selections. Theatre is a world of constant rejection, and if they are individually rejecting each person with a personal email or call, that’s going to lead to pretty immediate burnout on the part of the person running the program. Theatre is full of pushy people who will pull this crap. OP is probably not even the only person to try it this year.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              Yeah I didn’t even assume the problem the first year was that OP didn’t get her application in fast enough. It’s unclear if she actually missed the deadline or was just told they were full in the “many qualified applicants” style.

              1. Working Mom Having It All*

                I can’t figure out from the letter whether OP got the standard actual rejections that everyone is used to seeing once they’ve been around the block a few times and willfully misinterpreted it as “they said they were full” and “I didn’t hear either way” etc. or whether this program has an extremely wishy washy approach to rejecting people.

                1. selena81*

                  My guess would be that this mess started with a badly-worded rejection letter (‘sorry, we are already full, try again next year’).

                  I feel for LW, that desperation about a perceived ‘last chance’ hits close to home. But her behavior so far sounds like stalking and it is driving people away. All that can be done now is make a short and sincere apology and stay away (not stay away until they have changed their minds but stay away forever).

                  And it’s just as worrying that she appears to want to build her entire future on the memory of a 3-day friendship. Yes, some experiences can be life-changing, no matter how short, but it’s also very easy to look with rose-tinted glasses to some cool break-from-reality in your youth. No amount of theater will make LW 20 years old again.

                  I really hope she can get help somewhere: to learn to respect other people’s boundaries and find a proper way of chasing her dreams.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Likewise. I read anger in OP’s letter. If she directed it to the coordinator like this, kind if demanding and even entitled, if I were the director I’d take a permanent hard pass.

            1. Benefits Counselor*

              Yes, I also read a lot of anger in OP’s letter. I think the director was uncomfortable and didn’t know how to handle it. OP should hopefully learn a lesson from this and leave this job opportunity alone and move on.

        2. Rectilinear Propagation*

          I think she offered it in hopes that it would prevent the OP from pushing again: if there’s technically a way forward he can’t complain about a rejection but if it’s prohibitive he won’t actually pursue it.

          Unfortunately, it didn’t work so hopefully the LW takes Allison’s advice.

          1. Emily K*

            Ah, yes, the old, “Of course you’re invited to my wedding! It’s in Bali.”

            1. boo bot*

              Which is all too often followed by the old, “Perfect! I’ve always wanted to visit Bali! I’ll fly in early, so we can spend some real quality time!”

              1. Artemesia*

                Or I bought tickets to attend my boss’s out of town wedding and am worried about the gift.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, when I read that, I thought about something someone involved in management at Second City said to me — that there’s lots of bad management in theater, lots of boundary crossing, and lots of people wanting to be kind when they should say “cut that out.” So I read that offer as someone who didn’t feel comfortable giving a hard no even though she probably wanted to.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Agreed. I suspect she’s chalking this up to stereotypes about the tetchiness of actors, generally, but I wish she had a small AAM on her shoulder whispering, “Noooooo!” in her ear.

          And I’m alarmed that OP thinks that the offer to come to NY is the “worst part” of the rejection, when in fact it was incredibly generous and unwarranted in light of OP’s behavior.

          1. Observer*

            And I’m alarmed that OP thinks that the offer to come to NY is the “worst part” of the rejection, when in fact it was incredibly generous and unwarranted in light of OP’s behavior.

            That jumped out at me, too.

            OP, they are offering a relatively safe way for you to prove that your claim that your anger issues would be under control and you consider that the WORST part of the rejection? Do you realize that this is shows that your issues are almost certainly NOT going to automatically come under control when you get the position? Because your reaction is so out of line with reality that your self assessment is totally unreliable, and the reality of this experience is not going match your expectations.

            1. MM*

              Yeah, I was fully expecting Alison to recommend therapy so OP can examine where this insecurity and externalization is coming from.

            2. BruteForce*

              I know this theater group and the reality is that they routinely recruit hundreds of volunteers when they go to New York – it’s a completely open-to-everyone thing. But where exactly the volunteers get placed and what tasks they end up doing is pretty random. The chances are very slim that if this person does go to New York and volunteer that they’d even get a chance to work directly with or be noticed by the summer apprenticeship coordinator. And anyway the summer coordinator is not located anywhere near New York and isn’t actually likely to even be there. I think she just held that out as a way for this person to feel like they could stay involved in some way. I don’t see it leading to a future apprenticeship, no matter how well-behaved this person is there.
              The original poster seems to think that this is an open-enrollment sort of apprenticeship, where as long as they on time they should get a spot. That’s not how it works. In reality most of the spots go to people with some connection to the core people, and/or to returning people from past years. The few spots that go to newbies without personal connections usually go to people who are proficient on some musical instrument and/or provide evidence that they’re strong young people who would love to provide long hours of manual labor.

              1. JSPA*

                It struck me as very strange that OP felt effectively entitled to a slot (barring problems with application timing). I’m honestly surprised that Alison didn’t come down on that just as hard as she comes down on anyone else who feels they’re “owed” a job because they want it so much, need it so much, have visualized it so thoroughly, or because it’s their “dream job.”

                OP, this isn’t “yours.” Never was. Wanting doesn’t make something so.

                “You submitted late” doesn’t come with the implication, “but we otherwise would have welcomed you with open arms.” Late submission was the fatal flaw that meant your prior application wasn’t even considered. Your second application was considered, and presumably rejected on its merits (perhaps along with your strange presumptions, odd pushiness, etc) along with many others.

                You ended up acting weird and inappropriate, and got caught out substituting your wishful thinking for reality. That’s almost certainly going to be a hard “no” for the company, so long as they remember it (which will be for several years to come).

                As for your age and health, “wanting this now” or “needing this now” is no more relevant here, than it would be for getting hired to flip burgers. Or explaining why you should get a raise. You don’t get hired or paid based on what reality you desire, need, or intend to manifest. It’s just not a thing.

                1. Jen S. 2.0*

                  +1000. OP believes that the late submission was the real problem, and if they could just fix that, they’d be a shoo-in … and a shoo-in because OP wants this and can’t do it forever.

                  Nope. They don’t have to give you a slot, under any circumstances.

                  Even if you had submitted on time, they could have said no. Even if you did everything right and were sweet as pie. Even though you want this. Even though you enjoyed it once. Even though it’s your dream. Even if you were 25 and hale and hot and hearty. It is very possible, and even likely, that they would NEVER have said yes, even if you actually applied perfectly and pled your case well.

                  They do not owe you a slot. You are not entitled to get to do this thing.

                  Then all of that is BEFORE you sent up red flags with your behavior last year, and then your aggressiveness this year, which became the actual nails in the coffin. Even if they might have found a slot for you once upon a time, which they did not have to do, your behavior means they now won’t.

                2. boop the first*

                  They didn’t even say the application was late, they said that they filled all of their slots. OP just assumes it means they were late, because there’s no way they wouldn’t be first choice in the giant slush pile of applications.

            3. Auga*

              “Do you realize that this is shows that your issues are almost certainly NOT going to automatically come under control when you get the position? Because your reaction is so out of line with reality that your self assessment is totally unreliable, and the reality of this experience is not going match your expectations.”

              THIS. Please, OP, please try to step back and imagine how your behaviour looks like from the outside. You are only making things worse for yourself.

              1. selena81*

                Yeah, it would be one thing if she had lashed out once after the first rejection and had been correct ever since. Pretty much everyone snaps from time to time (especially in the melodramatic world of acting).
                The real problem is the *pattern* of pushiness and refusal to hear ‘no’ for an answer.
                She needs to work on that pattern instead of blaming other people for ‘setting her off’.

          2. Rectilinear Propagation*

            I wish she had a small AAM on her shoulder whispering, “Noooooo!” in her ear.

            I would absolutely watch this show.

            I’m alarmed that OP thinks that the offer to come to NY is the “worst part” of the rejection…

            I didn’t get into it in my comment below because I didn’t want to imply LW should go, but that baffled me too.

          3. AnnaBananna*

            As someone who grew up doing theater, I would say that stereotype is actually well founded – for known entities. You can only be a primadonna once you’ve earned the title, not before.

            What I’m more alarmed about is the shifting of accountability to the theater. That OP would be totally stellar as a human being if only someone would give her what she wants (I immediately started seeing the Veruca Salt song from Willy Wonka in my head ‘and if I don’t get the things I am after, I’m going to screeeeeam!’). Nuh-uh. We need to be human first, and only then are we rewarded with what we want.

            1. Sen. Longfellow Kittypants*

              ” […]OP would be totally stellar as a human being if only someone would give her what she wants”

              This was the standout to me too. Yeah, OP, most people don’t have anger issues when they are getting their way. It had a weird ring of “look, what you made me do; if you would just stop doing x, I wouldn’t have to y”

                1. valentine*

                  It had a weird ring of “look, what you made me do; if you would just stop doing x, I wouldn’t have to y”
                  Yes, and what happens when they’re not the, or even a, favorite and when the clique they want to be in excludes them and they don’t get their top 20 roles, or even any role? How would OP weather the hardships of being on a farm without proper indoor plumbing?

                  It makes sense that the hostage-negotiating offer of NY is the worst part because OP wants to be chosen. That’s why the three-day deal in the ’90s is a shining beacon nothing has matched. A group came and chose them from the crowd and they felt great. It’s a contradiction, though, given they expected to be chosen just for meeting the application deadline.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Ooo, Veruca Salt is the best metaphor, here. “Don’t care how, I want it now!”

            3. pro actor*

              Yes, and theatre is a collaborative art, by definition. This attitude is…. all wrong if her goal is to succeed in an environment that relies on being kind and generous to each other, and hauling your own weight. Acting requires a great deal of emotional vulnerability and openness, and anyone (cast or crew) who can’t work as a team is going to cause serious problems and distraction from the work.

              I honestly thought the letter was from a sheltered teenager with zero real-world experience until I got to the part about her college years and her age. As a theatre/film pro, I can guarantee that this me-first attitude will kill her chances with ANY theatre company. She’s FAR from the only desperate actor out there, but the ones who don’t act entitled and hostile are the ones people will want to work with. And you have to be someone who people want to work with in order to get work. And believe me, the “difficult” ones get talked about, and our friends will warn us away from them… because this work demands a lot, and we just don’t have time to “manage” someone who won’t manage themselves.

              She should try classes first. Any decent-sized town or city will have them, and there she can learn what’s going to be expected from anyone doing this professionally. Get involved in the local scene, and she can learn by observation. Volunteer as an usher, get to know people, BE GENEROUS AND KIND with your time and skills.

              1. Edwina*

                Yes, I thought she was a teenager too. When she got to the part about being 50, it seems clear that she isn’t living in reality at all! Who daydreams at 50 about being an actor, without having done anything about it for the previous 30 years? It’s a terrible, punishing, difficult career filled with rejection and disappointment.

                Most people start at 20, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and putting all their energy into it, developing their talents and skills and resilience and craft. Here she is at 50, idly thinking “oh I’ll be an actress,” and she can’t even deal with a single, very polite, kind rejection that includes a way to actually try out for the company if she wants!

                If she’s been working at this since she was 20 and is still at the regional theater stage, she doesn’t have the talent to do this; if she’s arrogantly jumping in at 50, ignoring the people who HAVE been doing this since they were 20, she doesn’t have the know-how.

                She’s a dilettante, and needs to understand that. If she wants to enjoy her hobby, she needs to join a local community theater group. And for heaven’s sake, she needs to learn how to take the answer “no”!!

                1. Jen S. 2.0*

                  Not just a mid-life crisis, but one where she is trying to recapture “three magical days” from 25 years ago. It’s not going to be like that now.

                2. JD*

                  This (and the replies to it) is a nasty response. You have NO IDEA why someone delays their dream. There is absolutely no reason why a person age 50 can’t start something new, and that certainly doesn’t imply disrespect to others who have done it longer. Now, I understand that this particular poster has given other clues that they don’t grasp the reality of the situation. But to pin that on age? Ageism. Everyone’s favorite and most acceptable ‘ism’.

                3. Kathleen_A*

                  I agree with JD. Calling it a “midlife crisis” is tantamount to making a diagnosis, and we aren’t supposed to do that here. If someone wants to try to fulfill her dream at 50, I think that’s wonderful. The OP is going about it in the wrong way – not only with this (really iffy!) approach but also by focusing too much on this one particular theater group – but that doesn’t mean he or she shouldn’t try to find other and better ways to make that dream come true.

                  And I hope that’s exactly what happens. I hope she learns some lessons from this experience and finds another way to make this happen for herself.

                4. pro actor*

                  Agreed, there are plenty of people who start later in life and eventually find success. John Mahoney (RIP), aka Frasier’s dad, didn’t start until he was 37, and (importantly) while he did attain success, he got his first major roles at 47. “Overnight success” generally takes 10-15 years or more, unless you are very, VERY lucky. I know plenty of truly talented actors who are still working the grind, and most of those work-a-day actors are those you will never hear of. Accepting the grind as part of the deal is key to surviving in the biz long enough to succeed.

                  It’s not the age, it’s the entitlement. If you want to succeed in this business, you work very, very hard, and you listen to your more experienced mentors. Neither of those things are in evidence here, plus the “three magical days” thing gives me serious pause. Real theatre isn’t magic. It’s incredibly fulfilling, yes, but physically and emotionally demanding, financially draining, and requires a very high-functioning work ethic and willingness to put your own ego aside for the good of the production. Calling it “magic” is only magical thinking. A single production has a million moving parts, conflicting demands, and deadline pressure. If you get angry and hostile when the stakes are relatively low and there are not thousands to millions of dollars and numerous other people’s jobs on the line, you Will. Not. Make It in the theatre.

            4. So anonymous I'm not even here*

              +1 OP will be a joy to work with …. as long as they get exactly what they want.

          4. Clisby*

            Yes, OP – she’s giving you a last-ditch chance. I don’t know why, but she is. Why are you complaining about it?

        2. Glitsy Gus*

          I will tell you from my own experience that this is very true. A lot of people start companies not because they are great at running theater companies but because they want to make shows their own way. This is great, except when it comes to understanding the ins and outs of day-to-day business running and people managing.

          You also have a whole lot of people who are absolutely convinced that they are destined to be stars and take rejection horribly, even though the entire industry is based around 99 nos for one yes. I’m kind of not surprised the managing director (or whoever) offered up the NY option since I’m sure OP isn’t the only person not happy to be told no. It’s a tricky, difficult business.

          OP, please don’t think I’m disparaging you in any way, but you do need to let this company go, that bridge is burned. If you do want to do this you’re going to have to develop a thicker skin and never pin your hopes on one place. It’s just not how this business works. It is a lot of fun, but also a ton of work and a ton of rejection. Good luck to you, I hope you can find a place where you get to fill your creative spirit and also find your best fit with a good company. You don’t say what kind of theater work you were applying for, but I do think Allison’s suggestion about checking out some local community theaters is a good one. A lot of us started that way, it’s a good way to hone your skills and make some really good connections.

      3. AKchic*

        Yeah, it was a very soft no meant to cushion the “I don’t want to ever bring you on, but I’m being nice here because I don’t want you to lash out again”. This is something a lot of female-identifying individuals do in the dating realm to cushion the blow when they are scared their rejection won’t be taken well, or because they’ve been conditioned to be “nice” and to “let them down gently”.

        The communication was mainly to stop the incoming messages.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        Also–offering the on-your-own-dime NYC trip is just marketing. And the director will regret that if OP shows up. Even if OP behaves impeccably, it’s now a relationship that has to managed carefully, which is probably not what the director really wanted to set up.

    2. MommyMD*

      Hostility is a deal breaker. Anywhere. I wish you luck but to make your own luck you need to check your attitude at the door.

  2. reader*

    Reading this I assumed the letter was a teenager and that accounted for entitlement and poor impulse control, then the LW said s/he is 50 years old? Oh dear. Well, you know what your mistake was, LW, so best of luck – I hope your dream comes true.

    1. Jennifer*


      When I read that they weren’t used to being rejected, I assumed that as well.

      1. PollyQ*

        +1 as well.

        LW, if you’re reading this, I suggest some therapy for this issue, because it’s not a healthy way to live, nor, as you’ve found out, is it an effective way to actually get what you want.

        1. Sleepytime Tea*

          Agreed. I appreciate that the LW is recognizing that they perhaps have anger and trust issues, but recognizing that isn’t enough, you have to do something about it. Saying “well I have these issues” isn’t an excuse for poor behavior, and I definitely wouldn’t want to risk everyone else’s experience by bringing someone in who had already demonstrated that they get angry when they don’t get their way, in something that has an above-average requirement for teamwork and collaboration.

          1. Pippa*

            “well I have these issues” isn’t an excuse for poor behavior

            brb have to go cross stitch this on some tea towels

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Let me know when you’re ready to sell them. I have a few people I’d like to give one to…

          2. pro actor*

            Really, it was more like “Well I have these issues, and I expect you to accommodate them.”

        2. Cat Fan*

          Right, and it sounds like the environment of living and working with the theater group could be fraught with plenty of opportunities to not get your way. You really should explore this whole issue before you attempt be in a setting like that.

          1. No Green No Haze*

            the environment of living and working with the theater group could be fraught with plenty of opportunities to not get your way.

            Ding ding ding! Well put.

            In a GOOD company, it’s about collaboration and compromise. There is not a lot of “getting your way” in a theater company you want to be a part of.

            1. MM*

              Right? The operative word is COMPANY. Company means people being together, not a mass of others exerting themselves to create an Experience for an individual. People being together means compromise.

          2. Djuna*

            I would also be concerned about an idealized experience not living up to expectations and that also leading to anger. If OP was angry at someone for rejecting their application because it’s their dream, then it’s likely OP could also get angry with the other flawed humans in the troupe if it doesn’t wind up being as they dreamed it (or remember it at a nostalgic distance). The other folks there are probably chasing their own dreams, after all.

            If we invest too much in this one thing that we feel will make us complete/make everything right/put a feather in the cap of our life, we invariably overinvest and lose perspective. It makes it near-impossible for that thing to do whatever we expect it to, because we’re not seeing it for what it really is.

            There was no obligation on the troupe’s part to endorse OP’s dream, but it was kind of them to tread so softly on it with the rejection. As Alison says, the best OP can do is accept it, move on, and find another way to rekindle those fond theater memories.

            1. Kella*

              Yes, this was my concern. The best job/living situation/romantic relationship is the one we haven’t had yet, because it only exists as an ideal in our heads and doesn’t include all the little day to day problems that crop up. There is no guarantee that the OP would be constantly happy as a result of joining this troop, and if they go in expecting that, it might make them react even more poorly when that illusion disappears since that’s just not how life works.

            2. Sharon R Bakula*

              “If we invest too much in this one thing that we feel will make us complete/make everything right/put a feather in the cap of our life, we invariably overinvest and lose perspective. It makes it near-impossible for that thing to do whatever we expect it to, because we’re not seeing it for what it really is.”

              Truly words to live by! Well stated, Djuna.

            3. DinoGirl*

              This stood out to me as a big red flag in the letter. Props they even realized there’s been a problem, some wouldn’t even notice they’d done something wrong, but on the flip-side, the deflection of, “I’d be great if you would just do X” concerns me, and frankly reminds me of my work in domestic violence too much.

              1. selena81*

                Yeah, as i understand it that’s a common thought pattern in criminals/abusers/bullies: ‘i am not a bad guy, i just want other people to have *some* consideration for me’. In their mind their own behavior is a completely justified reaction to all the provocations they receive from their spouse.
                Which can sometimes make it difficult to understand right away who the victim is.

            4. RUKiddingMe*

              “The other folks there are probably chasing their own dreams, after all.”

              Right! They fo not exist on order to fulfill OP’s dream. They ate not minor characters in (I’m assuming male here) OP’s story. They may have a few things of their own and not give a shit what AOP wants. How will he handle that? Anger…yelling…general hostility?

              Sooo many red flags that it looks like a pilgrimage trail through the Himalayas if all the prayer flags were red.

          3. RUKiddingMe*

            If I were a member if the group and had someone as hostile as OP seems in my space…I’d probably quit. Actually…not “probably.” Hostile = unsafe to me.

          4. Dust Bunny*

            This is probably colored by the fact that I am emphatically not a joiner, but living with this person on a residential farm setting and having to work with her every day sounds like a gold-plated nightmare.

        3. AnnaBananna*

          And anybody in theater would tell you first and foremost to get comfortable with rejection because it will likely happen 90% of the roles that you want. That doesn’t mean that you won’t participate, just that it won’t be in the role you want 90% of the time. So maybe this person is new to theater?

          1. many bells down*

            I’ve been a drama teacher and it’s something I taught my students. You can be THE BEST and still not get the role you want for some other reason. One of my best actors was dying to play the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe but she was also literally the shortest kid in the class and I really needed her to be Lucy. Would she have been a great Witch? Yes! Did I need a Lucy who could carry a huge chunk of the play? Also yes!

            I also told them that when I was a teenager in theater, I was rejected for a part after nailing the audition because, in the words of the director “She’s supposed to be SEXY.” Imagine the blow to the self-esteem of a 16-year-old there. Especially since I’d made an effort to look nice for it instead of showing up in my usual oversize t-shirt and jeans.

          2. whatthemell?*

            Closer to 99.5% of the roles they might be lucky enough to actually land auditions for…..

            It’s a brutal, tough world and one for which you must have a passion that overrides the constant rejection, the lack of fairness, and the absolute “WTF-ness” of it all.

            I give props to anyone chasing the dream; at least they had the nads to chase it.

      2. anon for this one*

        Not being used to being rejected depend not just on age, but field(s), ability, and how much someone stretches themselves and how often they apply. And the job market(s). And also connections, race/gender/class and all sorts of stuff.

        I’m in my 50s and I’ve only applied to 12 or 15 jobs in my life and think I was accepted at all but two.

        1. Jennifer*

          But the job market is not the only place we experience rejection. I don’t know if she meant job-related rejection or just life in general. I guess it’s possible, but it’s unusual for someone to reach the age of 50 and have never been turned down for a date, or dumped, or just told that they weren’t good enough for something.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Or have realized that a friendship was less close than they wanted it to be. Not been invited on a group vacation. On and On.

            1. Jennifer*

              Exactly. She’s never heard her friends talking about a party or trip they enjoyed and she wasn’t invited? Maybe that kind of rejection just rolled off her back and never registered with her. But it is a form of rejection.

            2. Oh So Anon*

              Or maybe they’re so completely isolated that those kinds of soft rejections aren’t ones they have much experience with?

              1. Kitty*

                Interesting – I’m seeing both he and she pronouns but I immediately assumed “she”. There’s some kind of research paper hiding in here about this.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  I generally use she for the same reason Alison does. This level of entitlement and lack of self-awareness could be a woman, it happens, but generally the people I have encountered over the past 56years that behave this way are almost always males. The women who are like this are few and far between as a rule IME.

            1. pro actor*

              I wondered if “I’m not used to rejection” really meant “I’m so entitled that I would steamroll / throw tantrums until everyone I knew caved to me.”

        2. Rainy*

          A tolerance for rejection and the ability to take it well is so important for every aspect of life, though! It’s not just about getting/not getting jobs, it’s about how you deal with other human beings across every axis of interaction.

          I tell the young people I work with all the time that a healthy response to rejection is one of the best skills you can cultivate for your success and future happiness in every part of your life. It goes so far beyond just getting/not getting the job. It’s a crucial life skill.

          1. Cordelia Vorkosigan*

            A tolerance for rejection and the ability to take it well is so important for every aspect of life, though!

            Especially for actors! The life of an actor is absolutely FULL of rejection, even the really successful actors! Maybe even especially successful actors, if they became successful by audition for a lot of shows/projects. If you can’t handle rejection, then acting is not the career for you.

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Even actors who are already A-list movie stars and the like still get rejected for some roles!

        3. Mary Richards*

          I applied for a bunch of retail jobs in college and never got so much as an interview, despite having retail experience from high school and living in a major metropolitan area where there are tons of stores. :/ YMMV on this one!

      3. Fortitude Jones*

        And that’s kind of amazing that OP went 50 years without facing major rejection. The downside is, she never learned healthy coping mechanisms because of it, but it’s pretty impressive that her determination is such that she usually always gets what she wants. So take heart, OP – something else more suited to you and your dream is out there and you may end up getting it. But as a (former) actor, a little note: you’re going to get rejected. A lot. That’s the acting world for you. So if you really want to be a performer, or even a backstage creative type, you have to get comfortable in hearing the word “no.” Good luck to you.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      That jumped out at me too. For someone who’s young and doesn’t have much life experience, this could be chalked up to being naive and be a valuable learning experience. But if you’re still acting out in anger to a rejection (especially since it was OP who missed the deadline), that’s a much bigger problem. OP needs to take responsibility for her behavior and let this one go.

      1. anon today and tomorrow*

        I don’t know, even someone who is young and without much life experience should know better than to respond angrily to a rejection. That’s not being naive, that’s just having anger and entitlement issues. It’s behavior I expect of a child, not anyone past the age of 18.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          If you expect people over the age of 18 to automatically stop acting childish you’re living in a fantasy world. The bottom line is that most people who are younger, who have either been coddled by mommy and daddy, or just don’t have much life experience and are naive in the way the world works, may act the way OP did, and while it may not be acceptable, it can be more understandable.

          1. jamberoo*

            Honestly, one of the biggest eye openers for me in the professional workforce was learning most adults are just larger teenagers when it comes to maturity, discipline, and work ethic. Perhaps it’s worse in tech (my field), but dang. (In no way a judgement or blanket criticism, just an observation from my personal experience.)

            That, and big, shiny companies are waaaaay messier and scrambling under the surface than anyone thinks. That was my naiveté showing its whole behind, for sure.

            1. I coulda been a lawyer*

              When I was a young teenager my friends group spent our summers volunteering at a nursing home. While preparing us for our first summer the director told us that people are people, and as they age they just get “more” like they were when they were younger. Perhaps more patient, or more kind, but also perhaps more angry or more violent, so don’t expect all patients to be wonderful to work with.

              1. selena81*

                I know a guy who drives around old ladies: they will FIGHT for the front seat same as 5-year olds.

                I think there is a lot of self-censorship about accusing old/disabled people of bad behavior: the lack of mental facilities supposedly giving them ‘childlike wonder’.
                When the reality is that a lot of them are incredibly frustrated and angry about their limited position in the world.

          2. Jasnah*

            I think anon meant that it’s not acceptable for adults to act this way, but we give teenagers/children a bit of a break for it. Not that all adults are always magically mature and kind and gracious.

        2. Aurion*

          Generally, the way people “learn better” is to first act poorly and then receive swift consequences for their poor behaviour. I guarantee I didn’t wake up one morning in my early-mid 20s and had an epiphany about my teenage/early adult dumbassery and attitude. I grew out of it because I received negative consequences and pushback on my behaviour.

          You’re right it’s not acceptable no matter the age, but it’s at least more understandable when younger.

          1. Kiki*

            Or be on the receiving end of poor behavior! A lot of issues that get addressed here about young people not understanding workplace norms have to do with not understanding what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the behavior they’re exhibiting. One commonly-cited frustration is that applicants to positions don’t include their name in the name of files they’re sending. It makes so much sense to want that once you’ve been in a hiring position, but most people haven’t, so they don’t know it would be a conscientious thing to do.

            Similarly, I have to imagine that this LW somehow has never been in the position where someone responded very negatively to feedback they’d been given, otherwise they’d know it’s not helpful!

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          Plus am I the only one that read it as if OP expected to be selected the second time simply for meeting the deadline?

          Honestly with the hostile response the first time snd then the demanding follow up this time…I probably would have ignored/blocked/ban listed.

          1. valentine*

            OP expected to be selected the second time simply for meeting the deadline?
            I saw it this way, too, with the intensity of tracking the application. I guess they took the past rejection literally, given they held out hope until just before the job would start.

            1. GS*

              Agreed- in my job I am the gatekeeper for applications. We send out a form rejection when you don’t make it. This year, we accepted 1.5% of applicants. Even if you applied on time, even if you had all the qualifications…you could still easily get a form reject.

              From OP’s description, this is an competitive, well-known theater troupe. Just because you applied on time, all you can hope for is to maybe get looked at. Responding angrily and then when you apply again, aggressively, would make me definitely put you on the “too difficult to work with ever” pile.

          2. Jen S. 2.0*

            Nope, OP definitely expected to be selected for the combination of meeting the deadline this time and wanting it badly. She also seems to think this year’s application was considered in a vacuum. She seems to have no idea that the timing of last year’s submission is the least of her own issues, and that’s before you acknowledge that the troupe is competitive and isn’t accepting MOST applicants.

            It’s “but I met the bare minimum qualifications and sent my resume on time for a job at [Well-Known Company with a Zillion Stellar Applicants]. How dare they not have the courtesy to even interview me?”

    3. a1*

      She said she was in the college in the 90s and that’s when my eyebrows jumped up a little.

      I know this well. That feeling I had of being part of a theater team was why I joined back in thee 90’s for three magical days. They came to my college and I joined.

      Also, you were in a theater team for three days back in college and want to get that feeling back?! That’s a lot of hope to hang on to from a 3 day experience.

      1. Antilles*

        I skipped right over that, but that’s a good point.
        In fact, if OP’s hope is to recapture the feeling of that college-era theater team, it would likely be disappointing. The feeling you get as a 50-year old with a theater team of all ages will never match what it felt like as a 22-year old in college. It can still be enjoyable, it can echo old times, it can still be a great experience, it can even be better in some ways…but it will NOT be the same.
        If you want to get involved with theater, that’s awesome and you totally should. It can be rewarding and challenging and fun. But don’t tell yourself that it’s going to recreate a magical time you had in your college days, because that’s just setting yourself up for disappointment when the current reality is subtly different from the remembered past in a million small ways.

        1. Busy*

          I kind of just got the impression that the OP is looking to get into this for all the wrong reasons. I mean not once does she list in her letter why she feels they should consider her outside of her general desire for them to?

          OP, there is a reason why responses to the word “no” are having a moment in our society right now – because the consequences of not reacting appropriately to people who struggle with taking no for an answer are huge.

          I suggest you take a look again at the language used back at you in this letter and take that to heart. Any time someone gave me a bad “vibe” directly related to their inability to respond to the word ‘no’ rationally, I have found later that I was 100% justified in that feeling.

          The blunt answer: It is creepy/obsessive/entitled to not accept a ‘no’ graciously.

          1. Jadelyn*

            “the OP is looking to get into this for all the wrong reasons.”

            Yes. This.

            OP, you’re hanging far, far too much of your emotional well-being on this program. I’m seeing all kinds of fixation on this specific program – why not other programs? There are many out there! – and a borderline frightening lack of self-awareness around this whole situation. This isn’t a normal level of disappointment over not getting to fulfill a specific dream. It seems to me that you’ve built up this whole narrative for yourself around how this was supposed to go, and now you’re angry because they wouldn’t conform to the narrative you’d pre-written for the story. That’s not healthy at all, and I don’t blame the director at all for rejecting you again given your responses to rejection – or even just perceived rejection, like not getting a response in the expected timeframe – in the past.

            “I’m only struggling with anger because you rejected me. If you accepted me, I wouldn’t be angry anymore!” is…not the winning argument you seem to think it is.

            1. AnonACanada*

              This! So true. It’s like “I wouldn’t have yelled at you if you didn’t upset me! Me yelling was your fault!”

      2. Emily K*

        Reminds me a bit of a letter Dan Savage once answered. LW had recently been contacted on Facebook by “the one that got away” – her first love as a teenager who was your typical emotionally unavailable douchebag. She was now in a happy relationship but finding herself pulled to explore things with this old flame who had popped up and was wondering whether it was a crazy idea to give up what she had. She said something like, “I’ve never felt the same way about anyone since him, and I’m worried I’ll never feel that way about anyone again.”

        Dan’s reply included the gem, “You’re right – you’re never going to feel that way about anyone again. Because you’re never again going to be sixteen years old, falling in love for the first time.”

      3. EnfysNest*

        Yeah, the 3-day thing especially startled me. Like… I’ve done community theatre main stage productions for 15 years (plus a ton of school and youth productions before that since I was 6). I’ve only ever auditioned for casts with large ensembles and I’ve only been totally rejected from one, but I’ve also only ever had a named character twice. Even with lots of experience in shows and workshops and even a couple classes in college, I definitely still go into every audition knowing full well that there’s a good chance I won’t get in. There are just more people (especially more women) interested in most shows than there are parts available. And that’s for purely volunteer-based community theatre – I know the odds are way beyond slim that I could ever get *any* professional part. Being a performer is a great dream for a lot more people than can actually make a living at it.

        All that to say, I was concerned that the LW thinks the main reason they weren’t chosen the first time was just because they didn’t get their application in on time. Sure, that definitely put them out of the running right away, but even if they had been “on time”, this would hardly have been a guaranteed position for the LW. This is a small, well-established theatre troupe with (it sounds like) only one opening. Even if all the applicants were at the same experience level and they rolled dice to make their pick, it would still be a 1-in-however-many-applied chance. Add to that the fact that the LW’s only theatre experience was 3 days over 20 years ago versus other applicants who could likely have had years of community and school theatre experience, and the odds of being the one person chosen for the apprenticeship become very slim. And even if the LW had being doing 4 shows a year since they were 6, it would *still* not be a guarantee because no theatre audition or job application is ever a guarantee for anyone. This was a long shot and the LW missed this time, and that’s a bummer, but you shrug your shoulders and move on to the next opportunity. “On with the show,” right? To get defensive and aggressive (!) over one slim chance that didn’t work out is really worrying to me.

        LW: First, please seek out help for anger management and to work on how you handle reactions. Then, if and when you feel ready to accept rejections graciously (as they are very common), consider trying out for a local community production (you’ll have the best chance in something with a large cast where you can hopefully get your foot in the door in the chorus of a show) or see if you can volunteer for helping with the set or as tech crew for a show (moving set pieces, etc.). Then, the more shows you get under your belt and the more you prove yourself as someone with a good work ethic, the more opportunities you’ll find and the better your chance will get as you improve your theatre resume (yes, theatre – even community theatre – considers your resume, or at least a list of your previous shows, each time that you apply/audition for a new production).

      4. Oh So Anon*

        That jumped out to me as well, and combined with all the other details about the situation, part of me wonders if the OP doesn’t handle rejection well because they’ve avoided seeking new experiences for much of their post-college life.

        One can live a lot of their adult life in ways that minimize the opportunity for rejection, even if they don’t mean to. Imagine someone who doesn’t date or seek out new friendships, and lets existing relationships with friends and family wither away. If that person is someone who also has a stable job that doesn’t involve sales, and has gone years without a job interview, how much exposure to potential rejection would they have?

        Alternatively, they may spend a lot of time around people who have never held them accountable for their behaviour, so they haven’t risked rejection or really needed to consider how their actions affect others because there’s no feedback loop that reinforces not lashing out at people.

        Those are just a couple of examples of how OP could have gotten to this point, but it’s something for them to think about.

      5. Quandong*

        Right!? OP, if you’re reading these comments, and can absorb them:

        The person who rejected your application has done you an immense service. From the way you write and describe your motivations, you are particularly ill-equipped and unsuited to this type of program. I shudder to think of how you would have reacted if you’d been accepted and found your dreams dashed.

        Many other posters have listed alternatives for you in following your dream. I suggest you take time to ask yourself why those 3 days meant so much to you, but in the intervening years you chose not to pursue acting or the theatre, if it truly is your ‘passion.’

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          I’ve worked on these “live in the woods and make theater in a barn” type Summer Stocks and I agree that, on top of everything, OP really doesn’t understand what they were signing on for. Very long days, working in the sun, then well into the night, crap food and sleeping on the ground or in a really bad bunk. Long days as in 10-12 hours every day except Monday. This would not have been the same level as that workshop they’re nostalgically remembering.

          I could do it just fine when I was 23, I loved it at 23, but now at 41, even with 20 years experience under my belt, I would not want to take that kind of thing on. Even in my 20s, almost everyone in the company would have some kind of mental breakdown at some point over the summer. It’s the nature of the beast, you can’t sustain that level of effort for that long on passion alone. Trust me. Had OP gone they would probably have had the same anger issues at some point along the way because there is a whole lot of dealing with stuff that will not make you happy on the way to opening night. OP, you dodged a bit of a bullet here, and I think, along with the other advice given here I’m glad you are going to be able to find a different route to making your creative self happy.

    4. Madge*

      Honestly once they said they were 50 it all sort of slotted into place for me – I run a couple of meetup.com groups which gives me a great way to be in touch with a whole bunch of random people in the world, and it always seems to be men in their 50s and 60s that are the most entitled when it comes to rejection.

      One man tried to convince me (a then-25-year-old woman) to come meet him in a cafe to discuss an “idea” he had for something the group could discuss. I said I wasn’t comfortable with that and could he just email me his idea; he sent me a long ranting email about how some things just need to be said face to face, blah blah blah. I think I eventually managed to get him to clarify and the “idea” was a fringe thing that was actually the opposite of the sorts of things the meetup group was about.

      Another more recently RSVPd to an event held at a private home, which obviously didn’t have a visible address – the event description said to bring some snacks and that the address would be given by PM. When he got a PM saying “we haven’t seen you at any of the public events, are you friends with any group members who could vouch for you?” he went ballistic saying that he couldn’t go to the public events because he has yoga that day and he wasted $20 on snacks and it was atrocious the way we treated people.

      So yeah, I was 100% picturing a man of about that age when I was reading the email. Glad to know it’s not just me! :)

      1. planetmort*

        I totally pictured a man when reading this letter. I am not in theater, but have had the worst instances of bizarrely entitled behavior in my workplace with men of about age 45-60 (not all men in this age group; jsut a subset). All of these problematic men will swear they’re actually great and have no problem with rejection or disagreement at all, until they experience it, and then wow, all bets are off.

        1. Quandong*

          I know the type of person you’re talking about. They turn up in my life wanting to learn classical music (a great thing to learn! a fantastic skill!). It’s intensely challenging for them to cope with being instructed and corrected by a person who is younger, female, and of lower social status.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Ohh yes. I’ve had a couple of jobs where I worked with adult learners returning to college and OP sounds so, so much like a certain type of more difficult student.

    5. Sloan Kittering*

      Well and they still sound partially in denial about their role their own actions and decisions played in what happened, so it sounds like there’s still a little more work to do there.

    6. Allison*

      If it was a teenager, or even someone in their early 20’s, I’d still reject them but I’d be willing to tell them why, believing there was a chance they’d see it as a learning experience. Sorry to say, I don’t have the same amount of faith in someone who acts that way in their 50’s.

    7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I had the same reaction and had hoped that the naivete underlying the questions was related to youth and/or inexperience. But when I got to the part about college in the 90s, my stomach dropped a bit. OP’s approach has been disproportionate and self-sabotaging.

      OP, you will almost always want an admission opportunity more than the folks making decisions on admission. You will always know more about your dreams and health than others. Rejection is an incredibly normal part of life, and if you aren’t used to it at this point, it’s worth taking time to work on that because how we handle rejection is an important part of personal development and growth.

      You are singularly focused on this opportunity, it sounds like to the exclusion of other opportunities, and you’re taking a very combative stance. Your approach sounds aggressive in both the “over-contacting” and “angry” senses. You sound personally offended that this program doesn’t understand the depth of your passion or your innermost desires. You’ve also completely disregarded their (very valid) concerns by saying that your communication and behavior to date will magically change if they admit you. And your default approach has been to browbeat, harangue, or otherwise pressure them into doing what you want, despite the fact that that approach has only hurt you so far.

      All their experiences with you have been, by your admission, hostile and not good. So not good that the coordinator had no idea how to respond to you, which means your behavior is well outside the norm. She was even gracious enough to allow you to join them in New York, which frankly I would not have done if I were in her shoes. It sounds like you’re viewing the program coordinator as the single impediment to achieving your dream instead of focusing on all the missteps you made, which you can correct when applying to a different program. All of this reads as a bull in a china shop who lacks self-awareness or consideration for others.

      If you can do some soul searching, then it may be in your interest to join them in New York and to be on your absolute best behavior—no chipped shoulder, no lobbying the coordinator for admission this year, etc. If you can wipe the slate clean, then apply a third time (which, btw, is a very normal thing to do and is not a personal insult on your candidacy).

      But if your mindset won’t change, then please don’t incur the expense or continue to subject this poor woman to your anger. Evaluate other programs that may offer a similar experience, send a contrite and sincere apology to the folks at the program that has not admitted you, and please consider seeking assistance to help you address your anger and mistrust issues. It would be a shame for you to miss other opportunities because your anger sabotages you.

    8. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup, I was like “well, you’re 16 – just consider it a learning experience and… 50? Wha…..?”

      1. Dr Rat*

        I think we can all agree that was an M. Night Shyamalan Back When He Was Good twist ending!

    9. Ms.Vader*

      I also read it like they were much younger and also though, as a man. It was partly to do with that they just in general don’t take rejection well but also, that they seem really oblivious to the norms of applications and an unwillingness to do any self reflection.

      I’d really recommend reading this back to yourself, OP and maybe construct a timeline of all your interactions and a summary to see it laid out. Seeing it step by step may help clarify why your behaviour has caused you a missed opportunity.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Yep, something about that level of entitlement and assumption that their desire to be admitted should trump the needs of the program itself (the focus on, “but I really wanted it” rather than “but I’d be a great fit for their needs in XYZ ways”) screamed ‘early 20’s man’ to me. If for no other reason than I’d have thought someone a bit older would have enough experience in the business world to be aware that hiring decisions are not made on the basis of who wants it the most.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Oh no older males can be even more entitled. They go through 20/30/40 years as an adult and just feel more entitled as they age.

    10. Anonandon*

      So many red flags here. Reacting aggressively to rejection, claiming he isn’t used to being rejected, an fixation on this one single group as a “dream,” the bit about the three magical days (?????)… And most of all, the belief that some external thing will somehow make him happy and control his behavior when he apparently can’t do it himself.

      Seriously, if someone ever says that their happiness and behavior depends on something or someone besides themselves, the listener should run away screaming because that is a huge problem.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Wellllll….. there’s a caveat there. If they say their *behavior* depends on something external, then yeah, that’s a huge red flag; but their happiness? Absolutely can change wildly based on external things. For example, having enough money that they’re not stressed and depressed. Or in my own case – I’ve lived in many different countries; one particular country, which we shall call Country D, made me very unhappy. Life in country D was… not good. While it’s certainly a developed country, and is often pointed to as a country that is ‘doing it right’, I found, in practice, that quality of life was significantly lower in Country D. As such, it was hard to be a happy, cheerful person – I know I had a shorter fuse while living there. When I left Country D for Country E, I quickly became much more happy and cheerful, much as I had been while living in Countries A, B, and C. But here’s the thing – even while stressed out and unhappy there, I still managed to be a decent human being! Because we are all in charge of our own behaviors. If you don’t care enough to be nice (or at least a bare minimum of respectful and polite) to people around you when you’re disappointed, that’s unlikely to change based on circumstances. (And if someone says that either their behavior or happiness depends on another *person*… yikes, run away!)

        1. wittyrepartee*

          I know you don’t want to call out Country D, but I’m fascinated and will spend the next 15 minutes thinking about what country it might be.

    11. Jean Prouvaire*

      Yeah, this. I remember working with people like this, and I stopped doing theater when I graduated high school.

      1. Jean Prouvaire*

        Postscript: come to think of it, though, the worst offenders were often the parents, not the kids.

  3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

    One thing I’ve noticed, is that when you build something up in your head as the “only chance” you have to get something that you desperately want, it is very easy to feel as if your failure to get it is a personal attack, and a threat to your entire life plan. Things like that, can explain an uncharacteristicly strong reaction to a rejection, because it literally feels like the end of your world as your dream is “denied” to you.

    I think that, in therapy to handle your anger, it is worth exploring this particular mindset. Because a) there are plenty of community theater groups around, if that’s what you’d like to do and b) if this was your career plan, you should know that acting is a longshot for everyone, and you should be working to rebuild your life in a career that is stable and doable.

    1. Zephy*

      I sure hope it’s not OP’s career plan – according to the letter, they’re 50 years old.

      1. Alli525*

        Could be a second-career plan! Perhaps they’ve retired from a stressful corporate job and would like to return to their college-age passion.

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Starting a professional acting career at 50, especially if OP is a woman is an exceptional long shot. Like, the Hail Mary of second careers. Not to say it can’t be a really great side gig, or occasionally paying hobby, but I would not put my retirement nest egg into it under any circumstances.

    2. Chickening out and going anon this time (Chicken for short)*

      I get the feeling that your life is denied to you because your dream isn’t being fulfilled and people aren’t turning round desparate to assist you as you climb the ladder.

      If I could add another perspective which might be a little off kilter but *might* help the OP’s mindset…

      …I once had a life dream. It was all I wanted, all I needed, all I lived for. Then – it was fulfilled! And after I got after the utter *thrill* and excitement, I felt flat and deflated. I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. Because I genuinely felt “oh. I’ve done that. Nothing else mattered like that did” – I felt I had nothing left to aim for and may as well not exist, because I’d just be ticking over from there on. I struggled to find a new focus once this Everything that I’d lived for had unexpectedly come to fruition. I had nothing left to fight for.

      I know that’s a slightly odd thing to say, but OP just be aware that while you still have a goal, your life still has a reason for you. This goal didn’t work out – so make a new one and keep your sense of determination and purpose!

      Rather than giving up and being down because things haven’t worked out this time, take it as a reason to take a breath, reset, and restart!

      1. LQ*

        This is an absurdly good and important comment and everyone who strives for their One Thing should read this.

      2. Anon for this*

        I feel this so, so hard right now. I had a lifelong dream and I achieved it. I’m living my dream! In many ways, it’s great. After all, it IS my dream. In other ways, it’s difficult. Very difficult. I planned and fought and strategized and worked and now………. Well, what now? I don’t have a new dream. This was my life’s mission. Do not underestimate the purpose a dream can give you.

        I’ll add something else too. From the outside looking in, living your dream looks a lot more glamorous and fun than the actual day to day living likely will be. In your mind, the positives loom large and the mundane tediousness of daily life doesn’t exist. Guess what? Daily life will continue as it always has and novelty wears off quickly. Often people think that achieving their dream will somehow unlock the ideal version of themselves. All their negative traits will drop away leaving only their Best Self shining in glory. Well, let me tell you, this does NOT happen. You will still be you with all the bits of yourself that you don’t like and no amount of external achievement will change that.

        1. Zap R.*

          “Often people think that achieving their dream will somehow unlock the ideal version of themselves. All their negative traits will drop away leaving only their Best Self shining in glory.”


          1. Blue Horizon*

            “”Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

            1. Selda*

              “A gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”

              (from the movie Cool Runnings)

              1. Jen S. 2.0*

                Was seriously coming to say something similar. I’ve recently read a couple of reflections from Olympic gold medal winners who busted their cabooses so hard and so long and so single-mindedly that when they reached their dream, they were shocked that they had zero idea where to go from there. I was surprised at how often they are flabbergasted when they look up a month after the Olympics and realize that it’s never occurred to them that they have to go on after the Olympics.

        2. Sharrbe*

          This is true for anything in life, relationships, careers, travelling, etc. It is never as magical and wonderous as the dream. Your soul mate will turn out to have the worst body odor ever and refuse to do any laundry ever, your dream job will suck up 110% of your life and leave you broke and exhausted, your goal of living in a cottage in remote Scotland for two months to paint will be just be cold, boring and lonely and you really should have went to the Bahamas with your friends instead. But its all ok. That’s life. The key is to get past the fantasies and find peace in the mundane, and laugh at the rest of it.

        3. Yup, yup, yup*

          I really think it depends on the dream. When I achieved my dream I had about 5 years of happiness. Sure, some days were better than others, but I felt everything in my life was working, as having my dream business affected my marriage and other relationships. I was my “Best Self” shining in glory. I remember my sister telling me that she felt I was the most peaceful person she knew, whereas I had been a “worrywart” before my dream came true. It’s amazing what a difference having an abundance of money can make in people’s lives. Unfortunately, after several years of what felt like a perfect life, an external circumstance (related to the economy and technology) ended my dream life. I’m working towards another dream now.

        4. RUKiddingMe*

          Yup. My dream, since I was like 8 years old, was a PhD in anthropology. I had it planned out and went after it pretty lock-step on target. Ok did that. Now what?

          I do use it but I’ve never gone on a dig in Tanzania and never met Louis Leakey. I did meet Jane Goodall and Don Johansen, once each…though I’m sure I made no memorable impression LOL.

          Still no as yet undiscovered species for me and at this point in my life it’s not gonna happen. I got my doctorate, but I had to pivot…several times.

          1. jojobeans*

            I briefly shared this dream while in college and am totally fangirling over the fact that you met *both* Jane Goodall and Don Johansen!

      3. Mockingbird*

        And now I REALLY want to know what Chicken’s and Anon for this’s lifelong dreams were that they achieved. Share, please? I’m picturing “Get a part in a Broadway show” or “Win American Idol.” :D

    3. AMT*

      This is good advice. Any life plan that involves the belief that only *one* company/role/school/program will make you happy is not a viable plan. It’s so much more easy to handle rejection (or getting what you want and realizing you hate it!) when you have many irons in the fire.

      1. Jadelyn*

        I saw a thing once that summed this sort of problem up. It explained that the fewer aspects you have to your sense of self, the more personally you take criticism of any single aspect.

        If you’re a great accountant, with a good relationship, a kid you love, a couple of hobbies, and you speak Spanish, and then someone tells you your Spanish is terrible or they hate one of your hobbies…you’ll survive. There are still plenty of other “hooks” to hang your sense of self on, so one being dinged doesn’t cause a catastrophic issue.

        However, if you’ve got no career, no relationships, one friendship, few skills, and only one hobby, and then someone says they hate that hobby…well, they’re basically attacking the single thing you’ve allowed to define your existence. So, yeah, you’ll take that pretty damn personally.

        The solution to this is not to defend that one thing all the more viciously, but to diversify your life so that you have other aspects to your personality and your life and are more resilient when one thing doesn’t work out.

          1. Jadelyn*

            That is, in fact, where this came from, lol. It was a discussion of gamer culture and why a certain type of fanboy gets Very Very Angry if someone doesn’t like his favorite game. I want to say it was on Tumblr? Though the original source, if there was one, might have been elsewhere.

            1. Jasnah*

              I’ve seen this on a relationship/dating advice channel as well. At the center is your core confidence, your knowledge that you are a human and worthy of investment in. And then around that are all the external things you mentioned: the things you can do, the relationships you have, the things you get joy from. People who have weak core confidence and few “hooks” to hang their hat on can be devastated by something like a relationship ending, losing their job, getting injured and being unable to do their passion, etc.

              It sounds like OP has this one beautiful distant memory that they think they can relive, and have hung everything on this one chance, this one experience.

              OP, what else do you have going for you?

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Moreover it was three days in the 90s… Ninety what? 1990 is almost 30 years ago now.

                Reality is way unlikely to be as magical as those three days even if OP succeeds. It’s a romanticized, nostalgic, golden age thinking thing.

    4. Sara, A Lurker*

      I co-sign this completely.
      One of the biggest “fights” I ever had with a close friend was over a lost opportunity for a job she had built up as her dream job: it was in our neighborhood, it was in a field she wanted to move into, it was at a workplace she had visited as a customer, working with a professional she had spoken with and liked. But in my view, there is no such thing as a dream job and no reason to think even an attractive job would be a dream: the personable, friendly professional she met might be a nightmare of a boss; there may be other coworkers impossible to get along with; the hours might suck, the pay might not be worth it.

      I told my friend that I was sorry she had missed the window of working there and sympathized with her feelings of frustration, but that I disagreed with her assessment that this was her last and best opportunity for a job.
      She got so furious at me that she went completely silent, and we did not speak of it again.

      So, LW, I understand and sympathize if this is hard to hear, especially while you are still feeling very bruised by the rejection. Give it some time. But more importantly, spend some think parsing out what you hoped to find on that farm. Was it the theater experience? The feeling of community? The farm residence? The ability to bring some creative practice into your daily life? Whatever combination of things it is for you, I promise that the farm troupe is not your last or best chance to find fulfillment, and may well have had its own dysfunctionality that would have made it a poor fit for you in the long run. I also promise you are not the only 50+ career changer. You potentially have decades left to figure out your life. Take a breath and try something new.

      1. EddieSherbert*

        Also really well said! I can see how your friend was upset in the moment, but your advice is 100% right – there is always another opportunity, and no need to put your EVERYTHING into one specific job opening.

      2. Stephanie*

        Yeah, I got in a similar fight with a friend about an MBA. He’s a doctor who recently finished residency and I think the newness of the doctor job wore off and got mad when I was like “well, I don’t know if the MBA will really fix what you find wrong with your current job or what you’re looking for? More sounds like the new car smell wore off the job and you may just need to figure out what would be a good fit.” And then we just never spoke of it again.

      3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        I really like this approach. We can find fulfillment of dreams in lots of ways. And having more ways to access that goal means that no one disappointment is the end of it all.

        Loss is hard. But we can treat every experience as a learning time, and a gift that teaches us to look just a little bit further into ourselves.

        I hope you’ll find a small stepping stone toward that goal. One foot in front of the other, and all that.

    5. Djuna*

      Dang it, I should have scrolled down more – you captured my thinking way better than I did.

    6. Zap R.*

      This is a very, very good point. When your self-esteem is low, garden-variety rejection feels like a personal insult.

  4. Cordoba*

    If I were in charge of hiring for this group I don’t think there’s anything LW could possibly say that would reverse my decision.

    Their actions have indicated that they are pushy, angry, bad at hearing “no”, and having unrealistic dreams of finding fulfillment with this One Magical Organization. Any one of those would probably be a deal breaker, all of them in combination definitely are.

    I also wouldn’t invite them to join the group, ever, regardless of whether they were paying their own way or not.

    LW, find another dream. This one isn’t going to work out.

        1. Nonny*

          A few years out of date, but when I was finishing college I actually did have to send a couple applications for theatre internships as hard copies by mail, for some inexplicable reason.

          1. AcademiaNut*

            This could easily be an age thing – my first round of postdoc applications were hardcopies sent via certified mail (circa 2003). By the second postdoc, things were shifting towards internet applications. Certified mail was more expensive, but at least you knew your application had been received by the intended recipient, rather than having it disappear into the void.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            The issue isn’t the paper mail, but the certified part. If you just want to track a letter, you can just ask for this at the post office. Certified provides proof of delivery. You use that if you may need to use this proof in court. For something like this, it is a total red flag that you might be litigious, though not necessarily in any legally coherent way. It also can place a burden on the recipient. If the organization is constantly staffed, the receptionist can sign for it. But if there is no one immediately available, you end up with a notice that you have a certified letter waiting for you.

            1. A little understanding*

              I agree that it gives off a litigious vibe. Or at least difficult. But I think the letter writer didn’t intend it that way, and did it for a couple reasons: 1. they didn’t grasp that not everybody who applies by the deadline gets accepted. The year before they were told that the program was full, so they assumed it was entirely because their application arrived late, so this year they wanted to be able to see and prove that it got there on time – because they imagined that would guarantee their acceptance. 2. If it’s the program that a lot of responders think it is, the summer coordinator is located in a semi-exotic place where the post office does deliver but most other package/letter delivery companies don’t – or at least not reliably. Given those circumstances, I don’t think the letter writer intended to create a burden or to come across so aggressively – I think they had a lot of anxiety about doing everything they could think of to make things go right, and unfortunately tipped things overboard.

          3. boop the first*

            The certified mail thing struck me as something that an unreasonably controlling person would do.

    1. becca*

      Yeah. You know that saying, “When people show you who they are, believe them”? OP showed these people who they are. The theatre group believed them. I know it’s an incomplete picture (as are all decisions made about hiring and whatnot), but really, why should the theatre group believe OP when they *say* they’ll be better when they’ve already witnessed enough *behavior* that they know they don’t want to be around it?

      1. Tinybutfierce*

        Yup, 100% this. Applications are when you’re expected to put your best foot forward; given that, why would the group take a chance on someone who can’t behave well or even reasonably from the get go?

  5. AnotherAlison*

    Aw, OP. This sounds like a case where in your mind it was the perfect fit and all built up to be a match made in heaven that had to happen because it was your dream. In the group’s view, you were just one of many applications they received. No personal connection or rejection, but then you reacted like your fiance dumped you at the alter. Further contact with them will only damage your reputation with them more, and the last thing you want is to give them reason to mention your name negatively to their theater friends across the region. Let it go. Find a new pursuit, and handle it like the seasoned adult that you are.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      This reminds me of dating! It can happen that you get way, way ahead of yourself in your mind and think you’re with your One True Person … and in fact you have very little actual experience with them. Predictably, you freak the other person out and they’re confused why you have invested so much so quickly.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        This is every guy on Tinder calling a woman a bitch when she won’t send him nudes.

          1. DG*

            The lack of misogynistic slurs and visibly barely restrained violence is why I read LW as female, myself. When I imagine LW as male, the letter gets *even worse*.

      2. Stephanie*

        Yeah, this was a former roommate. Two good dates and he was convinced she was The One.

        1. Free Meerkats*

          My high school friend’s twin brother. I’ve watched him go from first date to “We need to get married and start popping out kids to support us in our old age!!!” So. Many. Times.

          Now he’s 63 and still single.


          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I once had someone talk about marriage on the first date. While we were teenagers. Gah.

  6. Anonymous Poster*

    OP – based on your reactions, unfortunately, Alison is right that it’s highly unlikely that this particular group will be in your future. That they’re willing to let you join them on your own dime after your reaction is quite generous!

    The certified mail, and what appears to be excessive follow up, through phone calls, emails, and demanding a reply, is simply too much. If it were me, I would certainly have said please do not apply, this is not a good match. The follow up is too much. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t mean there’s no place out there for you to follow this dream. But try to follow more standard norms – no need for certified mail, no angry responses to a rejection, none of that. The absolute most I would do is simply emailing to confirm receipt of an application – and only if there isn’t an online form you’ve filled out that has a final screen of, “Your application has been received.” Nothing more.

    Simply put, they’ve seen you perhaps at your worst – but at a time when they expect they’ll see you at your best. Whatever the reason for it, they simply have no way to know that this was your worst, and they don’t want to take the risk. Honestly, if it were me, I would have said an unequivocal ‘no’ based on all of this. I would have no way to know that this wouldn’t be the start of something very bad for the group.

    I’m sorry it turned out this way for you. You don’t have to give up on your dream, but you may have to give up on fulfilling your dream with this particular group. I hope you’re able to do it sometime!

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      Simply put, they’ve seen you perhaps at your worst – but at a time when they expect they’ll see you at your best.

      And to expand on this just a bit, not only did they know it’s your worst, but because of the timing they have every reason to believe that this is actually you at your best and they have to make their decision based on that. It’s unfortunate that this group won’t work out for you (because I firmly believe you’ve put far too many obstacles in your way to overcome even if you do go to New York), but I hope you can find something that will help you explore this path.

      1. Federal Middle Manager*

        “I could handle myself and hold my own. Because (1) I would feel accepted by my dream, and (2) I thrive when I’m doing my passion…”

        This is also a red flag. In any group activity and *especially* communal living situations, there’s going to be miscommunication, down time, weird transitions, shit jobs, etc. From OP’s, um, immature responses I would assume that they actually won’t respond well to being asked to do menial chores, stay behind because the plumber’s coming, sit out if a younger/less experienced person is better, etc. because they’re there to do their “passion.” I think OP overestimates their own patience. Actions speak louder than words, and OP’s actions do not label them as someone who is a team player or looking out for the good of the group.

        1. AMT*

          That part jumped out at me, too. It makes the LW sound like someone who will lash out if their dream theater experience isn’t perfect and blame others/circumstances for their reaction. You can’t expect people to want to be around you when you say (with your words or actions) that you’re only pleasant and cooperative under the most ideal circumstances.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            You can’t expect people to want to be around you when you say (with your words or actions) that you’re only pleasant and cooperative under the most ideal circumstances.

            +1. For one reason or another, OP may sincerely not know or understand this.

          2. Quandong*

            This is so, so true. My experience is as a classically trained musician and I’ve found that to be successful participating and working in the performing arts requires extremely good emotional self-regulation.

            OP has demonstrated they are spectacularly low on ability to manage what they perceive as rejection. They would be a nightmare to work with.

        2. Liz T*

          And the elevation of passion above all else is where abusive artists come from. Passion is requirement #1–everyone working in theater has it. On top of passion you need professionalism, talent, work ethic, flexibility–everything you’d need in any workplace.

          Suggesting your passion qualifies you implies that you think others are less passionate. This is certainly not the case.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Exactly. Emphasis on the work ethic/passion thing. Stephen King is dare I say it a passionate writer…passionate about his craft. I heard him in an interview done years ago saying thst when he is writing he us in his (home) office eight hours a day most days because it’s his actual job not just a lark.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                You and me both. I’m a reasonably good writer, scholarly/academic writing anyway, but it’s not something I enjoy. Just starting can take e so long. I mean doesn’t the laundry need folded? Oops gotta take the cat for a walk… To be fair to myself once I get in the ‘zone’ I am pretty prolific but honestly writing is like pinto beans. Something I’m sure to encounter again but could go the rest of my life without.

        3. No Green No Haze*

          I’m in love with the theater creative process. I would be too busy for any negativity.

          Yeah, speaking as someone who worked in theater for many years, that’s not how that works. Busyness has never gotten in the way of someone’s negativity habit; it typically exacerbates it.

          And putting “the” theater creative process on this pedestal is itself a red flag for me. Process isn’t holy. By its nature the process is changeable and flexible, and if The Process doesn’t match with the one the OP has seen modeled previously, I foresee fireworks. Flexibility doesn’t seem to be in her wheelhouse.

          1. EnfysNest*

            Yep. In my current community production, our current phase of the “theater creative process” is the part where the company we bought our music tracks from apparently cut my character out of their production, because when we get to where the part of the music where another character and I should have a brief duet or where there should be underscore for our dialogue, it instead just skips ahead to the next part and the director’s trying to get music added back in for us, but he also has a million other things to do and we are just 2 parts in a cast of 46 and and and and and a million other things going on at once. And this feels like no big deal compared to the confusion and contradictions between script and libretto and other issues I’ve faced in the early stages of other shows I’ve done(Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, I am especially looking at you!!!). It’s stressful and confusing and you have to have soooo much patience and things have to be redone and time gets wasted and instructions get changed. And the end result is so rewarding and worth it, but it’s not a magical stroll through the meadow humming along until suddenly a full production appears full grown!

          2. Tiny Soprano*

            Yes a lot of people have this idea of ‘the creative process’ and get really confused and disappointed when you tell them it’s not really like that. Especially as a performer (7 years of pro/semi-pro opera here.). The director gets to make those decisions. You’re more like the carpenter than the architect (which honestly I prefer.)

        4. Coder von Frankenstein*

          Yes. I’ve done community theater, and there are indeed moments of magic, but there’s also a lot of work and a lot of it is tedious and frustrating and not magical in the least. Plus you have a whole bunch of outsized personalities and egos clashing constantly.

          And that’s community theater, where the people doing it are mostly unpaid volunteers and the expectations of both management and audience are set accordingly. A professional troupe is a whole other ball game.

          1. Horatio*

            Echoing this 100%. I work in theatre professionally – all my degrees are in theatre, I work in a theatre, and in the evenings, I freelance at other theatres. It’s my life, and I love it. But I’d be lying if I said it was all roses and sunshine all the time. I agree with Coder – it’s a TON of hard work, it can be very tedious no matter what your position is, and it can be SO. FRUSTRATING.

            That being said, we do it because it’s worth it for those few magical moments. They’re so magical, they make the other 90% of hard work worth it. But if you don’t go in ready to be flexible, collaborative, and ready to take “no” for an answer, you’ll just make yourself (and the people around you) miserable.

            Don’t take it so hard, OP. There are other theatre groups – and other things in general – that can make you happy, so long as you give yourself time to examine the anger and trust issues that impeded you this time. If you don’t work on those before you look for something else, you’ll just end up making yourself more unhappy.

        5. Willis*

          This! The OP is responsible for how they act 100% of the time and needs to be able to handle themselves in a variety of situations, not just in conditions they consider ideal. And even if you get your dream job, it’s not going to be ideal conditions all the time. Nothing is.

        6. Tinybutfierce*

          Yup. Having worked in theatre and been involved with an ensemble company (where trust and communication are especially important), this type of behavior is something that I 800% wouldn’t welcome, because it’s a recipe for all sorts of dysfunction and disaster.

    2. LKW*

      “Simply put they’ve seen you, perhaps at your worst – but at a time when they expect they’ll see you at your best.”

      This is an excellent point. The few interactions you’ve had that called for maturity and patience the OP did not demonstrate those qualities.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        Moreover, OP expects the second application consideration process to discount those negative experiences simply because application 2 is on time. Um, no.

        OP also says that behavior will magically disappear once OP gets the experience she is imagining (based on what happened for 3 days 30 years ago), and she can indulge her passion.

        But no way would this be the experience OP is imagining. So, the behavior isn’t going anywhere.


    3. Jennifer*

      Yes, this is the equivalent of being nasty to the restaurant servers on a first date. Your date will wonder what will they be like in a relationship six months down the road if this is them on their best behavior?

    4. Fortitude Jones*

      That they’re willing to let you join them on your own dime after your reaction is quite generous!

      The director probably just said this to get OP to stop contacting her – I don’t believe for a second she wants OP to come join them at all. She was counting on the fact that the “on your own dime” part would make OP opt out and then she (director) wouldn’t have to deal with this anymore.

      OP, please leave these people be and find a new group.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is such a great summary of what went wrong and how to reframe for next time.

      I’m also worried that OP is arguing they’d have been better behaved if they’d been given what they want. As Federal Middle Manager notes, actions speak louder than words. That doesn’t reflect well on OP; it’s emotional blackmail in a situation where the parties have no relationship and owe one another nothing.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        “OP is arguing they’d have been better behaved if they’d been given what they want.”

        Yup. “I’m only angry when things don’t go my way” is a bad sign.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        “…OP is arguing they’d have been better behaved if they’d been given what they want.”

        As would the average two year old. I expect good behavior as the default. Trying to extort me fir the “reward” of good behavior? Drive through please…

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Hey, OP wrote in asking for help, I don’t see the point of being this unkind.

      1. Quandong*

        OP asked for help to get accepted, perhaps hoping Alison knows magic words that will convince the coordinator to change her mind. Hearing from commenters to move on & leave that troupe and coordinator alone is not unkind IMO.

        1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          Agreed. The kindest thing here is for OP to realize that the second they sent the angry message, they lost any chance with this particular group. There are many other groups out there, try one of those instead! OP, I don’t want you to give up entirely – but I don’t think you realistically can expect this group to want to take you on; from their perspective, it’s just too risky. They have other candidate’s who *haven’t* demonstrated worrisome personality traits. The best thing to do here is a) read over the letter and comments, reflect on what people are telling you; b) maybe try therapy? Responding with anger to something as simple as ‘Sorry, our slots are all full, try again next year maybe’ is not healthy… rejection hurts, but that didn’t even seem to be personal and c) try applying to a different organization. Demonstrate your good qualities. Try to think about why *they* would want to hire *you*, rather than the other way around, because these kinds of decisions are based on who meets the needs of the organization, not who is most impassioned. And try not to build it up too much in your head – any job in existence had boring drudgery, hard work, and nasty frustrations. Theater is no exception. If you’re expecting a magical, stress-free experience, you will only be more disappointed.

      2. Daisy*

        What on earth are you talking about? How is that unkind? It’s basically exactly what Alison said.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Yeah this wasn’t the comment I was replying to; something has happened (most likely Alison deleted the original comment, which was a little unkind about OP).

  7. Jennifer*

    You may consider taking some acting or improv classes or applying at some other local theaters. You can still pursue your passion even if you’re not with this group. Let go of your fixation on them.

    I’m trying to phrase this delicately but I was a bit err..taken aback when I read that you are 50. It’s not an ageist thing. I assumed based on the details of the letter that you were fresh out of school or maybe still in college. I don’t know if your contact had this information or not, but just a heads up that people are going to be even less patient with antics like this because of your age so hopefully this will be a wake-up call not to behave this way in the future. Best wishes.

    1. Full time worker, part time actor*

      I agree with this. OP, do you live near a community college that has a drama program? If so, start taking classes there. It’s a great way to forge relationships with people in your area’s theatre community and build up a reputation.

      I do want to stress that building your reputation is important. I know somebody who participated in a student theatre production and behaved like a stereotypical diva, thinking it didn’t matter since it was “only” a student production. But there were enough people working on that show who were part of our city’s larger theatre community that she’s had a hard time getting callbacks since then. You want your reputation to be “that person is a great actor and really enjoyable to work with,” not “they can act, but they’re a nightmare to work with so let’s cast somebody else.”

      1. MsM*

        And don’t just assume that it’s limited to your local area, either. I spent one summer as an administrative intern with a troupe, and my former colleagues are now spread out all over the place. The theater world is small, and people talk to each other. Which is not to say that you’ve burned *all* your bridges, but don’t be surprised if somewhere down the road you have to explain to someone seemingly unconnected what you’ve learned since this unfortunate experience.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Also, being “in a theatre troupe” for 3 days (???) is very different than full-time, communal theatre life on a farm.

      1. Shad*

        Three days really seems much more like a chance to see the funnest, most exciting parts of being in theater than any real or meaningful part of building a full production. I mean, that’s what, practicing the script a couple of times? Trying on costumes someone has already made in fairly standard sizes? Maybe getting the makeup done (by someone else, most likely—this doesn’t sound like something for which you’d be expected to already know how to do it yourself). Three days is a showpiece, not even a meaningful internship.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Even my HS drama class (4 years) and musical comedy club (also all 4 years) were pretty intense re all aspects of putting on a production.

          Granted that was ::mumblumble:: years ago but I cant think it’s changed that significantly. Three days? Yeah… that’s just the Costco sample table.

    3. Working Mom Having It All*

      A lot of older people who don’t have a creative background assume that creative fields are basically the equivalent of recess at school. They are automatically fun, stress and conflict free, require no real work, everyone coasts by, and the whole point is their dreams or passions to be facilitated by others.

      So this doesn’t surprise me, necessarily. That said, the people who see this sort of thing from OP are going to say “oh she’s one of those people who think working in theatre is a vacation from real life” and be probably far less patient than even the people who were merely blindsided by someone who should know better behaving so unprofessionally.

      1. Anonymous 5*

        And they see the examples of people who spent a couple decades building a career that was lucrative enough that they can afford to retire early to pursue their “second act” whether or not that second act will actually be viable. Selection bias is a powerful drug.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I to object to calling 50 “older.” :-D

        The rest definitely. Lots of people think it’s one long party. Personally, I am so far left/right/whatever from creative I cant imagine it bring an easy thing. I get hives just thinking about trying to be creative…at anything.

      3. Overseer Vimes of the Look*

        I saw this so often in college. I majored in theatre and minored in art, and often had people in lower-level classes like Acting I or Intro to Drawing who took the classes for “fun” and were then surprised that it was a lot more work than they anticipated.

    4. Horatio*

      If OP wants to start signing up for some local theatres, a great place to start is a community theatre short play festival. Often, it is a quick, low time commitment rehearsal period, and the barriers to entry are much lower than they are for a full-length professional production or a lengthy residency on a farm (which is what I’m assuming this one is..?). It’s a great way to get your feet wet and see if theatre is something you want to pursue further without putting yourself up to a huge commitment you find out you don’t enjoy.

      You could also grab a play you like (a lot of libraries have at least a partial shelf dedicated to plays, as well as used bookstores) and read it in your living room with some friends! I work in theatre full-time and I still do this every once in a while when I find a script I really love but don’t necessarily have the time or resources to commit to a full production of.

    5. RUKiddingMe*

      I’m concerned that OP is 50 and hanging on to three days from college ~30 years ago.

      *And* has presumably done nothing towards this “dream/passion” all these years?

  8. Hummus*

    As someone who works as a performing artist, my advice to you is to get used to rejection. Even if you behave perfectly and are awesome! Rejection is just part of the deal.

    So, when you do start applying/auditioning for other companies, let that fact be freeing. Since your chances are slim, you can throw yourself into the moment and enjoy it. Give a performance you are proud of, don’t worry about what the panelists think, then forget about it and move onto the next one.

    That’s the only way to emotionally survive in this crazy biz.

    1. Naomi*

      Yes, I was coming here to say this. OP, if you want to do theater, you’re going to have to learn to take rejection well, because it’s going to happen a lot–and this is not a slight against you or your talent, it’s just a fact that when many people are vying for a few roles, there’s a lot of rejection to go around. You won’t always get cast in the show you want, you won’t always get the part you want, and you have to remember that wanting something a lot doesn’t obligate someone to give it to you.

      Believe me, I’m very familiar with the heartache of trying and trying at auditions and not quite making the cut. It hurts. But you have to deal with your frustration in private, alone or with a trusted friend or a therapist, and not show it to the people who didn’t choose you… because as you’ve now found out, it can destroy your chances to try again in the future.

    2. Nancy*

      Yep I’m an author and when people ask me the secret to a writing career, I always say that its not being discouraged by rejection.

      1. Dr Rat*

        I am always in awe of Todd McFarlane. Whenever I hear of a creative person who gets discouraged by rejection, I think of him. This is a man who believed in himself and his work so much that he weathered THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY REJECTIONS before he got his foot in the door. (He sent in something like 700 submissions but half of them never replied.) Anytime I get discouraged in my writing, I think of McFarlane and soldier on.

    3. Kaitlyn*

      EXACTLY. Anyone who works in a creative field has to hear and accept “no” often. It’s just part of the package: your product/writing/style/look isn’t right for the gig. Doesn’t mean you’re not right, or that everything you produce is lousy. Grace in the face of no is just as important as knowing the Office suite, imho.

      OP, you could and maybe should take this an opportunity to take a deep breath, and focus on what you loved about those three days of theatre experience 30 years ago. You loved being part of a team? Volunteer at a community food centre. You loved being backstage? Sign up for some community theatre. You loved being creative? Get involved with a writing group. Or focus on joining a theatre company that has lower barriers to entry (such as focusing just on the theatre part, without any of the living-together dynamic that makes this particular opportunity such an intense first step) and networking with folks to build a great reputation within the theatre community.

    4. yala*

      I was kind of wondering that myself. If this is how OP responds to a simple rejection, how would they respond to *criticism*?

      Any career, or even hobby, in the arts is going to involve a lot of rejection by default. It sucks, especially if you feel Time Is Running Out. But getting angry about it won’t help.

      1. Kendra*

        That was my thought, too; if not getting your way upsets you to this degree, you’re going to have a very difficult time listening to notes from your director.

        1. Quandong*

          Exactly. How would OP react to the process of collaboration with peers? How would they cope with the process of receiving constructive criticism? Not well, if their response to a rejection letter is anything to go by.

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        I just pictured the opening scene in Ed Wood where they are reading the movie reviews and Ed Wood says “some critics don’t even mention the costumes.” <—paraphrased

    5. entrylevelsomething*

      Yep. I’m freelance in theater doing a couple different admin/backstage roles, and I’ve worked with the kind of apprentice company describe here. The coordinator was unfathomably kind in replying and offering the NYC opportunity, as I would have just not replied and possibly sent their email to spam. Being so argumentative and defensive is not good from the get go– especially when you are apprenticing, which is really just a fancy way of saying it’s an artsy internship. Some acting apprenticeships pay $100 a week + housing, some pay nothing at all, very rarely they pay a normal hourly wage. It’s truly something you have so do because you want the education out of it– which is not to say you need to be in your early 20s, but feeling entitled is not okay especially when you spend like 95% of your artistic career being rejected.

    6. Lilysparrow*

      Yes. A thousand times yes. Getting used to rejection in theater is like dentists getting used to other people’s saliva. Nobody likes it, but if you can’t figure out a way to deal with it, you are in the wrong line of work.

      Theater has a 98% unemployment rate. For a theater professional auditioning regularly, getting a callback 20% of the time is a great percentage. Booking 5-10% of those jobs is fantastic. You appear to have applied to one job in two years. You can’t get on the good side of the numbers at that rate.

  9. EmmaWoodhouse*

    it’s hard to want something so badly that the emotions associated with that wanting cloud your judgment. You can’t respond with aggression to the very formulaic process of job application. As Alison pretty much said, the only thing they know about you is that you have these red flags, and they are very reasonable to reject you.

    Obviously, it’s important not to repeat these behaviors–and this level of emotional response–in future application processes, but I think it’s also worth reassessing how you express your devotion to theater in professional settings. What I mean is, you have to consider whether the way you act on your passions is damaging your ability to realize them.

  10. Not a Hippie I Swear*


    I wholeheartedly agree with Alison. Don’t try applying again. I wouldn’t even go to New York (on your own dime) and test it out. I’m not saying you are an entitled person, but it is a very entitled point of view to think that they owe you a spot, a response, anything really. I’d be really wary of you if I were that coordinator, and like Alison said, they were more than generous to offer you the New York opportunity.

    I’ve learned this lesson the hard way many times: not everything is meant to be. But another lesson always comes forth through the disappointment/sadness: when one door closes another one opens. Maybe this missed opportunity will lead to something bigger and better. And try to move forward with gratitude and patience rather than anger and blame. It sounds woo-woo, but I started practicing gratitude when my family faced multiple unthinkable tragedies in one year. You slowly but surely start to wake up feeling more at peace, and less like you want to punch a wall. Who knows what you’ve been through in your life. Maybe this crushed dream is a lot more than a crushed dream. Just try to be grateful and everything else will follow.

  11. Lance*

    To the OP: you can, frankly, say anything about yourself, to yourself. You can say the best things about yourself, to yourself!

    But that’s just it: you’re telling these things to yourself, the person that knows you the best. These people, conversely, don’t know you very well, so it’s not enough to tell them; you have to show them. Conduct yourself in a calm manner, vent where they won’t see it if you have to vent at all, and generally act like the you that you want them to hire; the you that thrives in a place of comfort, not the you that gets openly upset when they aren’t let into that place.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yes, we all forget that people can only see your actions and have to guess your intentions (usually for the worst). Because we are so intimately aware of our own intentions, we tend to downplay our actions – as OP demonstrates throughout the letter.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        You see this in people’s responses to fictional characters too. When we have access to someone’s thoughts and motivations, we tend to be far more sympathetic and understanding of poor decisions and bad behavior than when we’re only seeing the end result. Since we always know our own thoughts and motivations, we often give ourselves a lot of leeway when we act poorly. Leeway that we would under no circumstances give anyone else.

        1. LawBee*

          The only reason people love Snape, really. If you can’t hire Alan Rickman to portray you (RIP still not over that), then backstory is all you’ve got. Snape is TERRIBLE until you realize that he was horribly bullied by the vaunted heroic James Potter (ugh) and then he’s still awful for blaming it all on Harry but we understand it more.

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        It’s really very true… and also the sort of thing that probably you should be aware of when planning a career in theater….

      3. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        As I have had to say to my children (and a few employees): “I can’t know what you’re thinking. I can only see how you are behaving.”

    1. a1*

      I don’t think they’ve always been in theater. I think they are trying to get into theater. The had a “magical experience” back in college (in the 90s) that lasted “three days” (!).

    2. anon today and tomorrow*

      To be fair, I think there’s a subset of people in creative fields who aren’t used to rejection or think they’re talented enough that they’ll never be rejected When I worked in publishing there were more than a few people who weren’t used to rejection and thought their manuscripts would be accepted on the first submission.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        This is very true. I’ve worked with some writers who thought they were fantastic and needed very little editing when in fact, they needed all the editing. But that’s not the vibe I’m getting from OP. OP doesn’t sound like a theater vet who’s trying to break back into the business; she sounds like someone who took one class ages ago and, for some reason, decided to give it a go again and was stunned to not be accepted. If she’s never had to deal with serious rejection as was intimated the letter, I could see why she would be caught off guard by this.

      2. Overseer Vimes of the Look*

        It’s a huge subset of newbies in any field, especially more competitive ones. I work with students on career planning, and most of them have no idea how much work their dreams will be, how much rejection they’ll face, how much they’ll actually like doing the thing they want so desperately to do…and that’s all okay! Experience is a really great teacher. You just have to embrace the things experience tells you and let yourself grow.

        That’s what I hope for the OP here. Learn from experience. Let yourself grow.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      This feels a bit unkind. We’ve all had things we really “wanted” and it can be very hard for those things to be pulled out from under us. So, I think showing some grace to the Letter Writer would be appropriate.

        1. Daisy*

          No it isn’t. Not even in a ‘cruel to be kind’ sense. It’s a succinct point about what the field is like. Get a grip.

  12. CB212*

    To be fair, the bread is SO GOOD, I understand the determination to get more access to it. :)
    But yeah, a rough bunking setup, collective farm work, and collective theater making – there’s no way you’re going to convince them via email that you can handle it and be a great collaborator. IF you volunteer for the show in New York and demonstrate – in person – you’re the kind of person everyone would want on that team, you can go next year. This year is 100% not on offer.

    1. Venus*

      > IF you volunteer for the show in New York and demonstrate – in person – you’re the kind of person everyone would want on that team, *you can go next year*

      It’s not realistic that OP could go next year. The OP can *apply* next year and expect the possibility of being considered. If they do really well in NY then I think they might have a small chance, in comparison to no chance at all, but they would still be in competition for those spots amongst all the other applicants.

      1. CB212*

        Well, I take the respondent’s “if [I] think it works out, then apply next year” to indicate that IF the company said “oh you’ve shown us your true nature this month, great, yes, apply for 2020”, that’s – not a guarantee, but a strong indicator that they’d be accepted. Because the honestly-more-likely result would be the company saying “hey, we really appreciate your doing this NYC shift, we love our urban volunteers, but maybe let’s leave it here. Please do not apply for a farm session.” Like most folks here I don’t honestly see this complete transformation of impression happening based on a city week.

        1. Antilles*

          I take the respondent’s “if [I] think it works out, then apply next year” to indicate that IF the company said “oh you’ve shown us your true nature this month, great, yes, apply for 2020”, that’s – not a guarantee, but a strong indicator that they’d be accepted.
          Maybe, but I don’t see anything in that response that looks like a strong indicator of acceptance. I instead read the response as that OP would be allowed to apply:
          Right now, OP is blacklisted and next year’s application is going straight in the trash unread – do not pass go, do not collect $200, just straight to application-jail. IF you do this NYC thing and present yourself well, we’ll move you off that blacklist and actually read your application…but you still need to go through the same vetting and application process as everybody else.

          1. Tinybutfierce*

            Yeah, my honest interpretation was the “come to NYC on your own dime, we’ll see how that goes, maybe next year” was just them letting the LW down easy in the hopes of trying to stop them from continuing to bombard the coordinator with demands for a response.

          2. Overseer Vimes of the Look*

            I agree with “not a strong indicator of acceptance.” If there’s a large pool of applicants, they take the most promising/most connected for the (probably relatively) few slots available.

            It’s also not unlikely that the OP’s original application was considered and rejected, as others have pointed out. In that case, it’s a really long shot that the NYC opportunity would move the needle a whole lot. Theatre’s just so very competitive. Not Terribly Strong Application+Subsequent Bad Experience is super hard to overcome, and looking elsewhere for artistice fulfillment is probably the key to, well, artistic fulfillment.

            Don’t go to NYC unless you really just want that specific opportunity, OP.

    2. Vermonster*

      I completely thought the OP was writing about the same place you are suggesting. And the initial reaction to the rejection doesn’t make me think that cleaning the composting toilets would be an eager task for the OP.

      1. CB212*

        Yeah. If OP can’t show their best self from the comfort of their own home, with all the time in the world to manage their responses, I can’t imagine they’ll demonstrate an equable temperament after a long day of dirt and insects AND WORSE, when everyone is exhausted. Or exactly, when they draw the absolute worst shift and someone else got a much more desirable shift. Or etc.

      2. zora*

        Yeah, this, too. It’s not a glamorous program, and I am sure I would get cranky and exhausted if I tried to do it at my age, I get exhausted much easier than I did when I was younger! You really have to be honest to yourself about your ability to “not be negative” when hot, tired, covered in dirt and you have to cook dinner before you will get to eat. I’m not sure I have the energy to do that myself, to be honest. And it’s okay if it’s not a good fit for you! There are so many other ways to get involved in making art, I promise!

    3. Kaitlyn*

      You can maybe go next year. Maybe. Because even showing up and doing the hard work may not be enough if you’re showing up with a crummy reputation.

    4. ArtsNerd*

      Haha! I do love me some bread.

      And yes, it’s a very very specific setup that very very few people are actually the right fit for. I love collaborative art-making, I’m not a half-bad theater performer/musician/artist with some semi-professional experience, and I would be terrible at this. Absolutely horrible. And I would loathe it too!

      One thing that is key in this kind of group is…. going along with what’s happening in the group dynamic vs. sticking to your own individual vision of how things ‘should’ be in the work. OP has already demonstrated that they aren’t naturally good at letting go of theirs.

    5. zora*

      Haha, I also think I know the company they are talking about and honestly, even after many decades, their program is still EXTREMELY competitive. They have so many people to choose from each year, why would they choose someone who got angry at them? They are really an amazing group, but there are a lot of amazing groups all over the country! Look around your area for a way to get involved in theater, and find another path to your dream. In the performing arts there are as many paths as there are people!

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        Yeah, if this is the program I’m thinking of… aren’t there people with years of experience, education, hard work at their craft, etc. who don’t get spots? Let alone someone who recently decided that their dream is to work in the theatre, so their first step into that is to apply to this very famous and selective program.

        1. zora*

          There are. It’s more like a fellowship where you are selected for what you will bring to the collective, not like a signup sheet that’s first come first served.

    6. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Haha – it’s true. I’m never moving back to the commune, but they had damned good bread. Really, just the best bread.

      But also they had drum circle.

      Good and bad. Light and dark. Balance in this world, dudes. Balance in this world.

          1. Liz T*

            (And on that note: yikes. Now I’m trying to imagine shout-emailing my way into, like, Bouffe du Nord.)

  13. Antilles*

    Not to be cruel, but as a hiring manager myself, the only thing in their response that surprises me is the fact she actually provided a detailed rejection response in year 2.
    After getting a “defensive and aggressive email” from you after the first rejection, I would never have even considered responding to your second application and providing feedback. I would have mentally figured (a) there’s nothing I could possibly say that would get through and (b) don’t engage, don’t engage, don’t engage. At absolute most, I would have sent back a form rejection letter, but honestly might not have even done that.
    Maybe that makes me a bad hiring manager or a jerk, idk, but I’ve had way too many experiences of someone trying to change my mind on a “no” / arguing back about it / flipping off the handle / etc for me to want to engage with anybody who’s already shown they can’t handle a polite “no”.

    1. Batgirl*

      I think she actually has some sympathy for OP’s “gotta have it” passion – but I bet you the same trait is making her think ‘Nope. This is the opposite of cool, calm and collected bunkmate’

    2. Allison*

      Seriously, I wouldn’t have blamed her if she’d just said nothing, knowing how he’d likely react. She probably responded because she was worried he’d just keep harassing her until he got a response, and she wanted to shut this whole thing down. And of course, he’s still wondering if he can somehow change their minds.

    3. Managing to get by*

      I think she may have responded in order to get him to stop following up, and was possibly concerned he may just show up in person to demand a response.

    4. Jerk Store*

      Honestly, I think the Coordinator was doing a pre-emptive strike. This is the second year in a row the LW escalated her behavior and the coordinator wants to put a stop to it for her and her staff.

    5. Liz T*

      Agreed. I have a certain playwright’s emails go directly to a side folder so I don’t have to see them. (But I want to keep them in case he ever escalated.) I have absolutely zero time for this guy.

      (He’s even actually a good writer! His project just wasn’t suited for us…and then his response to the rejection was wackadoo.)

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I’ve published some fiction and one of my editors made a remark on social media along the lines of “Hey, writer who responded to our rejection with a nasty email! If you hadn’t done that, we might have published your future work – but now, we never will, because you’ve shown you’re a nightmare to work with.”

    6. Lilysparrow*

      You’re not a jerk, you’re a realist.

      Gotta say, if I were on the leadership team (or even a company member), I would be rather upset with the coordinator encouraging OP to come to the NY session, and holding out hope of next year.

      Maybe it was an attempt at soft deflection, maybe it was wishful thinking that this applicant would behave better in person. Either way, the behavior described here would be absolutely disqualifying as someone I’d want on my team, or someone I’d want to be on a team with.

      Encouraging the applicant is just going to get more of the same – with the stakes even higher. Because what if OP went to NY and convinced themselves they were on their best behavior, and the company had now “promised” a spot next year? I just can’t see it leading anywhere good.

  14. Airy*

    I just like how kindly and constructively Alison responds to someone who really kind of donked up. I hope they really take it in and understand that how reasonable they sound doesn’t match how reasonable they think they are in this situation, which is always hard to take but ultimately very helpful. Especially the part about believing they wouldn’t be so quick to anger if they got what they want. Managing your own feelings so you don’t go off on people and burn bridges should not be conditional on whether their choices make you happy.

    1. Rosaline Montague*

      I so agree! Allison is amazing at this sort of gentle and honest reality check.

      The saying “we judge ourselves by our intentions, but others by their actions” sprang to mind. Best wishes to the OP to learn and find a new outlet for their acting passion.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        +1. When someone is messing up in really egregious ways and seem to struggle in taking accountability for messing up, sometimes it’s because they really don’t get that intentions/actions dichotomy and no one’s ever explained it to them in a way they were able to listen to. This is especially true in cases where you get a sense that the person messing up doesn’t quite seem to understand how it affects the other people involved.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s definitely an art to be able to thread the needle between kind compassion and firm reality check.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      > believing they wouldn’t be so quick to anger if they got what they want

      Well, yeah! If I always get what I want, I would never have anything to be angry ABOUT.

  15. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    You’re lucky that she even reached out again and gave you some insight into the thinking process. Now to dig your heels in and try to “fight” for another chance is not going to come out very well. She offered you the NY idea knowing full well you very likely could not make that happen, it was her last “out” before she just stopped responding all together.

    You can’t lash out at others, those who know and love you signed up for your variety of emotions. Those of us who are simply hiring a team and trying to create a good work environment don’t want anything to do with the your tendency to lash out with anger. You showed them who you are, they aren’t going to be inclined to believe that you just made a mistake, they don’t have any emotional investment in you and have no reason to.

    Take care of yourself. Try to learn to let go of that anger and chip on your shoulder, so you can be at peace with life. Life isn’t fair, you have lived long enough to have seen that first hand. So just embrace it and find your inner peace, it’ll be so much better in the end and with declining health, it’s not worth it.

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      That’s my read of the NY offer also, but that lady made a mistake offering that olive branch. The people least capable of taking hints are the most likely to show up.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I agree, she shouldn’t have responded at all in my opinion. I hope this burn reminds her to not respond in the future when this happens.

        I’ve never responded to anyone who snaps back at a rejection. They always want the last word, they can have it, I’ve got work to do!

    2. Flash Bristow*

      I was going to quote a bit I agreed with but actually I could not agree more… with all of it! Yes, OP you were lucky to get anything beyond a slammed door, and yes those who love you take you on warts and all which an employer doesn’t have the time, energy, patience or money to do. And yes, please focus on finding inner peace.

  16. Natatat*

    I think OP, if you put yourself in the coordinator’s shoes, you would have made the same decisions as her. Her limited experience with you has been negative, and a rejection last year and again this year was a reasonable decision by her based on what she knows of you so far. Take this as a learning experience to examine why you reacted the way you did to rejection. Rejection is certainly painful, but you’ll be better off if you can find a way to learn to not take rejection so personally and to not allow your emotions to lead you to react aggressively to rejection.

  17. Arty Marty*

    “Rejection rejections” (i.e. negative responses to a rejection letter, especially form rejections commonly used in publishing) are a great way to get on a permanent blacklist, as Alison notes. If you’re lucky, this theater group will not repeat the story to others in the industry. Anyone involved in the arts, or wanting to be involved in the arts, quickly needs to learn not to reply to rejections. It’s usually not personal, no matter how it might seem, and if you must respond, it should be by venting offline, privately, with a trusted friend or family member – NEVER in reply to the rejection itself!

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Yup. When I worked as an intern at a literary magazine and mailed out form rejections, every time we got back an angry/snarky response, we’d hang it up on our Author Wall of Shame. Some of these people were really unhinged and delusional – I remember quite a few cursing us out, saying we’re staffed by a bunch of f*^%>! idiots – and then asking us to reconsider their piece as the sign off. Ummmm…what?! Lol. Not gonna happen. Ever. When we’d inevitably receive another submission from one of those authors, in the circular bin it went, unread.

      1. Liz T*

        My favorite is when rejected people tell me how they get hired by way more impressive companies. Uh, go work with them then?

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Right! Lol. I mean, I’m still stuck on the fact that people actually respond to form letters in the first place, but those kinds of digs almost make having to sort through the responses worth it.

  18. Shannon*

    I don’t even hear anything approaching remorse or apology in this email for reacting the way she did. The director is 100% right to not accept her.

    1. sunny-dee*

      This is what jumped out at me, too. There seems to be no awareness that she did anything really wrong — more like trying to recover a minor faux pas, like calling her interviewer “Christie” instead of “Christina.”

    2. Filosofickle*

      Totally. I can’t even imagine describing my behavior as angry, demanding, defensive, and aggressive and thinking that’s not that big of a deal and there’s still a chance if only I keep trying…

    3. Oh So Anon*

      Yeah, I made a point about that in response to an earlier thread. I wonder if the OP comes across as lacking remorse because they don’t get quite how problematic what they did was. It seems to be an emotional intelligence issue more than anything else.

      It’s that emotional intelligence bit that makes it seem like the OP thinks that making amends makes their original bad behaviour irrelevant for everyone involved, which is not how things work, even if no one is holding a grudge.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, I get the feeling OP’s telling themselves, “But my heart is pure! I just get carried away by how passionate I am sometimes! That makes up for it, right?” And…well, no. Passion is not always a positive. Especially in acting, which requires a great deal of emotional control.

    4. Quandong*

      I agree with Shannon, and can’t see any evidence that the OP has thought about how their behaviour is percieved by other people.

  19. that's gonna be a yikes from me*

    What would your response have been if you had been allowed to join the troupe but didn’t receive the roles you wanted?

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Yes unfortunately rejection is such in integral part of acting – at every stage in the process! It’s better that OP “lashed out” to this initial rejection rather than once she’s at the remote camp sharing a room with her troupe.

    2. Ginger*

      This was my first thought as well. Or didn’t get the bunk they wanted, or had to wait to use the outhouse (!!!), or didn’t want to pull their weight on the farm work or felt entitled to being catered to….

      The multiple, aggressive follows up are alarming.

      Plus, applying before the deadline is not “early”. It’s on time.

    3. Allison*

      True, if OP responds badly to a rejection from the program, they’re probably concerned that they’ll be – at the very least – unpleasant and hard to work with if they’re not happy with casting outcomes during the program.

  20. User 483*

    Oh, I just want to be able to sit down with the OP a bit and see if it is something they could actually work through or not with some guidance. It’s not a great sign that the reaction seems to have carried over from one year to the next, so it wasn’t just a one-time mistake. But…theater also attracts dramatic people so it might have been just that aspect coming out.

    Theater is an industry where you need to be 100% okay with rejection. You will not always get the part you want. Usually, you won’t. And you also don’t usually hear back. No news = No. The whole “don’t call us, we’ll call you” thing. It’s a numbers thing where you need to go to dozens or even hundreds of auditions before you land a part. And once you have a part, they need to know that you can take criticism and direction. Even crew calls have a lot more people trying to work than there are jobs.

    But, sometimes people just need to hear that rejection is the norm. And that they are communicating with others who are going through the same thing. And that can make it easier to move on to the next audition or the next theater company or whatever.

    If we are allowed to recommend outside sites, I would suggest the OP check out the /r/Acting sub on Reddit. It’s not scary like some parts of Reddit — users are very supportive. There are lots of new actors of all ages. Many people decide to start after they retire, so 50 is not too old. And lots of veteran actors who know the ropes.

    1. ArtsNerd*

      But…theater also attracts dramatic people so it might have been just that aspect coming out.

      Oof. I hate this trope so much. Not that there’s no truth to it, but the way people lean on it as a crutch to wave away misbehavior. (I put it up there with “artists can’t do math.” I love a good spreadsheet. Fight me.)

      Theater attracts many, many kinds of people. There are far more people interested in partaking of theater than there are professional opportunities available to them. Passion and talent only get you a tiny part of the way. A diligent work ethic and being a goddam DELIGHT to work with are almost always non-negotiable parts of the hiring/casting/crewing process.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        My last paragraph isn’t a direct response to you, User 483 — just extrapolating on the ways this trope can harm the person engaging in that behavior as well as the people around them.

        1. User 483*

          No, that’s fair. I was trying to think how best to phrase what I was trying to say and I don’t think I picked the best option. :)

          I meant more reactive people? Or maybe more sensitive? I wasn’t trying to say divas, but more just… emotional people? I don’t know. Basically, that you kind of have to be in touch with your feelings to be an actor. But, of course that can manifest as everything from those who wear their heart on their sleeve to those who do more of a poker face and keep everything internal.

          I act and especially after doing emotional scenes, other things will set me off more than they usually would. But, I’ve learned that and know to step away from people or email or social media at those times. If OP goes forward with acting, they will need to learn their own emotional triggers and how to handle them.

      2. Spongebob WorkPants*

        I worked in theater in NYC in my 20s. It was hard emotional and physical work. Sometimes I would go home feeling broken. I loved every minute of it. The reason I kept getting hired was not my passion or talent. I had the reputation for being easy to work with. I showed up on time and prepared and was collaborative and friendly with both cast and crew. That’s how you work in theater. Anyone with diva or entitled attitudes lasted two productions at most, if at all.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          “I had the reputation for being easy to work with. I showed up on time and prepared and was collaborative and friendly with both cast and crew. That’s how you work in theater.”

          That’s the recipe for success in almost any field. It’s a shame there are many job applicants who don’t understand this.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            The similarities between theatre and ‘regular’ jobs are actually way bigger than most people think. It’s sad how many people think ‘it’s theatre!’ is an excuse to suddenly drop their professionalism at the door…

        2. Sal*

          I think this may actually be where some of the entitlement can creep in! The fact is, if someone’s easy to work with, shows up on time, is prepared, collaborative, and friendly with both cast and crew–if they’re not talented, they’re still probably not going to be successful as a working actor. Unfortunately, for most people (although apparently not the LW), your attitude and work ethic are things within your control, but your (perceived) level of talent is not. All of this is to say, when a field is as competitive as acting, avoiding rejection is literally not within an aspiring actor’s control, which means that responding well to it (and maintaining a good attitude and level of professionalism) is even more important, since it WILL come up.

  21. fposte*

    OP, I know it’s hard when something you really want is so close but you still don’t get it.

    But here are my “buts.” First, they also get to decide what *they* want. You are auditioning every time you make a contact with a potential employer. How much *you* want the part is not their concern or focus, nor should it be; they’re assessing whether they want you in the job.

    Second, I hope you’ll think for a moment about the “I’d behave okay if they would give me what I wanted” logic. That trait can be a problem in its own right; it suggests that unless you get what you want from your employer, the public, whomever, you won’t behave professionally. But you have to behave professionally when things are going poorly and not just well–that’s inherent in the concept, because pretty much everybody behaves well when things are going their way.

    So I agree with looking at other opportunities; just this time keep in mind from the start that all of it counts as auditioning for the role of “person they want to work with.”

    1. a1*

      How much *you* want the part is not their concern or focus, nor should it be; they’re assessing whether they want you in the job.

      This is something else I noticed in the letter. You (LW) are going on about how good this would be for you, how much you want/need this, and nothing about what you’d bring to the theater company – how you would fit in and benefit them.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        Ooh yes. Very good point. OP, maybe some counselling – or career guidance / therapy? – would help, because it does seem from the outside as if you’ve lost perspective. For a start, no matter how awesome you or *anyone* thinks you are, you still aren’t entitled to anything… I’m sorry. Look outward not inward. Maybe volunteer somewhere, make yourself popular and invaluable and build up a reputation and references, same as with any career, then use that to help in future applications once you’ve had a bit of time?

  22. Powerpants*

    As a person who has worked a lot in theater and music, I can say that it is just not worth it to work with difficult people and way more so than in other fields I have worked in because of the nature of the work. There needs to be so much trust and openness to criticism and positivity in the face of rejection. . The OP has already been difficult. I’m the same age and that too makes the bad behavior even more of a red flag. OP needs to look at this from their perspective. Why would they want to invest in you? What would be their motivation to take you over other applicants? OP mentions anger and trust issues. Seek therapy. And become the easiest person to work with the most positive attitude. But take those dreams to another group.

    1. Ro*

      *THIS*- 1,000+

      Then add in the fact that you’ll all be living together, in a communal setting, sharing everyday chores, etc. They cannot take a chance on someone who doesn’t seem like they would thrive in such an environment. They need people who are open, flexible, and able to work and communicate within a diverse group of people, able to manage conflict when it arises. I’m afraid the OP has shown themselves to not necessarily have those strengths.

      I will diverge though from others on this thread however, I do think that they were sincere when they offered you the (generous) option to travel to NY on your dime. From the way the organization was described, they sound like they might be a little new age (I’m sure there’s a better term to describe this). They have offered the OP the chance to show up in person and they’ll have a chance to know for sure if their fears were accurate. And it gives the OP a chance to see if she really wants this experience.

      But I would caution the OP to *not* take them up on this offer unless they are able to see the application experience through a new lens (i.e. the mistakes you made, that just like there’s no “perfect” job, this apprenticeship isn’t the be-all, end-all of your life, you’re not owed a spot, that the theater troupe is looking for who can contribute, which doesn’t just mean what talents you bring, but also how much you can subsume your own needs for the betterment of the group and embracing what it means to work collectively in a community).

      1. Ro*

        Forgot to add- If the OP loves the creative experience of theater, you can still get that feeling without this apprenticeship.

        Granted, if what you love about theater is performing or maybe directing or producing (and you don’t have the means to self-fund), it may not be as easy. *Many* people want to be performers, professional or otherwise, and there are never opportunities for all (hence the “get used to rejection” advice), but even so, if you love live theater, there really is no excuse for not doing it. It doesn’t have to be Broadway level, it could be an all-volunteer production made up of other like-minded people in your own community with a bare-bones budget. Whatever is exciting to you about this apprenticeship program, try to incorporate it. My guess is if the OP did this, they might find it even more exciting and invigorating than the apprenticeship!

        1. Powerpants*

          I was actually guessing that the NY thing was a paid workshop that anyone can sign up for but just a guess.

          1. Liz T*

            I wondered that as well. If so, it’s probably the kind of experience OP really wants!

          2. AioliOnIt*

            The NY thing is a large-scale multi-day thing with mostly unskilled random volunteers, anyone welcome. It’s not a paid workshop or teaching environment of any sort – more like “ok all volunteers line up over here, count off by fours, all twos grab a paintbrush, and threes are the angry mob….”
            I don’t think the OP’s chances are good of being encountered by or remembered by anyone in a position with any authority over summer program spots. The coordinator was just trying to soften the blow of not picking them for the summer, by saying hey come help us when we’re in NY.

    2. Quandong*

      I completely agree with Powerpants. Not only does there need to be trust and openness to criticism, but the ability to regulate one’s own emotional state. Extremely good communication skills are necessary, and this includes non-verbal communication. Feeling safe is incredibly important.

      OP seems very self-centred and not like an easy person to work with.

  23. Annie Mouse*

    Is the door permanently closed even if a ton of time has passed? I handled a Peace Corps rejection poorly at 22. While this is still years away, I have thought about applying again in my 50s or 60s post retirement. (Please remove if this is too off topic).

    1. Batgirl*

      I don’t think anybody would remember? If they did, the passage of time would probably soften it a lot.

    2. Polymer Phil*

      Good point. There is so much turnover in a lot of workplaces that a person who did something like this could probably re-apply in a few years when everyone who remembers the incident is gone.

    3. LKW*

      Depends on how bad the reaction was and whether you were marked as a Never Hire. The entire hiring crew will have retired by then so they only thing they’d have is your file.

      1. AlmostRetiredHRLady*

        There’s not likely to be any kind of files after 20+ years. I don’t keep applicant files longer than 1 year. Employee files are gone after 7. If *I* were gone, no one would recall.

    4. Sloan Kittering*

      Yeah this is quite a different case because it’s so extremely unlikely that the same people would still be around to make the connection, and even if there was a bad note in a file somewhere (?? you would have had to REALLY flame out) I think more people can understand how completely someone can grow in that much time. This was a year later and OP clearly hasn’t learned the right lesson based on the certified letter.

      1. ArtsNerd*

        To elaborate, the theatre troupe OP is likely referring to (though not necessarily, but will be of a similar nature) is celebrating its 50th anniversary — and is still headed by the person who founded it. It’s a small group of people making the acceptance decisions, and anyone who becomes a “story” in the office has a much high chance of being remembered years later, even if there is turnover in the role.

        e.g. There’s a booking agency I will never work with because its owner mistreated me when I was a student volunteer over 10 years ago. That’s not something that happens in the same way in a large bureaucracy.

    5. Jennifer*

      Extremely different, plus you can use your youth as an excuse for poor behavior. Not that it’s okay for anyone to behave the way the OP did at any age, but it’s a bit more understandable at 22.

      You may want to look up their policies though.

    6. Cap*

      It wouldn’t surprise me if PC held on to your application materials for 30-40 years since they are a US government agency, but I doubt it would hold you back as long as you meet the application requirements. They deal with a lot of young, immature applicants. As long as you can demonstrate that you’ve changed since you were 22, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Yeah, the question is whether they’ll reference the files. Were the files moved on to a computer? If not- they essentially don’t exist.

    7. Confused*

      I doubt anyone would remember, or that any of the people will even work there. Unless you tried to set the building on fire, I think you’re fine.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      There’s a lot better chance for you given the size and structure of PC.

      Whereas a small acting circle, back to back years and continuing to show impatience and poor behavior is the critical error I see here.

      If OP had changed and taken a few years off, then submitted a new application with an apology in the cover letter, things may have been different overall. However there’s no time passed and they called numerous times. They’re pegged as “do not hire ever” by everyone involved, I’m sure.

  24. Jennifer*

    Just as an FYI – there are a lot of women out there who have pursued their dreams after 50. You should google it. There are many inspiring stories. Some have to wait until that age because they raised children in their younger years. I don’t want to discourage your dreams, OP. I just want you to go about pursuing them differently.

      1. Shad*

        It could definitely be either—on first read, I read it as the kind of woman who fits that “I want to see your manager” stereotype and thinks expiration dates, age/height limits (on rides/for movies/games), etc. don’t apply to them (and their dependents) if they want something. But I can also see where it fits into other stereotypical narratives around people who think no is for other people. Just depends on which type you have more/fresher experience with. I’ve recently escaped the retail employee circle of hell, so that’s the one that’s freshest for me.

  25. PugLife*

    Theatre is a small world and any type of theatre group is extremely collaborative. Reputations matter. This group is closed to you, and so are the people you interacted with at this group — be very hesitant to audition anywhere where you’d be working with them.

  26. LKW*

    You are going to have to accept that you, and only you, may have stopped this particular dream in it’s tracks. That you got a response at all, including a nice note about New York, speaks to the patience of the coordinator. You made a mistake and instead of accepting that you were wrong, you made it someone else’s problem to fix.

    You have your reasons for your aggressive behavior, but that’s not justification. I think that you say you could be so busy being creative you wouldn’t have time to be negative, that’s another red flag. If someone framed their participation in that way, I would be wary. I want to spend time with people who can manage their emotions constructively and deal with the unexpected and negative that may occur. I think you have created a situation that you’d always be looking for evidence that the coordinator told someone about your interactions. I’d be worried that you’d spend the time waiting for others to be unkind or selfish and that you couldn’t roll with disappointment of not getting a particular role.

  27. Venus*

    I completely agree with Alison on this one. I have been in places where I had to work and live with the same group of people, and that dynamic makes it particularly hard if anyone is inclined to be negative and critical. In my situations I would have greatly appreciated if there had been some way to minimize the negative people, and if I was a participant in that theatre group then I would be appreciative of any efforts to choose people based on personality.

    To add, in my experience there is a big difference between introverted / extroverted and positive / negative. I’m totally fine with people who are quiet and don’t contribute all the time, provided they aren’t unnecessarily critical of others.

    > But I believe and know that most of these would be eased and I could handle myself and hold my own. Because (1) I would feel accepted by my dream, and (2) I thrive when I’m doing my passion. I’m in love with the theater creative process. I would be too busy for any negativity.

    This sounds like the bad stereotype of That Guy who gets rejected by a woman, and with that rejection criticizes her, and then says “If only she had agreed to go out on the date, I would have been a really nice and supportive boyfriend”. Maybe that example is a bit of a stretch, and maybe you would be fine. Yet, personally, based on your comments, I would have little reason to trust that you would be collaborative and helpful when serious challenges arise.

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      “Too busy for negativity” is sticking out for me now in a way it didn’t before – I haven’t done theater since high school, but I remember notes being a significant part of the theater experience. You did your best, were told that it wasn’t good enough and how to make it better, you tried again and gave it your best, were told it was wrong in a different way, you tried again…basically up until closing night. I remember being in performances with people who didn’t take notes well, too, and it was uncomfortable to almost scary at some points – I cannot imagine having a creative partner that reacted badly to things and that I couldn’t escape at the end of the day.

      1. Batgirl*

        Poor wording possibly, but to me this just translates into “Negativity is my resting state”. I also hope I’m misreading where OP seems to completely accept the angry label…with no plans to manage her anger or change in future? You need to be a non-angry person no matter the context.

      2. Venus*

        Your comment reminds me of something else:
        Being busy and sleeping in shared spaces is almost guaranteed to be exhausting (I remember sleeping for a week straight after months of shared living and long days of work). As a result, I was emotional, cranky, and not reacting well. I am normally the opposite, so thankfully my reputation survived the experience quite well with a lot of apologies to friends and colleagues who were ‘home’ (those who were with me at the time were the same as me – we tried to cope by acknowledging when we were having a bad day).

        The concept of being too busy to be negative… is not something that has worked out well for me, in my experience. The OP might be an exception, but given their reactions so far I would not want to take the risk.

        1. Alexander Graham Yell*

          I don’t know if you’ve ever read Packing for Mars by Mary Roach, but there is a fascinating bit about the Japanese space program and the tests they put potential astronauts through in order to make sure that they will not only be able to continue to be precise with their work but to be able to live in small spaces with other people for prolonged periods of time. It takes skill and patience and a lot of forgiveness to be with people in any kind of communal living for more than a week or two while doing difficult work, even if you like them and everybody’s communication is top notch.

          1. Venus*

            I have read that book and greatly enjoyed it – the potential astronauts have to fold a lot of paper cranes, and their speed / accuracy is constantly measured. I suspect that they are testing to see how much the participants slow down or get sloppy, in comparison to where they were when they started, and keep note of how frustrated they get when they make mistakes later on when they are tired (so the evaluators aren’t looking for the fastest crane folders, or the most skilled, but rather the most consistent under pressure).

            1. Alexander Graham Yell*

              The part I was thinking about was when they have to do this WHILE living in confined quarters where things go wrong. They look for both the precision in the work AND the ability to cope with stress and other people in confined spaces for long periods of time (I’m remember 90 days for some reason, but it’s been a while).

            2. Tiny Soprano*

              “…the evaluators aren’t looking for the fastest crane folders, or the most skilled, but rather the most consistent under pressure.”

              This right here. Add in ‘polite and personable’ and this is How To Keep Working In The Performing Arts 101.

        2. Middle School Teacher*

          Yes, agree 100%. I am leaving tonight on a three-week project, with three other people, in a developing country. We have spent a ton of time team building, collaborating, and discussing strategies precisely because as you say, working and living with people is exhausting and emotions will be high.

      3. Manon*

        Very much agree with this. I’m in college studying music and it can be difficult to deal with the criticism you get at every lesson and rehearsal. It’s typically not until after a final concert/recital that you hear “Great job this semester.”

        It sounds like the LW hasn’t done any creative work in a while and has built up this experience as something magical and transformative but it’s important to remember that for much of the time, art is work. It’s frustrating to constantly practice and revise and question yourself, and even more so when working in a collaborative environment like a theatre troupe or music ensemble. It requires a good amount of self-control to manage that.

        1. Quandong*

          Even after that last recital or concert, it’s possible one’s teachers will give more constructive criticism – this process doesn’t end, in my experience.

      4. Full time worker part time actor*

        This is a really important thing to consider. In a past show, there was one line I really struggled with. I got notes about that line at every. Single. Rehearsal. Every day, for weeks. It was really frustrating. And it’s not a rare scenario in acting.

        If I was a director, I wouldn’t be looking forward to giving notes to a person who approaches rejection the way the OP has here.

      1. Venus*

        Thank you for saying this much more succinctly and accurately than I could have hoped for!

    2. Allison*

      Right. You know all those reality shows where a group of people have to live in a house together, and there’s all sorts of drama? Who creates that drama? Overly negative, critical people who react poorly when they don’t get their way – like if someone asks them to clean up after themselves, or the person they like goes and sleeps with someone else.

      OP, surely there are community theater programs in your area, that don’t require you to live with your castmates or directors for the rehearsal period.

      1. katherine*

        To be fair, on reality TV shows it’s the production and editing crew who largely manufacture that drama, but the point still stands.

        1. Shad*

          And part of how production manufactures that drama is by hiring *for* the person who’s going to do it for them and by encouraging them to indulge in the drama llama behavior rather than reacting maturely.

          1. Boobookitty*

            Add in little to do during down time except drink alcohol (no TV, Internet, games, etc.), it’s a recipe for delicious drama!

  28. SRF*

    OP-have you thought about seeing a therapist? It seems like you’ve hinged a lot on this particular dream and it might be worth exploring why. It’ll also give you a channel to outlet your anger help you find some healthy coping mechanisms to deal with rejection.

  29. Flash Bristow*

    Oh, OP, I’m sorry – especially when I read you were nearer my age and not in perfect health; disability has forced me to give up dreams too, and where I can still do things (like seeing my favourite artist at a gig) I have to accept it will no longer be from the front by the stage.

    To be honest I read the subject of your post, said “nope!” and almost didn’t read on. It seems clear cut, sadly, and the more energy you throw at this, the more emotional you’ll become…

    But Alison is right – there WILL be opportunities. You’re now far more aware of how you come over, and watching then policing your behaviour, right? I agree – try somewhere else. This one group may have been your focus but it’s passed; now concentrate on finding a new focus. But not so much that it wraps you up and drives you mad if you don’t succeed first time.

    As long as you learn from your experiences and are open to feedback, there’s hope. Just maybe not in the direction you anticipated. Good luck.

  30. stephistication1*

    That was very unkind. True, they didn’t behave at their best but geez. I applaud this person for writing in…to a forum where they know they will be openly judged. Can’t be easy…

    1. that's gonna be a yikes from me*

      it’s not unkind to suggest therapy to someone who by their own admission has anger and trust issues.

    2. wittyrepartee*

      I go to therapy! I have a lot of anxiety and big feelings that are hard to manage sometimes. I regularly recommend therapy to friends for some of the bigger emotional upheavals in life. Life is hard, and it’s even harder when you get in your own way (such as responding in anger to a place you’d like to reapply to).

      1. Overseer Vimes of the Look*

        And therapy is fantastic for dealing with grief for a lot of people, and OP may well be grieving the loss of this dream. There’s no shame in it.

  31. stephistication1*

    “Because (1) I would feel accepted by my dream, and (2) I thrive when I’m doing my passion.”

    Though a lot of our actions are driven by personal desires, sometimes it helps to remove all of the “I’s” and look at our motives from a global perspective. Perfect8fine for you to apply but when the rejection came, apprici

    1. stephistication1*

      Appreciate that everything isn’t about just you. We have to consider our actions and how they impact others. So when things don’t go our say, we don’t lash out as though we are a victim. “No” is an opportunity to reassess your plans from all angles. Hostility sometimes feels justified up until we consider the recipient of our aggression.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Yes, I really have to wonder whether OP understands that “I’m nicer when I’m happy” is true for… literally everyone? So from other peoples’ perspective, that’s not really a selling point, or a reason to believe you’d be an easy person to work with. And from the coordinator’s perspective, that’s what she needs to be most concerned with – hiring a team that can work well together.

  32. L Dub*

    As both a hiring manager and someone who is in the performing arts, it’s great you have a romantic idea of what theater would be like and that it’s your dream, but your anger and trust issues will not magically go away because you went to an apprenticeship.

    Just because this is your dream does not entitle you to behave like this towards other people. This is the same dream a LOT of other people have had, and they’ve had to apply many times to get into the same apprenticeship you’re scoffing at having to apply 3 times for.

    Personally, I would not have been comfortable inviting you to NY even on your own dime. I’m incredibly surprised the hiring manager extended that offer to you.

  33. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    OP, I would highly recommend counselling for you if you can access it. You display a lot of entitlement to joining this group because it’s your “dream”, as well as minimizing language (“…but I think I more demanded a reply.”) regarding your own actions.

  34. Zephy*

    +1 from the land of 10,000 yikes. The comment above this one highlights OP’s belief that they wouldn’t be so quick to anger if they got what they want, and the only people I’ve ever met that think that way have Problems with a capital P.

  35. Fiddlesticks*

    Ok, OP. I’m in my 50s too. Like many other readers who’ve commented here, when I started reading through your letter, I assumed from its tone and wording that you must be in your 20s. But when I saw your age, it clicked…mid-life crisis. Believe me, I’ve been there, wishing I could bring back the glory days (such as they were) of my youthful achievements and dreams now that I’m twenty or thirty years down the road, not wanting to admit that time has indeed moved on and there are some things I just will never recapture.

    Instead taking your hurt and anger and fear on a drive to New York, take it to a kind, licensed therapist who can start working with you on ways to move forward instead of being chained to the past. Hopefully, you will then be open to seeing and embracing the many opportunities that are all around you in the present. Fifty can be the start of a whole new life, if you let it! I wish you all the very best.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is a great comment.

      I also read it as a cry out due to their failing health, they’re seeing their mortality taunt them and it’s ringing those mid life crisis alarms full speed.

  36. Batgirl*

    OP, this is the problem with labelling something a ‘dream’! I really encourage you to look up what Alison has written about dream jobs and the whole mentality that goes with it.
    That word right there will turn you away from the work, away from reasoned judgement, and straight into drama (no pun intended!) and stress and unbearable perfectionism. I’m currently tackling a project I long considered my ultimate dream; so much time has passed me and my dream by, because that word had me totally stalled. Everything had to be perfect and fall into place instantly or the whole thing was worthless and hopeless.
    I’m now refocusing on it as actual work. I accept that it’s just hard graft, that it’s messy, and full of potholes and although it is ultimately art, that it’s also a mundane task involving other people, which may or may not pan out on this attempt. It’s definitely going better with this approach and if it fails; I’ll know I tried the best approach at least.

  37. NW Mossy*

    This letter and response are a fine addition to Alison’s excellent sub-genre “There’s No Such Thing as a Dream Job,” because it gets straight to the heart of why setting a particular job/role out as The Dream does the seeker more harm than good. The buildup and the air-castles we build in our minds of how amazing our lives will be when we get The Dream Job means pull our perspective out of focus, making it nearly impossible to see that a whole world of other chances, other paths, and other goals remains there at the edges of our vision.

    This troupe doesn’t hold your destiny or the only keys to your ambitions – those live within your own heart and mind. It can be a scary place to explore, particularly in mid-life when you’re coming into the realization that you’re inexorably on the downslope of your lifespan. But within that internal wilderness, there’s a lot of soul-satisfying stuff to be found. You can find the understanding of what specific aspects of your past experience gave you the most joy, and look for new ways to cultivate those sensations in your life today. You can find the sense of strength that develops when you face disappointments and losses but continue to see small moments of happiness anyway. You can see how releasing yourself from the pressure of an unrealized goal can give you freedom to engage new pursuits.

    It’s hard work, this stuff. But what’s harder is the insistent strain of carrying anger and hurt, and spilling that onto others when our desires are frustrated.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      This is really compassionate and well-said. Picking up on your first paragraph, I would also add that building up a particular job as The Dream can be really counterproductive to actually getting it. From the coordinator’s point of view, they probably know that this summer placement is a dream role for the OP because it is for many, many other people. When you know this about a role you’re trying to fill, you often want to filter *out* the people who talk about it as a huge, emotional, personal dream instead of a position that they think they’d be good at.

      I used to be involved in the hiring of support staff (think ushers, programme-sellers, security) for a world-famous event – the type of thing where many hundreds of people would apply for the most junior roles because, they would claim, they loved the event so much that being involved in even a tiny capacity would be a dream come true. They would apply for every single available position, from usher to spotlight operator, in the hope of getting an interview for any one of them. And every year, a few days in, a number of those same people would quit. Because even if they had really, truly believed at the time that their love for the event would outweigh the downsides of the job, that would change after a few days of 3am finishes, dealing with thousands of attendees for hours and hours on their feet in all weathers, and the disappointment they felt was enormous. We would do our best to filter out this type of person, but a few would always slip through.

      That’s how the OP is striking me – the sort of people who would tell us that they wanted to be a security guard for the event because they’d dreamed of being involved since seeing it on TV in 1987, rather than because they were good security guards who wanted a job. There’s little mention here of why they think they would be a good fit for what this programme is offering, just a general idea of it as The Dream, and I worry that the reality would be an enormous shock compared to this idyllic experience they had in college and that they would take that out on those around them as they did on the coordinator.

  38. Memily*

    Others have commented on the rejection portion of this letter, and I hope the OP takes Allison’s advice to heart. Don’t go to NY, don’t try again with this company. “Dream jobs” don’t exist, but that doesn’t mean there’s not another theater program that wouldn’t be a great fit for you.

    One thing that struck me in this letter is that this job actually DOESN’T seem like a good fit for you. Of course, all I know is what you’ve written here, but here’s what I heard:
    1. You haven’t acted since a 3-day “magical” stint in the 90s. Theater may look like magic, but it’s a lot of really hard work. The personalities of the other people you deal with can be…intense. It also doesn’t seem like you’re extremely experienced in theater, so the troupe might have had to train you, in a situation where there might not be enough time to commit to that.
    2. You mention your health. It doesn’t feel like someone whose health is degrading would be served well by working somewhere where you’re “living rough” with camping/outhouse/etc.
    3. You also mention that you needed to get away for the summer. Sometimes it’s easy to fantasize something when you’re not happy with what’s happening in your life at that moment. The grass is greener and all that. Except that it very rarely actually is.

    I hope that you can come to some awareness of why your actions in this case burned a bridge. I hope you can find something that makes you happy, but I’m afraid this particular troupe just isn’t it.

    1. Arctic*

      I don’t think he said he hadn’t acted at all since his time with the trope in the 90s. Just that he hadn’t had this immersive experience since then.

      And suggesting he shouldn’t do this because of his failing health is just plain discriminatory. He knows his health and limitations.

      1. Colette*

        It doesn’t sound like the OP has a very realistic view of what this position actually entails, or how much work/discomfort is involved in living in that kind of situation. Not everyone has the physical capabilities to do farm work – and where there are some situations where that’s OK, it doesn’t sound like this one is. In particular, this situation might be fine for someone who can’t lift heavy things but will instead do the messy cleaning for everyone else to make up for it – but the OP doesn’t come across as someone who’d be willing to do that.

        1. Arctic*

          I think there is more enough to work with in the letter. No need to go off on why people with disabilities/poor healthy shouldn’t join theater troupes.

          1. MsM*

            I really don’t think that’s what people are saying. It’s just that OP’s difficulty in understanding where they went wrong with the application process suggests they may not in fact have the most accurate assessment of their personal strengths and weaknesses, period.

      2. Kella*

        I’ve got about 5 chronic illnesses and I sort of agree with Memily about the health issue. We do need to be careful about making assessments for other people about what they should and shouldn’t do with their health, because that’s an incredibly pervasive pattern that’s not helpful.

        So instead of saying, “this experience won’t serve you well because of your declining health,” I’d say, OP, have you realistically considered the impact of such a physically demanding job on your health which you say is declining and will be bad enough that in a year you wouldn’t be able to consider going at all?

        Because given that it seems like OP hasn’t had realistic expectations about the chances of being accepted into this group, or about how people will respond to angry and demanding emails, or about how the problems of daily life continue even when you achieve your dreams, there seems like a significant chance that the physical aspect of this issue is another part that OP has glossed over in their dream scenario where they are always happy and are always the best version of themselves after they join the troop.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          I do think there is an element, though, where a person (particularly someone newly aware of declining health or impending disability) can latch on to an experience in an unrealistic way because the last time they had it, they were healthy.

          I recently helped a friend downsize from her house to an apartment. In the past five years her physical condition has changed dramatically; she used to walk a mile to work every day, bike and swim on weekends, etc., and now on bad days she has trouble getting from living room to bedroom. But on her good days, she feels like her old lifestyle might be attainable again, and the house became a symbol of that which was very hard for her to let go.

          OP needs to take a more realistic look at their situation in general, and that makes it somewhat more likely that they’re underestimating the effect that this job would have on their health, and that their health would have on their comfort/enjoyment if they go this job.

    2. Dusty Bunny*

      Yesssssss — Theater may look like magic, but it’s a lot of really hard work.

      Fresh out of university, I had an unpaid second career (night job?) in community theater for three years, until complete and utter burnout. FWIW – I still enjoy going to theater, as an audience member, but no longer have a desire to be on stage. Having said that, I still get a bite of the bug and think, “But I could volunteer to usher. I see they have a youth program that needs volunteers. Someone has to sew buttons on the costumes.”

      And then I come to my senses and go home after the curtain call, having applauded vigorously for the cast and crew … because I know how much work goes in to a production.

  39. Not Tom, Just Petty*

    I’m reading this at Chuck E Cheese where I just had the conversation with my five year old nephew:
    “You need to give me the token card. I will hold it”
    (Nephew proceeds to swipe it on a game five times saying No)
    I take the card and tell him he can have it when he behaves.
    “I will behave if you give it to me.”
    That’s not how it works.
    But I’m in my late 40s, so I kind of know that.
    OP. Please see someone you can talk to about expectations and actions. You’ll feel better when you take control of your life back.

    1. Mimi Me*

      Yeah, this idea that once I have the thing I want I will behave the way others want me to behave is a lie children tell themselves almost as soon as they start to walk and talk. Most people outgrow this – at least they outgrow the part where they say it out loud. I think most people lie to themselves this way all the time. Who hasn’t said something along the lines of “I’ll just let myself do this thing that’s wrong for me tonight and start living my best self in the morning”? It’s the reason New Years Resolutions fail so quickly.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        Conversely, I’m doing this thing that is wrong for me, (over eating, staying up too late, spending money, not exercising) because of some outside reason. Not really my fault, I have to do this because X, but when that element is gone everything will be perfect for me too do Y.

    2. Allison*

      I wish more people would understand that good behavior isn’t currency. We often talk about this when we talk about “nice guys” in the dating world, but it extends beyond that. It’s true that good behavior is often rewarded, but you can’t expect a certain outcome just because you’re “good,” or because you promise to be good, nor is it fair to get angry when someone doesn’t do what you want them to do, or give you what you want, just because you’ve been good.

      1. MamaSleepy*

        This is so true. I’ve been working on this with my pre-teen step kid. There isn’t a magical combination of words and actions that will make people do what he wants, and they can still stay no even if he asked nicely. Being polite does not guarantee that a person will get what they want, and turning nasty when people say no will probably make them think twice about saying yes next time.

  40. LawBee*

    OP, I also wonder if there was some concern about your ability to handle the manual labor part of the theater group. You say your health is getting worse – are you sure you’d be up to communal living, communal dining, AN OUTHOUSE (basically communal pooping)? I am 46 and there is no way in hell I would want to do any of those things, no matter if this was my dream job or not, and my health is just fine. But nothing is sparkly and magical enough to make me want to sit on a slab and poop into a pit.

    Most towns have some kind of community theater. Even many small towns have something. Or you could volunteer to help out with the local schools, maybe even direct! Or hell, go for it whole hog and start auditioning everywhere and anywhere, or start your own company, or something – but this group isn’t for you, and you aren’t for them. It doesn’t mean give up on your dream! But pursue it in a place that has modern plumbing.

    1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I worked with a woman in her 60s who did an arts festival like that, full rustic commune setup, and recall her telling us that the toilets were 5 gallon buckets with a layer of sawdust in the bottom, and you “flushed” after you went by pouring more sawdust down it. And emptying the toilets was assigned on a rotating basis.

      I cannot see LW being game for that IRL.

    2. Fortitude Jones*

      Amen to your last sentence, LawBee. There’s no way I’d be up for any of this unless I could get the rare exception to go stay in a nearby hotel at night, lol. Me and nature don’t need to be that close.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s bad enough most of our beaches have pit toilets, the idea of using one in a living situation is a huge “nope bye” and I’m in my 30’s and in fine health.

      But to each their own of course. I have family members who are super into commune living, even as aging adults/elderly folks. My uncles dug an outhouse when I was a child for our camping spot, on land we rented the rights to. I’ll never forget them giving me the lecture about “this is a dangerous thing and if you fall in it, you will die. Not because it’s gross but because gasses.” Needless to say, I used the woods and not the outhouse because I was a skittish kid who assumed the worst, I got over my “fearless” state around age 7.

      I however live for civilization, plumbing, paved streets and you know, phone reception.

    4. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, I’m 37 and healthy but… sleeping in bunk beds with a bunch of random people in the room and using an outhouse, for months on end, sounds like my personal idea of hell. I am a super introvert who neeeeeeeds privacy.

      I mean, some people would love that, but it’s really, really not for everyone.

  41. jiminy_cricket*

    Bad times in our lives or uncomfortable feelings in our hearts are not reason to behave however we want without consequence. I don’t know that many would have been even as kind and gracious as the coordinator was to you. And losing this particular version of this particular dream is the consequence. BUT, here’s the great part, you are now in a great place to learn, grow, and find another, perhaps even better, version of this dream. This dream does not die today if you unleash your flexibility and humility onto it, and I wish you the best of luck in that endeavor.

  42. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    I’ve worked in theater (alongside a traditional day job) for over a decade and the other thing I want to say is, figure out what part of the dream is the dream. Because a theatrical career (or even intensive) is really hard, and often in ways that make other things harder. The people who stick it out either have a truly superhuman devotion to their craft that complements a supreme practicality about pay-the-bills shows, or they have external financial support. The rest of us either get burned out and leave or find a way to fit it in to the work that we can live with and live on.

    If you’re looking for a sense of community, camaraderie, and purpose, you’ll find it in community theater, local festivals, creative groups, etc. Community theater is the unsung MVP of theater-making and it releases so many of us from the grind that can tarnish the shine on something we love so much. Don’t give up on your dream, but get really clear on what it is.

    1. Fabulous*

      Agreed 100%. As someone who has been in the theatre for 20+ years, participated both in small and big community theatres as well as small and big professional theatre companies, community theatre is the hands down best place for camaraderie and purpose. And it doesn’t cost anything to get involved on the tech side! OP, I would perhaps look into helping backstage at a local theatre and see if that suits your needs at all. Community theatres are LITERALLY ALWAYS looking for good stagehands, or someone to run the spotlight. There will never not be a need there.

      1. PromotionalKittenBasket*

        And for my druthers, I think it’s way more fun–but I can’t act worth a damn. :D

    2. Working Mom Having It All*


      THIS. So much so that I’m stealing “figure out what part of the dream is the dream.” I have a lot of friends who “want to work in the entertainment industry” but don’t know what they specifically want to do, how to find out how to do that, what about that particular thing would make them happy, or what they are really looking for. They need to figure out what part of the dream is the dream. Brilliant.

    3. Dr Rat*

      “Figure out what part of the dream is the dream.” Beautiful! If you burn out of either of your current careers, consider a future in counseling. Seriously.

  43. Lady Phoenix*

    Yeah… this LW comes off as creepy to me:
    1) Blows up at a rejection (because he was late and it was filled anyways)
    2) sent an application BEFORE applications were open with a TRACKING Mail
    3) Tries to CALL the hiring person
    4) Sent at least 2 emails demanding an answer
    5) The fact that he said his anger could have been handled had they HIRED him
    6) The fact he SHOULD have been hirrd because… passion? (Do the other applicants not matter?)

    And this dude is 50 years old and acting like an entitled child.

    Like… sorry… we don’t always get what we want, but we especially don’t get what we want by having a tantrum about it. Learn to chill and don’t be so pushy. One application, one email, no blowing up, no phone calls, and no tracking mails/emails.

    1. remizidae*

      Why are you assuming this person is male? Women can be pushy and entitled too!

      1. Johnny Tarr*

        Sigh. Plenty of other comments refer to the LW as “she.” Do you plan to argue with them too?

        1. Blank*

          It’s conventional on this site to use she/her for LWs, if nothing is stated in the letter itself

    2. Working Mom Having It All*

      Personally I’m just wondering what arts programs like this still want paper submissions. Granted, I work in comedy rather than Serious Theatre, but everything I’ve ever submitted to, even some highly selective fellowships and actual professional gigs, has wanted an email or an online submission form, not physical mail.

      (If they did request snail mail, I actually think sending it with some kind of tracking option like certified mail or priority mail or FedEx would be considered normal, because you wouldn’t want to waste time assuming they had received your packet when they actually hadn’t.)

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I’ve seen some that want a physical portfolio sent in (which they return to you later). The snail mail + certified is not necessarily odd. I couldn’t tell from the letter if the point of mentioning that was they were being extra conscientious or if they were making sure to follow instructions to the letter this time. If the latter, it wasn’t at all clear that that’s the point, but I’ve seen enough of these things that I thought of it, but if the OP is assuming everyone reading would understand that, they’re probably a bit off base. I also couldn’t tell if when OP mentioned submitting early if they meant at the very start of the application period for the following year or if they meant before it officially started. If the former, OK fine, but if the latter…that’s not better than being late the year before.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Hahaha, yes, it’s to the limit! I asked my friend Joe, I asked my friend Jake.

            Love your username, too, Gazebo Slayer! (Now the gazebo has an arrow in it.)

        1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          Yeah, I don’t see sending this by tracked mail as odd – mostly just seems like the best way to ensure the application was received. Any time I’ve applied for anything that required a snail mail application, I sent it tracked. The thing about ‘early’ did throw me, though – if OP just meant ‘before the deadline’, well, that’s not really early, it’s just on time; if it means ‘before the application window’… wow, too intense.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            tracked =/= certified. You can get tracking for free. Certified costs a few bucks. Why spring for certified? If you might need legal proof it was received.

  44. KayEss*

    The “red flags” could be a tad bit of … anger, maybe trust issues. But I believe and know that most of these would be eased and I could handle myself and hold my own. Because (1) I would feel accepted by my dream, and (2) I thrive when I’m doing my passion.

    Oh, LW.

    The kind of anxiety and insecurity that causes rejection-related anger outbursts and overall trust issues is never, ever satisfied by one acceptance. This is magical thinking of the highest order—“if only these external conditions beyond my control were perfectly aligned this one time, all my internal problems would be fixed forever.” The reality is that whatever causes you to second-guess yourself and react with anger to that discomfort is not going to go away without sustained work. Even if this group turned around and welcomed you with open arms, I guarantee those feelings would still be there, eating and eating away.

    I strongly suggest you look into working with a therapist or self-directed Cognitive Behavioral Therapy resources to alleviate the stress that causes your negative reactions. Your interest in theater could even be a helpful part of that process, as joining a low-stakes theater group would give you a lot of opportunity to practice receiving critical, non-personal feedback and managing your reactions.

    I really recognize some of the underlying current of pain in this letter, and I hope you’re able to address the root of it and live your best life.

    1. pentamom*

      Thank you. This is exactly the part of the letter I would have liked to address, but didn’t know how to do it without seeming unkind. You did a great job of it.

    2. Former Young Lady*

      I made money working at a small, semi-professional theatre for over a decade, onstage and off. Here are some hard truths:

      1. There was occasionally room in the cast for a “diva” or “high maintenance actor” who had a proven track record of delivering great results. But they had to have the experience and the chops to be worth it — if the big ego was a result of success, it might be tolerated. Even then, there was a limit to how much nose-holding the rest of us would do. Think of it this way: if poor morale could sink Lindsay Lohan, it could certainly destroy any small fish in a small pond.
      2. Negative feedback was always possible, at any stage of a production. You might get rejected after first-round auditions, or at callbacks; you might get cut from the cast if you were unreliable at rehearsal, or you might get “notes” about things to fix if your performance was falling flat; you might get hate mail during the production run, or a bad newspaper review, or the Board might blacklist you if you did something terrible on closing night. Generally speaking, good performers knew and accepted these risks and adjusted their behavior accordingly. The people who flipped out when they felt slighted…well, they didn’t last long.
      3. A lack of respect for boundaries was a big red flag. Live theatre requires things like physical contact, communal changing, stunt choreography, and observing countless safety/security protocols, so someone who disregards the norms is a major liability. Lifetime bans were not unheard of.
      4. People who have this “dream” are legion. Unless you were a particularly rare “type” that suited a niche casting need, there was almost always someone else, waiting in the wings. If they had a better attitude and equal (or better) talent, you were definitely expendable.
      5. Bad reputations carried over from other companies weren’t always dealbreakers, but they were certainly factored in. Getting all-out blacklisted somewhere was a bigger deal.

    3. Harper the Other One*

      This is so true. My mother-in-law is a prime example of this – everything will be better once X happens, but when X is done… the anger and resentment isn’t gone. There is no satisfying it because she’s never tackled the actual issue.

  45. Rectilinear Propagation*

    Part of the problem here is that you’ve already demonstrated that you’re not good with hearing “no.” Pushing back again would reinforce that impression.

    Yes, absolutely, and the fact that they offered to let you join them in New York would make that ironclad.

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree with everyone else in that they don’t actually want you to show up there. But technically they’ve already offered you a way to prove that you can work with them. By pushing back, you’d not only be proving you can’t handle a ‘no’ but that you can’t handle compromise. You’d be proving that you’ll throw a fit if you don’t everything you want exactly the way that you want it.

    That’s not the reputation you want for yourself.

    Please find a healthy way to deal with your disappointment and anger and let this opportunity go.

  46. Rainbow Roses*

    Sorry OP, but you blew it and it still sound like you think if you can just force your way in, that they can see a thriving person. It doesn’t work that way.
    What they see now is someone who can’t handle pressure. You missed the deadline and instead of simply saying Oops, you lashed out defensively and aggressively. Then the following year, you hound them for an answer. Even now, you’re thinking “Apply again next year?! Apply three times?!”
    What if you manage to get in and don’t receive the parts you want? What if they assign you to background or grunge work? They have reason to fear your reaction.

    If you really want to pursue this, find another company and learn to control your entitled and aggressive attitude.

  47. WellRed*

    It’s not up to others to fulfill your dreams and passions. Please let this go.

  48. Louise*

    Being able to handle rejection with grace is one of the *most* important skills if you ever want to be involved in theatre in any way. I’m not surprised they said no after that response. Because with theatre, you never “fulfill your dream.” The vast majority of people who make a living off acting are constantly auditioning, constantly being rejected, constantly holding their head up and not burning bridges. It was too much of an emotional weight for me to do and stay happy and healthy, which is why I left the industry.

  49. Theater Tech in a Past Life*

    I’m a little saddened at the tone of some of these comments which feel pretty unkind. It is so hard when you have something you really desperately want and then get rejected from it. Many of us would not respond in the best way possible. When something has been built it up in our minds, sometimes reacting in anger or defense is unfortunate, but it does happen. The rejection feels personal even though it is not personal. Having been on the other side of this one, that is to say getting the angry emails, I would urge you to find another group and another opportunity to pursue theater if that is what you love. I would never work again with someone who reacted angrily to rejection from me, especially in something like theater where so much is about trust and there’s already enough drama going around. (Seriously, I got out of that field for a reason. My god, so much drama.)

    In many ways the Coordinator did you a kindness by letting you know that this was not going to be the group for you. That is okay! There are other groups and other opportunities. I would urge you to take a class or a workshop and show yourself to be a calm, kind, professional person. As you do that, you may find you can overcome this within the small community of theater folks in your area, but I think this particular apprenticeship is one you may need to give up.

    1. Kaitlyn*

      I think it’s worth digging deep on why someone believes something something holds The Key To One’s Life, and what happens when it’s out of one’s grasp. Putting so much pressure on one opportunity—a job based on skill, experience, collaboration, empathy, none of which OP demonstrated to this hiring manager—is a great way to feel dejected and hopeless and angry and frightened that you’ve somehow poisoned the well and will never feel whole.

      Someone upthread said “figure out what part of the dream is the dream,” which, for this situation especially, is so insightful and kind. This theatre troupe wasn’t going to solve OP’s life, or give her the keys to herself at the age of 50; but identifying pathways to channel this desire for creativity, community, and connection will be foundational to OP’s exploration of herself in this phase of her life.

    2. Boobookitty*

      Thank you for your empathetic response. I’m not the OP but feel better just reading your kind comments and advice!

  50. SilverIris*

    OP, in your letter you are engaged in a lot of minimizing and wishful thinking.

    unfortunately I reacted defensively and aggressively.
    -I wasn’t used to being rejected,
    -and this is a small dream I so wish to fulfill
    -and I really desperately needed and wanted to go away last summer.

    You cite 3 reasons why your defensive and aggressive response should be mitigated. These are 3 reasons that the hiring manager had no way of knowing, so she can’t account for them as she considers your bad behavior. Furthermore, these reasons are not circumstances beyond your control; at 50 years old, you should be able to control your response to rejection, disappointment, and desperation without resorting to defensiveness and aggression to a potential hiring manager. If you don’t have those emotional controls already in place, you are not a great candidate for a hiring manager to bring on board.

    In your second attempt, you tried to address what you perceived as the problem: applying after the deadline. So you combined a lot of tactics that, taken together, paint a picture of aggressive determination to get your way. The certified mail was not in itself a problem. Calling the manager was slightly more problematic, as email is the traditional means of contact. You then wrote at least 2 additional emails within a week to 10 days, and “I think more demanded a reply.”

    To this hiring manager (who does not know you, your history, your dreams, your reasons), you have been: late in submitting your original application, and then defensive, aggressive, and demanding after submitting a second application. That’s all she knows about you.

    Can you see, when looked at from this perspective, why this particular theater troupe is not going to be an avenue for you going forward? This is the very real risk that happens when you allow bad behavior to seep out at perceived rejection, and I’m very sorry it stings to learn this. I hope that you find another avenue to meet this long-held dream and that your health improves.

    1. CM*

      True, and also — saying you need this because it’s your dream and passion is like saying you need a raise because you have an expensive home and car. Somebody who’s hiring you isn’t responsible for your dream, passion, home, and car. They’re looking for the best person for this position.

  51. Liz T*

    As the Artistic Director of a theater festival: can confirm. We have no interest in working with people who’ve behaved unprofessionally and hostilely. There is literally no reason to do so.

    This is particularly true in response to rejection because: THEATER LIFE IS REJECTION.

    You will get rejected from so many things, so many times, over the course of a theater career. Even if you’re brilliant. Actor, writer, director, doesn’t matter. Sometimes it’s because you’re the wrong fit, sometimes it’s because you’re too similar to something/someone they’ve already got, sometimes there’s just not enough room and tough choices have to be made. So when someone acts like their rejection is oh-so-special, that tells me they a) are really inexperienced, b) lack empathy, and thus c) would be nightmares to work with.

    And the other thing is: in five years running a festival, I’ve actually had to deal with this way less than you’d think! I send rejection emails from my own company address, but not even once a year do I get someone pushing back on a rejection. So you are standing out in a terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-way.

  52. Oxford Comma*

    OP: I can’t tell if you’ve been active in theatre recently, maybe successfully at a community theatre level and this dream opportunity was the next step up or if you’ve been away from theatre for thirty years.

    Either way, I would write this off. It’s unfortunate and I’m sorry you won’t get to realize this dream, but I wouldn’t have accepted you either. Certainly not after your demanding a yes or no to your application. It sounds like at a minimum you’ve established yourself as a “high maintenance, but thinks they’re low maintenance” person and possibly as a person with an anger management problem. If you keep trying to knock at this door, I don’t think it will end well.

  53. theatre blogger*

    A collaborative theatre troupe with a primitive communal living situation would never have a first-come, first-served admission process. “their response said they were full” means that they looked at the applications they had, chose the ones they thought would be the best fit for the program they had that year and their goals, and told the rest of the applicants that they were full. They might have been looking for evidence of previous participation in devised theatre, other performance experience, evidence that the person has experience with communal living and/or hardship postings, other information suggesting strong potential, and both diversity and compatibility. If I were advising someone whose dream was to attend Clown Farm or some other program like this, I’d suggest that they get more experience in all these areas and write up how they’re related, provide video of creation product, and solicit references. Your expectations were off-base to start with – acceptance to this kind of program is never an entitlement. Your impatient hostile responses told the organizers not only that you would be difficult to work with, but that you had no idea what was appropriate.

    In my region, there are lots of opportunities for a passionate and persistent middle-aged person to become part of a creative/theatrical community. Take acting classes. Take playwriting classes. Take improv classes – these are especially good for someone who wants to do original or devised work, and to develop skills in being part of a supportive team with people of different ages and other demographics. Take clown and physical theatre, dance, voice lessons. Join a choir. Take workshops in video and filmmaking. Get to know people in the classes, and talk about projects you’d like to do. Join community/amateur theatre groups – audition for their shows but also volunteer in set painting, stage management, and ticket-taking, and mostly get to know people and make an impression as a reliable and positive contributor. Watch lots of performances and figure out what you like and why. Develop original work and submit to accessible festivals. Find other people developing work and ask about joining their team – if you are able to contribute money, offer that as part of what you can bring to the project.

    The above paragraph is what worked/works for me.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Late to the party, I know, but thank you. I wondered if anyone else would notice that OP assumed that they didn’t get in because their application was late, which – as you point out – assumes that spots are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. This might be true for children’s summer camp, but it won’t be true for programs like this.

      (To put it in business terms: getting your resume in first does not guarantee you an interview, let alone a job. You still have to be right for the position.)

      1. BeenThere-1988*

        I think some of this was a misunderstanding on the letter-writer’s part. The program she applied to gets 3 to 4 times as many applications as they have spots for each summer. But they have a lot of come-one come-all the-more-the-merrier kinds of volunteer opportunities, both at their own site and when they visit various venues – like her college 30 years ago – so she might have assumed that it worked the same way for apprentices.
        And they describe the apprenticeship program as “open to everyone” – but by that they mean there are no age limits, auditions, or other specific experience or demographic requirements – you just have to write a great application letter and send your deposit (the apprentices pay the theater group to attend the program, not the other way around). I think she did misinterpret “open to everyone” as meaning it was like your example of a children’s camp, where as long as she did the paperwork on time she’d be welcomed like she had been when she volunteered in college. If she’d understood that for every one acceptance letter there were several rejections then maybe she wouldn’t have gotten all outraged after the first try, and not effectively blacklisted because of it.

  54. Llellayena*

    Was this a paid theater role, a camp/introduction to theater where the OP would pay to attend or an all volunteer position? It doesn’t necessarily change the advice on this specific situation, but if the OP is looking at this as providing income, trying to switch into paid theater with no previous volunteer/community/school theater experience seems unlikely to work out. Start with local community theater, go to one you attend and enjoy the performances and ask when auditions are or how to find auditions (if you’re looking for stage exposure). If you’re looking for back-of house, community theaters will always welcome volunteers, though you might need to work up from “usher.” If you find a theater that does straight plays rather than musicals, they’re probably more likely to need older actors/actresses for small starter roles (unless you have a hidden talent in dance and voice). You will not get the title role in Mame in your first play, you might not even have spoken lines, but every role is important.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      I mean in general unless you are willing to move to one of a few cities and wait tables and have five roommates and eat ramen so you can put your money towards head shots, or go to (expensive, usually not well-funded) grad school, or probably both, the reality is that NOBODY is going to pivot comfortably into a full time career in the theater. With the possible exception of something like the business office of a big touring company or the like? Definitely not a paid full-time creative career.

      Most people who work in theatre have day jobs, or side gigs that aren’t directly analogous to where their dreams lie (when I worked in TV production in NYC a lot of our set painters were theatrical designers by night for no money), or they are secretly independently wealthy because of family money they never mention. Which, interestingly, is more common than you’d think. A lot of people also have advanced degrees in their relevant subject area. And this includes folks who, in a smaller town, would be thought of as “stage hands”.

      The idea that someone in middle age with no relevant experience, and a bad attitude to boot, would be selected for any sort of professional program is frankly outrageous.

      By your 50s, unless there’s a huge piece of the puzzle OP didn’t mention (like they won a Tony when they were 14 but left acting to pursue a different career and are now returning to it), you are not going to become a full time working theatre professional. Period. Might as well join your local community theatre and have a fun time doing what you love, and not let the stakes get so high.

    2. CB212*

      If it’s the company many of us are thinking it is, the summer program is one where you pay to participate. And it isn’t a training program – it’s more of a communal live-work situation with participation in large-scale performance, but you do more physical labor than artistic creation. People come from all walks of life to participate, no experience is needed – but it pretty much doesn’t lead to other stage work and certainly not to paid stage work. :) It’s an amazing world, but it isn’t a career-maker.

    3. BruteForce*

      The OP seems to have misunderstood their “open to everyone” and “no experience necessary” policies as meaning that everyone who applies on time will be accepted. In reality the spots are pretty limited and a lot of them go to returning people, and a lot to people who have some personal connections with the founders and caretakers, or their networks. If the OP had understood this better to begin with, I don’t think they would have been so disappointed and outraged about rejection. Also they’re romanticizing the whole thing based on their brief experience with the group’s visit to their college years ago. When they say that they’ll be too busy with the creative process to have time to be angry, it’s clear they don’t know they’ll probably be spending 5 hours a day stirring and wringing out dyed fabric and hanging it to dry, and then assigned to part of a crowd scene written and directed by a teenaged niece of the bookkeeper.

  55. CaliCali*

    What I noticed:

    I’m writing here to ask if you could please give me advice to get me a second look or chance for the last session? Would there be any way of writing to change her mind?

    The LW isn’t even asking about how to deal with any of the surrounding issues — even about strengthening their chances through gaining experience, etc. They’re still trying to figure out how to get their way. It’s a bit like a PUA-type approach to dating, where you don’t try to learn from any kind of rejection (and often cast blame on the other party), but still attempt to figure out how to “game the system,” so to speak. And that’s unhealthy.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Yup. OP needs to let this letter sit for a while and come back to it with fresh eyes and really look at how she comes off. None of this is a good look, and she doesn’t want to carry this behavior forward or else she’ll end up blackballed all over town.

    2. Really very*

      Came here to say this too. The focus of the letter is on this, rather than on self-reflection.

  56. drpuma*

    This strikes me as a tidy inversion of the letter from a week or two ago written by a struggling small business owner who felt their employees didn’t appreciate them. In that letter and in the work experiences of some of the commenters, what I’m hearing echoed here is an element of “Don’t they understand how hard I’m working to pursue my dream?!” And in both/all cases the answer is the same: It’s only your dream. It’s not their dream. Whether it’s employees or this theater troupe, they’re just trying to do their job and live their lives. The good news for the OP of this letter is that they have so many other options. They don’t have to worry about whether or not to sell off or shut down their business, they can apply to other troupes! Or other residency programs! Or volunteer with performing arts organizations in their community! OP, you deserve more than one dream. You deserve a bigger dream than can be fulfilled just by this one troupe. And if the idea of growing your dream feels threatening or scary to you, I have to agree with the other posters who’ve suggested therapy.

  57. Observer*

    OP, I want to reiterate something. The fact that you think that this is a dream that will keep you too busy to be negative is a huge red flag all on its own.

    I also want to note that if you have trust issues in regular life, you should not eve CONSIDER a situation where you are going to have to live and work so closely with people, be a “team player”, and accept the decisions of others whether you like them or not. (Them being both the people and the decisions.) Each one of these things needs a high level of trust to start with and in combination, it’s exponential. No amount of “living your passion” is going to overcome that. This is a recipe for total disaster, not just for the company but for you too.

    1. NW Mossy*

      Yeah, that’s putting a weight on the troupe and the experience that’s guaranteed to collapse the whole structure.

      We never escape our own heads. We can get into flow and temporarily alleviate negative feelings, but there’s no one on this earth who’s entirely free from them.

    2. Oh So Anon*

      Exactly. Thriving in a setting like this isn’t so much about “living your passion” as it is about having the self-regulation to contribute positively or neutrally to a community where everyone be comfortable and productive.

    3. Perpal*

      Yes, this “if only i can get to [thing], all my problems will be fixed!” is disturbing because there is no reason getting [the thing] would fix those problems. It’s like when people expect a significant other to somehow solve all their (insecurities, addictions, etc); no. That comes from within, not someone or something else. Setting the thing up for an impossible task because it cannot do what you are expecting it to.
      Op needs to think really hard about why they are so desperate for this gig and work on whether those are achievable and how. Is op lonely? Missing the fun and spontaneity of youth? Etc.

  58. jamberoo*

    Rejection hurts and I empathize, but “give me my dream and I promise I will behave better” is not gonna work, sorry.

  59. S*

    This reminds me of someone I knew that was shocked when she was let go from her job. Her new boss tried to be nice and gave subtle warnings to try and get her on board, but she was so cocky she thought she should be running the place. They tried to get someone to mentor her, she refused and they finally fired her. I think we all have different experiences in life, and some people are more sheltered than others. At the worst maybe this will be a learning experience.

  60. Marty*

    OP, you’ve gotten a lot of great advice about the issues surrounding attitude and rejection.

    Can I offer an additional perspective? You said:
    “I’m 50 and even though they take all ages, apparently this is it for me. My health is getting worse and I’m losing hope in this long-time dream I always wanted or thought would come true.”

    It sounds like you’re going through some kind of an existential crisis. 50 is “old” to be reacting in such a gruff, aggressive manner. I recommend you seek out some other outlet at this point to help you get a grip on whatever it is that is creating such crisis inside you.

    Whether that is therapy, another hobby, I don’t know – but I feel like you’re using this theatre troupe as an target of your personal issues. This isn’t really about THIS particular troupe because if you wanted to a part of it, why would you treat them like this? This isn’t how you treat people you like and want to work with.

    This whole letter reads like “you are my last chance to fulfill my dream and I demand you do, I don’t care how it affects you or your organization because that isn’t the point”.

    1. Marty*

      I say “old” because we’re not old at 50 darnit (LOL), but this kind of behaviour is something we should have grown beyond by that point.

  61. CommanderBanana*

    I want to be really kind to the LW because I know this must have been a really disappointing rejection, but…yikes. I think I’m seeing this more from the perspective of the organizer and I’m seeing red flags all over the place here.

  62. Archaeopteryx*

    If you don’t react well to rejection then theater is the last place you should be. I know actors can be stereotyped as prima donnas, but in reality that kind of behavior isn’t usually tolerated and it’s a small world- your reputation precedes you.

    Besides, character is defined in how you react when things don’t go your way. Saying that you would stop getting angry if you just got what you wanted ifs like saying you wouldn’t cheat on someone as long as you weren’t tempted to.

  63. Tinker*

    This is somewhat the devil on my shoulder whispering this but: NPC for a boffer larp?

    — Immersive theater with significant potential for emotional intensity.
    — Depending on the place, you don’t necessarily have to engage all that much with the combat system if you don’t want to — non- or minimal- combat NPCs who are good actors are highly valued in this environment.
    — Often centered around camping (anywhere from straight-up tent camping to fully-accessible campground).
    — Intense (though short) experience of working and living together.
    — (this is the devil on my shoulder part) For better or worse, very accustomed to the situation of people who have some part of their identity very intensely invested in a particular narrative of their participation — pretty much, any place is going to have some means of coping with this situation though… not necessarily the way I would advise.

    (By which I mean: sometimes the way of coping is to let people with those motivations worm their way into staff positions and leverage same to cause people to be constantly dancing to a stream of low-to-medium level drama. Please do not be that person, even in places where it’s permitted. Please please do not.)

    It’s not a long-duration experience (2-3 days usually) and it’s pretty much a net expense even if you’re not actually charged money (some systems let NPCs play for free and may also cover food, but that does not always hold true especially for higher production value / better campsite), but it is an opportunity to make a genuine contribution in the context of a close-knit community.

    I don’t know about within theater itself, but I have friends who have staffed for larps and use it for professional talking points (with varying framings depending on the particular way in which that is professionally relevant — say, running events for an interactive theater organization, or facilitating a structured emotional skill-building experience) and it seems to me that it could well be a way to have something more concrete to say about coping with high-intensity events than “I’m sure I would do well at it if I was living my dream”.

    1. Tinker*

      I should say, because maybe I did not frame this in the best way:

      I recommend this because at base I find the desire to pitch in and put on a show very relatable — I’m currently not as highly engaged in larp as I have been previously because of other life reasons, but I did the NPC thing itself for a couple few years and have lately had a similar engagement pattern with playing blockbuster larps (I hesitate to broadly recommend these, though, because of the expense). I think that’s both a relatable and a valuable impulse, I would like for people who have it to find a suitable outlet for it, and I think that there are a lot of venues that are suitable for that purpose beyond this one place in New York.

      Bottom line is: I bet you can have something like what you want, and here’s one way that might look.

      1. zora*

        I agree, LARP (Live Action Role Playing) could be a GREAT way to take a step into performing again, and do it locally without a huge time/money commitment. I even just took a very simple archery class (with medieval style longbows) and that was so fun and gave me that physical and mental challenge that helped me feel more fulfilled when I was in an unfulfilling job.

        Those could be great options to try out and see how you feel, and what your favorite things are. I’m a volunteer with a very small local theater company that is actually a professional company, but just helping to move sets and do some marketing research is fun, and getting to hang out with real actors and directors is so energizing!

        There’s also just cosplay! You can invent your own characters/design your own costumes. There are so many fun things out there, give yourself some space to try to some new things!

    2. Isabel Kunkle*

      As a LARPer…I mean, I see where you’re coming from but no, please don’t. We have enough people inflicting their “issues with anger and trust” on the rest of us who are trying to pursue a hobby while behaving reasonably: I don’t pay $80 a weekend to be someone’s therapist, and I’m pretty sure that’s not why most staff run their games.

  64. BeenThere-1988*

    Oh good grief. This isn’t like applying to day camp or something, where any spot is available until it’s full. They accept people purposely to fill a particular mix of diversity, ages, and who they think can do various tasks. You weren’t what they needed last year. Neither were lots of other people. If you’d just let that be, then they probably wouldn’t have even remembered you this year and you would have had as good a chance as anyone with whatever skills and/or vibe you were offering. But replying “defensively and aggressively” to a “no thanks, we’re full” was completely inappropriate and over the top – so it made you memorable. In a bad way. Then as if that wasn’t enough, when you tried again you hounded her, even “demanding” a response. There are tons of other applicants who don’t display “anger and trust issues”.
    If you were really thinking about it from their perspective you’d see that you’ve already taken too much time and brought too much negativity to make you worth a spot that they can fill with any number of people who aren’t aggressive, defensive, and demanding. It doesn’t matter whether you might be able to keep that in check once they pick you – you already showed them that those qualities and they don’t want to risk it. Look, if it makes you feel better, I was an apprentice there years ago (or somewhere remarkably similar) and it’s not exactly the paradise of creative process that you’re imagining. It’s a sweatier, dirtier environment than you can even imagine, with a ratio of creative moments to drudge work of about 1:400. I spent a lot of time shoveling, building storage, and washing a bus – with no running water. Basically it was a few weeks of unpaid manual labor, with a general kumbaya energy that waxes and wanes even among people selected for their go-with-the-flow energy – you sound like you would have stomped out in anger before the end of the first week. Find a local community theater and get involved slowly. It will be much happier for you.

    1. BeenThereToo*

      Hey I have an idea for you: if this is the group that many of us think it is, they pretty much accept all local volunteers on summer weekends (the New York thing is the same: anybody and everybody can volunteer). So… if this is really your ultimate dream and you’ll be crushed not to work with that particular group, why don’t you just spend the money that you were going to spend on the apprenticeship tuition, and rent a car and a hotel room or campsite somewhere nearby for a week or 10 days, and become a “local” for a couple of weekend performances? That’s pretty much the same performing experience that any of the apprentices get. Granted you won’t get to camp on their property and eat their food – but you also won’t have to do their drudge work all week.
      But… maybe consider… not using your real name, so as no to alarm anyone. Invent a calmer, happier version of you and go have a nice vacation.

      1. Observer*

        No, do NOT do this.

        Using a false name is likely to get caught out and then you will REALLY get blacklisted. It’s going to be seen as creepy and stalkerish or worse.

        Also, from what you write, it’s actually not likely that this will fulfill your dream in the way that you want it to. So if you do go, you need to really think this through and accept that you may very well not get everything you want out of this. If you still want to using your real name, have a game plan for how you will handle it if you realize that you’re not ok with the way things are going. And that plan CANNOT include even the faintest hint of hostility or demand. Acknowledging that things are not working out and leaving is a decent backup.

      2. Tinybutfierce*

        Do NOT do this. The company has made it clear the LW is not wanted, for whatever initial reasons + their follow-up behavior; these are very valid reasons. Just showing up to hang around where they have been explicitly not invited/hired because of their unreasonable reactions, and using a fake name? Forget blacklisting from the company, if I was the coordinator and this happened after the communication I’d already had with the LW, I would seriously be tempted to contact the authorities. That’s beyond weird, that’s flying a red flag the size of Texas.

        1. BeenThereToo*

          Ok maybe I gave the wrong impression with the fake name joke. This theater usually has an open call for local volunteers several weekends in the summer – if they do it should be on their website. (The reason they say “local” is because long ago they used to let people camp on their land but they stopped that 20+ years ago and don’t like people making pilgrimages from afar who try to stealth-camp there.) Volunteering is a totally different thing than the live-in apprenticeship she got rejected from – it’s not selective, and everybody is welcome. There are so many volunteers on those weekends that there’s not much likelihood this person would ever be asked their name or encounter anyone who had anything to do with this application debacle (and how would they be recognized anyway?) – it’s just a herd of people who come and rehearse for a couple hours in the morning and then are part of a performance later that day. All I meant was that if this person’s dream is to be involved with a performance or two, to re-live their college experience, they could do it that way without having to get accepted as an apprentice and spend a month doing chores and all that.

          1. valentine*

            if this person’s dream is to be involved with a performance or two, to re-live their college experience, they could do it that way without having to get accepted as an apprentice and spend a month doing chores and all that.
            Telling a boundary trampler how to evade boundaries is dangerous.

  65. Allison*

    The fact that you got defensive when they told you you’d missed the deadline was the first red flag. Plenty of people who are just as passionate about theater, and have the same dream you do, were able to meet the deadline. Maybe if you’d been more gracious and understanding, they would have considered you this year, but then you kept following up and demanding an answer which was another red flag for them. And as others have pointed out, this is a program where people would be living, working, and eating together over a period of time, so attitude is weighted much more heavily here than it normally might be.

    But even for a regular community theater program, no director wants to cast actors who seemed difficult to work with in the audition process, so you need to learn to handle rejection, and you need learn to roll with it when things get frustrating, because theater is frustrating sometimes! Tech week was always referred to as Hell Week in high school, dress rehearsals are stress rehearsals, and sometimes things run super late or you have a last-minute Saturday rehearsal thrown at you because things aren’t coming together fast enough. Believing you’ll handle everything with a smile because you’re doing what you love is incredibly naive.

    I understand you’re chasing a dream and you feel like your time is running out, so you can’t afford to let people ghost you, you have to attack every opportunity you can find, but please stop. Calm down. Find more programs to get involved with, do your homework, put everything you can into the application and/or audition, and then be patient in waiting for a response.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      Also, remember that auditioning, putting together submission packets for grants/fellowships/etc, and the like ARE DOING WHAT YOU LOVE. When you apply for something in the arts, that’s not you asking to be allowed to eventually take part. That’s you taking part. If you are difficult in the materials review process, people will assume you will be difficult to work with during the program. If you have an attitude at the audition, why would anyone sign up to hang out with you for the next umpteen months, at rehearsals that go till 2AM, 4 hour production meetings, or when there’s the inevitable rough night where things don’t go according to plan.

      I get the feeling that a lot of people, especially older people who did something easier and lower-stakes as a first career, think that the arts are like super happy fun playtime where nothing is ever stressful or hard. Au contraire!

      1. Liz T*

        Great points.

        Last year I wrote a brand new full-length, my first in years, for the ASC New Contemporaries competition. I got to the semi-finals (BRAG) and did a table read of my second draft in case I got to the finals. I did not. Even though I’d known the odds were against me, it stung–it’d been so easy to imagine winning and how it might change my life.

        But it wasn’t a failure, even if I never pick up that script again, because I created something I cared about and got to hear it aloud with my brilliant friends. The fantasy of winning helped motivate me to write it, but the writing was the important part.

        A life in the art involves so much toiling behind closed doors. People who can’t appreciate that part of it are going to flame out fast.

  66. Working Mom Having It All*

    I work in the entertainment industry and do (unpaid) creative work in the theater in my free time. As I get older, I have started to see a certain personality profile that almost never ends well for the person in question: the 40+ person with a dream.

    Look. I’m 38. I have dreams. I came out to Hollywood with stars in my eyes, too. I didn’t succeed as perfectly or as quickly as I’d hoped, too. I, too, am toiling away in the trenches, seeing (often younger) people I know achieve their dreams and newbies arrive every day. This is hard, and either you have the character for it or you don’t. And, honestly, if you don’t… it’s better to acknowledge that to yourself and retreat to something with lower stakes. (Which, in a lot of ways, I myself have done.)

    Because dreams take work. And if you’re not willing to put in that work, the rest doesn’t matter. The work includes not being rude to hiring managers and being gracious when you are rejected for something you really wanted. A lot of people have a dream, and it’s nobody’s responsibility to make yours happen.

    Anytime I hear someone in their 40s or 50s talk about how their “dream” is to be an actor/filmmaker/playwright/etc. I instantly put them on the “nice person to know but no career talk EVER” track. (Which is fine! Having friends you don’t talk shop with is important!) Because I know that a whole lot of extremely entitled, perspective-less, and difficult conversations are going to ensue.

    OP here really sounds a lot like those people. And my guess is that they are not getting hired for the same reason that I change the subject with my friends who are in the same boat. Because nobody in the arts or the entertainment industry is entitled to any particular job, title, or opportunity. And people who don’t immediately grasp that tend not to thrive here. So it’s better to chat about Megan Rapinoe, whether that movie about the Beatles is good, or that earthquake we had last week than hear, yet again, about how everyone in this town has conspired to take away their dream.

    1. Allison*

      Truth. I used to want a career as an actress, and then I found something else I wanted to do more, and I am SO GLAD I walked away from acting as a career dream because hoooboy would I be struggling, I had the passion but not the personality or the apititude for it. And honestly, the thing I walked away from theater to focus on? In hindsight, I didn’t have “the stuff” for that either! I’m glad I found a career that makes me happy, and while some might go “awwww, but you gave up your ~dreeeeeeeaam~” I’m like, maybe, but I’m okay with that. And if I end up 50 and full of regret, maybe I’ll give community theater a shot.

      1. Working Mom Having It All*

        I hate that I’m so jaded now that I’m like “oh screw dreams” but seriously, screw dreams. If you have true passion for some creative endeavor, just do it! Don’t dream it, be it, baby.

        (Also, you should totally give community theatre a shot! It’s so freeing to do a creative thing just because you love it rather than because It Is Very Important That I Succeed At This.)

        1. Shad*

          Seconding finding a way to do the creative thing without success (as measured in dollars or publication or name recognition) being absolutely necessary. If LW can leave their day job behind for an intensive on site experience like it sounds like they were hoping for, they can almost certainly leave work at work to do something closer to home in the evenings or on weekends. Especially with creative pursuits, so many people want to do them that livelihood level success (let alone name recognition, fame, or admission to what sounds like a highly selective program) demands not only skill and temperament, but a whole lot of luck on top of those base requirements. But success as measured by finding a way to participate and to create something can definitely be done with consistent and dedicated part time work.

      2. Jadelyn*

        I wish the world were more understanding and supportive of “giving up” when you realize a dream isn’t actually a great fit for you, or just decide that the dream isn’t worth the work it would take to get there. “Never give up!” sounds good on the surface but boy does it lead to some toxic outcomes.

  67. Wing Leader*

    I agree with others that say do not see this theater group as your “once chance” to fulfill your dreams.

    Look, OP, I didn’t get into my dream college. It felt like a punch to the gut. I got into my second choice though, and that’s where I ended up going. And my college experience was great and amazing. Did I miss out on something fabulous by not going to my first choice? Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows? It doesn’t matter now.

    The point is to recognize that there are many, many avenues along the road of life that can take you where you want to go. Keeping that in perspective might keep you from reacting so strongly when one of the many avenues is closed to you.

  68. blink14*

    Both your letter to Alison and your response to the program coordinator come off as both very defensive and aggressive. It’s also unclear if you simply don’t have the experience required for this troupe. But hear me out :

    I’m in my early 30s, with a 15+ years, long time interest/investment in local, independent music, and I play the role of assistant/manager/booking agent/cheerleader to a long time friend. He had a chance at one time to take a leap and sign with a record label, but turned it down due to a variety of reasons. I had a chance to make a big move to pursue music management in my early 20s, and I decided to follow the local music I loved. Neither of us are in it for the money any more, just the passion, and I’ve put out my fair share of cash over the years traveling to assist this friend and others.

    Many people all over the world invest their hard earned money from day jobs, side jobs, etc into the hobbies and passions they have on the side. If you truly have the passion for theatre, and joining this intensive specifically, you may want to pony up the cash, if you can, to join the troupe in New York. Make this a good faith decision – the coordinator and other members will see how you fit in the group, and you’ll get the experience you’ve been pushing for, but with your own investment in it, you may find yourself making sure you don’t come off as aggressive and truly become cooperative and work with the team.

    Or, turn your sites to local theatre and work your way up, gain more experience, and show proof of professional behavior that fits well into a teamwork situation.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      I would agree with this with the caveat that OP also needs to leave their ego and entitlement at the door. Go and join the troupe on your own dime with ZERO expectations. Be humble. Show up on time, get the work done with no grumbling or drama, and with no expectations of tit for tat or “paying your dues” leading to any future outcome. See if you really like it, just on its own terms to the extent that you are included. Minus anything about your “dreams” or anything you feel you are owed by anyone. Be kind to everyone, to the point of being a pushover, and do it without any expected return on your kindness. If it works out, great! If it doesn’t, no harm, no foul, no dream ruined.

  69. Fabulous*

    As someone who has been in the theatre for 20+ years, consider volunteering in community theatre. It doesn’t cost anything to get involved on the tech side! Look into helping backstage at a local theatre and see if that suits your needs at all. Community theatres are LITERALLY ALWAYS looking for good stagehands, costuming help, or someone to run the spotlight. There will never not be a need there.

    That being said, the theatre world is a small one. Word travels and if you’re blackballed in one theatre, you may be hard-pressed to find another one close by to give you a chance. Not that it doesn’t happen – an actor we once worked with ended up burning a bridge with our community theatre troupe. While he was a great performer, we decided that we didn’t want to work with him again and made it known around the community the troubles he had given us. Come to find out he had pulled the same stunts with others too. He’s since gone on to be very successful in other venues around town, even winning a local prestigious award for his acting.

    All this to say, there could be a chance for you, just at another venue. Start volunteering backstage and see where that leads you.

    1. EnfysNest*

      I love community theatre and have been involved all my life, and I hope LW gets to a point where they can do as you suggest here, but it’s not step one – they need to start by getting their anger management and reactions to negative responses under control before anything else. Because even volunteer stage hands get feedback the LW needs to be able to easily accept things like “you put that prop in the wrong place” or “your timing is off, you have to listen for the right music cue” (sometimes not said particularly kindly depending on the director or stage manager and what kind of mood they’re in that day) – if the LW isn’t 100% sure that they could just nod and accept being called out for a mistake and quietly correct it next time (no defending themselves, no explaining why they thought they were right, no grumbling, no making a face even), then they’re not ready yet. Theatre is great, but it’s not happiness and roses all the time, and I’d rather the LW wait until they have better control of their own reactions, both for the sake of others at the theater they’ll hopefully be involved with one day and for the LW’s own sake, so that they don’t shoot themselves in the foot again once they do start getting involved.

  70. StressedButOkay*

    OP, I think a problem you might run into if you keep pushing is that the theater scene is pretty intertwined. The coordinator might get fed up and mention that you just wouldn’t stop, even after you’d been turned down, to others in the industry. If you want to pursue your dreams, the worst thing you can do right now is push your luck and end up blacklisted, even if it’s just within certain communities of theater.

    The best thing you can do is dust yourself off and try again with another theater group. Use a good reputation with them to potentially reach back out to this group in a few years, if that’s still in the cards.

    1. Working Mom Having It All*

      Yep. I’ve definitely heard gossip like this. “Oh, [REDACTED] auditioned? Yeah, she’s talented enough but OMG let me tell you what she pulled last year during our application process… ” is pretty much word for word a thing I have heard about people who are getting blacklisted because they are so impossible to work with that they can’t even handle applying for the job, much less working well with other people during the actual production.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        This was my reaction to the post, because this happened to me when I was selecting volunteers to lead classes at a community event. One person I met at a similar event the year before had a good idea, and I encouraged them to apply when applications opened up in a month. When that came around, though, they acted like it was a huge imposition to fill out a basic form and that they should just be passed through on strength of personal reference. They were doing us a FAVOR, and jiminy cricket if we were going to treat them like everyone else they would take their eminence elsewhere! It was an explosion of diva behavior that I had not anticipated, but I very quickly released them from any presumed obligation to attend or lead a course. Because who wants to invite that in?

  71. Cathy Gale*

    Dear OP,

    One of my best friends is a writer, theatre director and former actor for TV and the stage. I’m in a related field and one year he made me a judge for a similar type of program, but for playwrights rather than actors .

    My friend’s wife is your age, but has been acting a lot longer than you. Overreacting like this has cost her jobs – not just jobs she would have been hired for – but jobs that she was hired for and unceremoniously fired over.

    And unfortunately, if theatre has only been a dream for you, you may not realize how much it thrives on relationships, talk, trust, and yes, gossip (which is not necessarily negative). When you burn a bridge or hurt someone in this world – where it’s so important to feel emotionally safe in order to produce good work that takes you out of your comfort zone – it’s going to be talked about. Not for a month. Or a year. Forever. And now, she can’t work in one of the biggest theatre towns in the US, because she has such a terrible reputation – even though she hasn’t lived here for almost a decade.

    I also notice that at no time do you express mortification about how your reaction was received, or gratitude that this person very openly shared her concerns about red flags with you. That’s a gift she just gave you.

    There are definitely theatrical paths out there besides this one, but you cannot be a great actor if you don’t gain self-insight.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      you cannot be a great actor if you don’t gain self-insight.

      This, OP. Self-awareness is a prerequisite of this job. Please get some.

  72. RubyJackson*

    Any further communication to persuade the director would probably be met with a restraining order.

  73. Zap R.*

    OP, I know the term emotional labour gets misused a lot, but it sounds like you are expecting these people to do an awful lot of emotional labour for you and you don’t actually work for them.

    It’s not their responsibility to help you achieve your dream and it certainly wouldn’t be their responsibility to help you work through your “red flag” behaviour if they were to hire you.

  74. pamela voorhees*

    At the risk of sounding harsh (and I’m genuinely sorry if it comes across that way) I would not suggest community theater. You will get the same rejections in community theater, but because it’s, well, in your community, you will then have to see that director at the grocery store, at the dentist’s office, walking their dog around downtown, etc. My understanding from your letter is that you don’t actually live where this troupe performs, so you don’t have to see these people — think of how much more this would hurt if you had to see all of them in your every day life, and there wasn’t space to process how you feel after getting told no. I would recommend holding off on community theatre until you feel a little more comfortable hearing no — which is very, very hard! I struggle with it too! — because while I know this was your dream, and it hurts, I think it also may hurt just as much hearing the no from someone you then have to interact with the next day, and the next, and the next.

  75. jcarnall*

    OP, don’t take the New York offer.

    First, because – as Alison says – you would have to spend the entire time on your very, very best behaviour: promptly carrying out all tasks assigned, accepting all criticism, not getting into a single argument, always backing down from any confrontation, never acting like you thought you were entitled to anything. This group knows you only as the angry man who wrote furiously about being rejected and then was entitled enough to think you could apply again next year; you would have to in all ways c0mpletely reverse their view of you – and in all honesty: I don’t think you could do it.

    But, even supposing you could:

    Back when I was 15, I wanted to be part of a theatre troupe that would be performing at an annual event that my family would be attending. I thought I had a fair chance of getting in- they were looking for a crowd of young performers with some experience and I had a little – and I wrote an excited application: only to have it rejected at first pass, because they had decided they wanted no one who wasn’t 16 on 1st January the year of the event, and I wouldn’t be sixteen for a few days after that date.

    My dad said he thought this was unreasonable – he understood why they wanted everyone to be 16 by the date the rehearsals would start (in March) but the cut-off date of 1st January was completely arbitrary. So with his encouragement I wrote a polite letter asking if they could make an exception as I’d literally missed the cut-off date of age by days, and got a very, very kind letter back saying no, there would be no exceptions, but I could certainly join the troupe in an ancillary capacity at the event itself.

    So I did: and I had a terrible time. Oh, it was better than not being in it at all – I enjoyed what I did get to do. But the troupe who had assembled and rehearsed and socialised and worked and got to know each other were a group, and nice as they were, ad willing though I was to work, I was quite conscious the entire time that I was an add-on outsider who’d missed all of that and was never going to be part of it.

    And in New York, on your own dime, you would be aware of that too. You would not have a good time, OP, and it would be an expensive not-a-good-time, and I don’t believe this would help you to behave well and convince the group they were wrong to reject you.

    Talk to a therapist about your angry response to rejection, and find another theatre group. And because gossip travels, be on your very, very best behaviour this time.

  76. MuseumChick*

    OP, I am late to the thread today so I don’t know if you will see this. First, I hope that you do get to fulfill this dream one day, but as other have said, it will not be with this particular group. You didn’t get give this person one red flag, you gave them many. Several of which on their own would have been a enough for anyone to permanently put your application in the “no” pile. Not just your aggressive response to the first reject but also by being very pushy when you didn’t get a response within the time frame you wanted the second time.

    You say you are “not used to being rejected” this is a reality of any kind of creative field. Lots and lots and lots of rejection. As you purse this small dream of yours keep that in mind.

  77. Temi*

    OP: I don’t know where you are from but small theatre troupes rely on arts funding (whether government or charitable trusts) so apprentice opportunities in this area are rare and highly competitive. It’s not enough to apply before the due date, it was important to include why you should get the spot over anyone else. Because its Your Dream, is not a compelling story to admit you.
    In fact, your reaction at the rejection gave them every reason NOT to award you a place in their program. No selection committee would be able to justify giving a spot to you with so many deserving applicants who demonstrate commitment and stick-to-itiveness. If you are serious, take the New York offer, and demonstrate that you ARE the person who could get a lot out of the session and earn yourself a spot on their team. If two rejections in two years have turned you off your dream, then the selection coordinator was absolutely right to reject you. An apprenticeship is an opportunity, they aren’t going to waste it on someone who’s entitled, when there are many others who are deserving.

  78. Someone else's co-worker*

    Other people don’t owe you their time or their patience, they are not required to sacrifice their own well-being to fulfill yours, they are not required to accept your anger and abuse. OP, what is a “tad bit of anger”? Do you know what it’s like having some stranger repeatedly get angry at you for not accepting them and follow up obsessively, particularly if you are a woman and that stranger is a man? It’s scary. It is draining. Just as another person (a man, a woman) is not entitled to your time, to your attention, you are not entitled to theirs, and you should think more compassionately on what it must feel like to be this woman, having to choose a small number of people from a large pool, and having to deal with at least one whose actions are bordering on harassment and who has been rude and angry. Getting your dream fulfilled does not automatically make you kind or easy to work and live with. Many people working in thankless jobs (or unable to work), who will never be able to meet their dreams, are kind most of the time and do not take their anger out on others. Please focus on therapy first, and on finding a way to look beyond theater for fulfillment of happiness.

  79. Willow*

    I wonder if this is LW’s first foray into theater since college. This workshop sounds like a dream event for lots of people in theater, but is possibly very skewed toward people who are already IN theater and have been for a while. It might not be appropriate for a newbie (if indeed LW is a newbie).

  80. A. Ham*

    I did not read all the comments, so I may be repeating something.
    I have worked in the theater (on stage, off stage, admin, professional and semi professional) since I was a kid. I understand the dream. I truly do. And reaching that dream after 50 is totally possible.
    What is NOT possible is doing so with an attitude. There are enough professional theater artists, that have been doing this their whole lives, that have an attitude (and you know what? I’ve seen even some of the MOST TALENTED and well’trained people stop getting work after a while because they get a reputation for being difficult). If someone brand new comes along, and is already showing attitude before they even walk into the room, a company will have no problem saying no.
    It troubles me that you seem to have a notion of this whole thing that it should have been easy or more “relaxed” because of the kind of work it is. (and forgive me if I read into that wrong, but I’ve seen so much of that attitude throughout my life that it’s easy to guess). Like you don’t know how you possibly could have been rejected – even when you adhered to their “strict” deadline. (Why does it seem unusual for a theater to have a deadline? They work on a very specific calendar). These are professionals. They take their work as seriously as any other- but it seems like you don’t, or that you don’t fully respect their time or what it is that they do. I would think really seriously about that, and attempt to change your whole attitude about it, before you pursue it in other ways.

    1. Theater Admin*

      Thank you for putting into words what I was struggling to express! Everything in the LW’s letter suggests they’re still thinking of theater like a college club or rec team or (as someone higher up the comment chain said) a summer camp, where the company has to take all comers as long as they follow the application procedures. LW seems completely unaware that this is a business with as rigorous a hiring process as any other industry, and that this process they’ve gone through is no different than a job application in any other field!

  81. Matilda Jefferies*

    OP, I wonder if it would help to flip this around and look at it from the perspective of the coordinator.

    Let’s say you’re hiring for a seasonal position. You receive 100 applications, and reject 95 of them. Of the people who are rejected, 94 of them react either politely or not at all. However, one of them reacts defensively and aggressive. What do you, as the hiring manager, think of that one person? Of the 95 people who are rejected, which one do you remember the most?

    Fast forward a year, and you’re hiring for the same position. Again you receive 100 applications – some repeats from last year, some new ones. Among those 100 applications is one from the same person who responded so defensively the previous year. What do you think of them now? Do you remember them? Are you willing to hire them based on what you remember? What if again you had five spots to fill, and you had six people who were juuuuust *thisclose* to getting hired last year, and all six were pleasant and polite when you rejected them? You already have to pass over one of these awesome people – are you also going to pass over a second one in favour of the person who was so rude to you?

    Then finally, the person who was rude to you last year contacts you not once, not twice, but FOUR times, finally going so far as to “demand” an answer from you. What do you think of this person now? Has this behaviour made you any more willing to hire them, than you were when you rejected them the first two times?

    Rejection hurts, OP, there’s no getting around it. But I agree with Alison and the others that this bridge is pretty much burned.

    1. RandomU...*

      This is a good way to lay this out. I’d add that the OP set themselves out the second year by sending the application via certified letter. I guarantee the person handling the applications did something like this:

      HM (Hiring Manager for lack of a better term): ladida looks like we’re starting to get responses on the opening.. what ho! A certified letter… Oh crap is their a problem with out taxes? Are we getting sued?
      – Opens letter –
      Oh, it’s an application. Who would send that certified I wonder, email, fax, and regular mail is the usual way…
      – Reads name on Application –
      Now why does that name look familiar… O.o Hey Fergus… do you remember the name of the person who applied last year that didn’t take it well? Betty… Bertha… Bob.. I remember… yea Pat… Look who just applied by certified mail!

    2. Anon for today (and probably tomorrow)*

      Totally unrelated field, but here goes. 5-10 years ago, I was interviewed by a graduate student in my field for an introductory class to our shared profession. We’ll call the student Joan. Joan is not only not apologetic about being late to our appointment, but she is argumentative with my answers to her questions. Joan also seems to have an attitude and it’s not a likable one. Although I’ve been interviewed by a lot of students over the years, Joan’s name is now sticking with me more than usual.

      Months go by and we now have a student job open; Joan applies. I’m the supervisor. I try not to judge students too harshly. A lot of times, maturity sets in and they mellow out. I debate bringing her in for an interview. But I’m going on a long weekend. I come back to a slew of voicemails and emails from Joan demanding to know if I’m bringing her in for an interview. I respond via email with a polite rejection letter. She responds angrily. Joan’s name is now firmly cemented in my memory.

      Now it’s a year later and we have an actual professional line open and I’m the search committee chair. My name is not on the posting; it’s just a generic “apply to the search committee.”. Joan has applied. I share my experiences with Joan with the search committee. Even if my fellow committee members doubt me, Joan doesn’t meet all of our required criteria and we have much more qualified candidates. Joan gets a no in the first round. Joan writes back demanding to know what she has to do to get a job with us and mentions me by name and wonders if I have scuttled her application. This is seen by the other search committee members, all of whom are often in positions to hire.

      Joan is never, ever getting a job with us.

      Now I don’t really know a lot about Joan. Maybe she was going through some difficult personal experiences. Maybe she’s since sought professional help. Maybe she deeply regrets her behavior. Maybe she’s really changed. I’d like to think that is the case. It may in fact be the case. But I am never ever going to hire her. Why would we ever take that risk? Academia like theatre has its fair share of workplace drama. The last thing we need is someone who has a temper, who cannot behave professionally, and who shows every sign of being unable to get along with the staff.

      OP: TLDR: move on.

  82. Heidi*

    I feel like today’s posts have been an emotional rollercoaster. What with the polarizing debate about pranks, the urine in the sink…and now this one. To be honest, my sympathies are with the coordinator here. I can truly imagine her ignoring all the emails hoping that the OP will take the hint and just stop, but they don’t and she has to knuckle down and send a response that she has every reason to believe will not be kindly-received and could escalate the hostility. If she had been the one that had written in about an applicant that responded angrily to a rejection after they had missed the submission deadline, we would have said that she had dodged a bullet and that this type of response proves that she made the right call in rejecting the applicant. I think the only respectful course of action for the OP is to leave them alone.

  83. Trek*

    Coordinator responded with: she explains that the farm is a very intensive, co-op type of environment, with camping, an outhouse, and most of all working and living together, pulling your own weight, etc.

    This was her way of stating this is a high stress environment and can push people to their limit. The stress of the application process and delay in receiving a response seems to have stressed you out beyond what most would consider normal. What they are questioning is when you show up and you don’t get the assignment or part that you wanted will you react the same way? When you have spent two weeks using an out house, working with people outside in the heat, very little down time, how will you react? It doesn’t sound like a high stress environment would be a good fit.

  84. Aurora*

    “I desperately needed and wanted to get away that summer” stands out, when reading this letter. It sounds like the letter writer may be struggling in their personal life right now, for which I have empathy. That said, the theatre troupe has a duty to make decisions based on the best interests of their organization. They do not have a duty to make every applicant’s dream come true.

    1. Observer*

      This is true. But it’s also worth noting that it may very well have been for the best for the OP as well. Because this is a fairly intensive program, not relaxing at ALL. And it requires the kind of teamwork the demands both trustworthiness and trust (something the OP has a problem with.) Whatever the OP’s problems were, I would say that a “getaway” of this sort would have been very likely to turn into an unmitigated disaster *FOR THE OP*.

  85. Shax*

    “I reacted defensively and aggressively.”

    “I think [I] more demanded a reply.”

    “The “red flags” could be a tad bit of … anger, maybe trust issues.”

    “I would be too busy for any negativity.”

    Bro, you need to deal with your anger management issues before anything else.

    I’ve never even met you, and I’d be scared of you hitting me the first time I say “no” to you.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Same here. I keep away from anyone slightly aggressive because of that fear. If they think it’s appropriate to yell and get angry at a stranger, odds are they think it’s okay to hit people as well.

      There’s a different between someone who’s generally calm having a bad day, and someone you’ve just met becoming aggressive with you when you tell them ‘no’. The theatre manager did the right thing and I’m willing to bet she’s warned the group about OP in case they come show up and what precautions they should take, etc. I know I would.

  86. Tiger Snake*

    Having read through just the first couple of comments, and then re-read the post again; OP, why did you send this message to Alison?

    What were you hoping to gain from having Alison post this – what did you want from her and us? You don’t actually ask a question. Alison has gone forward as though you asked ‘how can I get this opportunity’, and answered ‘you can’t, sorry’.
    But when I read your post again, I’m reading a complaint. A vent. A feeling of being disheartened. A call for support and a rally to emotional arms so that people comfort you. I’m not reading someone seeking advice, I’m reading someone who wants to be reassured, and that’s never really been what this forum is about.

    So, I’ll ask my question a different way: OP, why are you venting to Alison and the cold internet, and not to friends and family and loved ones?
    Sometimes we have failures, and they make us feel bad, and we want to talk about them and we want people to comfort us – whether they be truthful or less-truthful but kind. But you don’t get comfort like that from internet advice forums, you get that from the people you’ve formed relationships with.

    So I have different advice for you; let this theatre thing go. Join some other social groups just around you. Show us you can be kind instead of angry by focusing your attentions to something other than this dream, and make some friends that can give you the emotional support this post was after.

    1. Agent J*

      This is such empathic and insightful advice. OP, I hope you’re able to get to this comment after reading all the above. It might feel like we’re not sympathic to your situation but we are; it is a kindness to be told the truth than to not be told what you’re doing may be hindering your ability to achieve your dreams.

      If you’re up to it, send in an update after some time. I hope you find the peace and fulfillment you’re searching for.

  87. Pickaduck*

    Just because something is your “dream” doesn’t make it someone else’s, (or anyone else’s, obligation.)

  88. Angwyshaunce*

    If your health is getting worse, enough that you’re seriously concerned about it, then maybe a “very intensive, co-op type of environment” on a farm might not be the best idea anyway.

  89. Alex*

    I think it is important to realize that the actions that you should take knowing that you have no chance of ever getting into this theater are the same ones that you should take if there were some hope of doing so.

    And that’s great news!

    The thing is that you messed up. When you mess up, the only way to move forward with grace is to accept responsibility for your actions. That doesn’t mean acknowledging they are wrong–that’s just the first step. Accepting responsibility for your actions means accepting the consequences without resentment and blame. Here, the consequences are that they do not wish do bring you aboard. Accepting that rejection is the only way to move forward, whether or not you eventually get it at a later time.

    I think, if I were you, I’d write:

    Thank you so much for getting back to me. After some reflection, I realize that my behavior has been really inappropriate, and I’m afraid I let my disappointment over not being selected get the best of me. I truly apologize for that. I realize you did not need to reply to me at all, and I do appreciate your taking the time to give me honest feedback in spite of my actions. Thank you also for the tip about meeting up with you in New York. That is very kind. I will see if that is something I can manage to do, and if so, I look forward to working with you. Wishing you a successful summer.

    NOTE: This will not get you in this year. You shouldn’t expect it to. That ship has long sailed. But if you want any chance at this experience–or any experience like it, frankly–you’re going to need to accept this rejection with grace, and make sure that it really is a learning experience for you, so that you don’t repeat this behavior with another group, or if you do manage to go to New York with them.

  90. Buttons*

    A few observations. At first, it was a bit shocking to see the letter was written by a 50 yr old, and then when I thought about it I realized I haven’t encountered that sort of anger and entitlement from someone really young. I also find it really interesting the division between commenters assuming the LW was male or female. My final observation is that the letter writer didn’t ask Alsion for advice on how to correct the behavior that was negatively received but instead asked on how to appeal to the person who could get them what they wanted. That was by far the most telling piece of the puzzle.
    When we want to grow and correct mistakes we must first look at our own behavior and motivation, and I don’t feel like the LW was wanting to do that, at least not yet.
    My advice to the LW is to look inward. Find your motivation, find the source of your anger, and work on that. As far as your dream to be on stage, there are lots of opportunities- take an improv class, take a stand up or story writing class, volunteer at a local theater compant.

  91. Heather*

    I was really aghast at the tale from the OP, and much of the behavior struck me as on the border of stalking. In creative professions we do not constantly follow up on an application in a formal process this way. This is not being a go-getter, this is not respecting that more people get rejected from most things than not. Have you never heard “don’t call us, we’ll call you”?!?!

    And that is my first message to the OP — you are already (albeit clumsily) living your dream. Being in theater is about a lot of rejection. Hundreds, thousands of rejections on the path to small victories. And if you can’t love — or at least learn to tolerate — the process, then it’s really not for you. Because this is theater too… the applying, the auditioning, the hoping the audience loves it when it’s just not ready yet. If you can’t deal with that, you don’t have a dream, but a fantasy.

    One thing that’s been upsetting in these comments is the ageism. I do think while the OP’s age is relevant here in the nature of their dream (i.e., how long they’ve had it, related to a brief theater experience several decades ago). I think we make a mistake when we assume entitlement comes from people their age. I also think we make a mistake when we reinforce the OP’s believe that time is running out.

    I am near the OP’s age and recently took up an extremely challenging hobby dominated by people much younger than me. I am only special for doing this in that it’s not terribly common. And what I have to bring to it isn’t being owed anything but my own ability to love and serve the activity in question, learn its norms of behavior, and pursue my goals by working hard, keeping my head down, and being dedicated, consistent, kind, and devoted. So that would be my other advice to the OP — stop watching the clock and start learning about the race you want to run, not what it’s going to feel like when you win what you think is the prize.

    Also, don’t be a stalker. Oi.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think that people meant that entitlement comes from age. But rather that sometimes young people have odd, unrealistic and / or unreasonable expectations about how these things work and also that young people are less likely to have the full maturity to handle a major disappointment appropriately, so this kind of behavior is a bit less surprising from someone young. When someone is older, those excuses just don’t fly anymore.

      1. valentine*

        much of the behavior struck me as on the border of stalking.
        I think the director was hoping to stop this by partly surrendering to OP’s demands.

      2. Former Young Lady*

        Exactly. It is not ageism so much as a reasonable expectation that maturity correlates with age. This letter came from a decidedly naive place, so a lot of us were genuinely taken aback when we realized the OP was old enough to remember the moon landing.

        Naivete and self-serving shortsightedness are traits often associated with youth. Older workers often stereotype younger ones as lacking an understanding of their industry’s norms. It’s understandable, then, that a lot of younger workers are frustrated when they encounter someone a generation older who so obviously needs such a reality-check.

  92. Cows go moo*

    Oh boy.

    LW, sending one angry rejection email is enough to go into a company’s black list. While I’ve had my share of bizarre hiring experiences, the vast majority of rejected applicants do not behave this way. Everyone can identify with feelings of disappointment and even anger when we are rejected. But to actually send an aggressive or argumentative reply is…not something most people do. In fact, inability to accept ‘No’ is a major red flag for other negative behaviours whether in professional or social settings.

    Following up your second application with multiple attempts to contact the hiring manager is also a quick way to reinforce they were right to reject you. Even if the applicant ticked off everything I was looking for I would have serious doubts about a person who does not respect boundaries and accepted norms of professional communication.

    While you’ve burned a bridge with this company, I respect that you acknowledged your own behaviour was aggressive and angry. A lot of people behave poorly but don’t see that in the mirror. Please do consider where those feelings are coming from – a competent therapist will be able to support you with this.

  93. Aurora*

    I’m slightly changing my stance, because I think I know what theatre group this is. The group (if it is the same one) offers unpaid apprenticeships in exchange for farm labor, and they charge each apprentice substantial fees for the opportunity. The letter writer still should have handled the rejection more graciously. But a theatre under those circumstances has applicants that are more like potential customers, and it becomes especially important that they communicate all acceptances and rejections to all applicants in a timely and equitable manner, which it seems they did not.

    1. Observer*

      The first application was responded to appropriately. In the case of the second one, I can totally sympathize with the director when she says that she didn’t know what to say. Even as a customer, you need to act reasonably, and the OP did not.

      If you yell at the sales staff in a store, you’ll generally get asked to leave.

  94. AioliOnIt*

    I think one of the most important parts of the original letter is that this person felt like they desperately needed to get away that summer. But if this is the group some of us think it is, the “apprentices” pay a few thousand dollars to apprentice – so I don’t understand why the letter writer is blaming the program for them not being able to go away. It sounds like a trip somewhere – anywhere – would really help. Letter writer: take the money that you were going to spend traveling to and working on the farm and spend it on another getaway this summer. Don’t let life pass you by while you’re holding a grudge against this one little organization.

  95. pcake*

    OP, you say you “would feel accepted by my dream” and that you “thrive when I’m doing my passion. I’m in love with the theater creative process. I would be too busy for any negativity.”

    I live in L.A. and lots of my friends are actors, and some have acted in multiple states, not just here. The first year at a theater group for each of them hasn’t included much passion or creativity. The first year involves cleaning toilets, selling tickets, straightening up the theater and putting away seats if they are folding seats. They’re the ones who pick up the flyers, put the in clubs all over the area and so on. An apprenticeship / internship may involve getting food, fixing food and washing dishes. And as Aurora just above this post says, it can also include farm work. The first year, however, doesn’t include that much acting on stage.

  96. Really very*

    I wanted to pick up on something else, which is that you seem affronted by them having a deadline, and seem not to understand that it’s normal to have to meet one.

  97. Sorrel*

    I’m sure the LW won’t look this far down – but if you’re looking for an immersive experience re-enactment is a really good way to get that. There are less auditions and it’s all about pulling together to make an event.

    That may not have been the part of the experience that you were most craving – but if it is I thought I would put it forward.

  98. Desdemona*

    OP — I’d urge you to look at why you’ve decided this particular group is your “only chance.” The fact that you’re basing this on an 3-day experience back in college makes me want to ask–is it possible that you are idealizing theatre for some reason? I say this as someone who did theatre in high school & college, even went to grad school for it. It’s an industry like any other creative industry. People really idealize concepts of “talent” and “my one shot” and it’d about work and dedication like anything else.

    Can you pursue community theatre? Approach it like any other resume-building project. Do work here and there and build up that experience. A lot of the work is going to be tedious, mundane, annoying, just like work would be in any other context. Can you handle that aspect of it, or do you see this field as more of an escape? If it’s an escape for you, you won’t make it.

    If that doesn’t seem appealing, I’d explore your reasoning here. That’s probably where most of your opportunities will lie, without knowing anything else about where you live, etc.

  99. Michelle*

    If I were the hiring manager, I would not only not have suggested OP come to NYC on his own dime, but I would have been considering whether I needed to put security measures in place for being better prepared for the possibility of an angry stalker showing up. This vengeful, persistent entitlement crosses so many lines. OP, you do need to get some help with your “anger, maybe trust issues.” This isn’t OK.

    1. PracticalLimits*

      It’s not a hiring situation – the letter writer was applying for an “apprenticeship” for which she would have paid the theater group a few thousand dollars for room and board for the privilege of living and working at their site for several weeks. But the group’s performances are large, collaborative things in which they routinely recruit as many as several hundred volunteers on the days of the events. A lot of the events are outdoors, some in public places – so there are practical limits to barring angry stalkers. The coordinator probably just thought an open invitation to something that’s already open to all would be a way to make this person feel at least a little better by being a little included. (Also the coordinator may feel some safety and detachment in the fact that she’s located thousands of miles away from the theater’s home base, and from New York, and may not even be planning to be present for the New York tour.)

  100. cmcinnyc*

    IF this is the theater I think it is (do I think it’s the same one y’all think it is?), it’s not just a theater experience–it’s a whole bonding/community/activism/nature experience, which is a pretty powerful draw if that’s your thing. It’s not at all the same thing as doing community theater in the evenings after work. I can see why someone could get fixated on THIS company, THIS experience, because while it’s not absolutely unique, it’s not the common run. And because of that, I think OP has fallen into feeling desperate and needy and those feelings are never the wellsprings of excellent behavior. And that may also be why the letter is all about “how can I make them change their mind?” Because if they don’t? if this bridge is truly burned? That’s pretty devastating if your fixated on this ONE thing. I am just here to point out that the US of A is currently CHOCK FULL of opportunities for meaningful activism. Theater companies are out in parks and on street corners reading the Mueller Report. Environmentalists and climate scientists are staging all kinds of demonstrations and parades. Only a few years ago that theater company’s focus felt quite special and different. It is rapidly becoming mainstream. My advice: lift your head up, stop focusing entirely on yourself and your dream, take that money you would have spent on Dream Company and pour it into the actual dream.

  101. CM*

    I won’t speculate about how the OP’s feeling, but I will say that the letter reminds me of feelings I’ve had before. There have been times in my life when I was really, really struggling and, in the midst of that struggle, some thing or place or opportunity seemed like the life raft that would save me from drowning, and the idea that another person got to arbitrarily decide whether I had access to the life raft felt very unfair.

    The thing that helped me in that situation was to get some counseling to try to stop feeling like I was drowning in the first place. Once I felt like I was back in control of my life again, those kinds of rejections felt a lot less cruel, because it was less like, “Will I be denied the only thing that can ease my suffering?” and more like, “Will I get to have this cool thing or will I need to find another thing instead?”

    1. FD*

      Yeah, definitely. I can absolutely understand the LW’s feelings, and I think you’re right on.

      That doesn’t justify the behavior or make the bridge any less burned, but I think a lot of us have those moments where it felt like there was that One Thing that would save us and any obstacle to that was enraging.

  102. Complicated Spirit*

    Reminds me of when I was looking for a roommate years ago. I posted an ad on a roomie-seeking website and waited to hear from people. Woke up to a text one morning that just read, “Rude much”. I was confused, since there were no prior texts from this number, and they had texted me very early in the morning (the 1 o’clock hour). I figured they just had the wrong number and told them so. Got another text message from the same number, this time saying in a sweet and polite tone that they were answering the roommate ad. When I had to restart my phone for an unrelated reason later on that day, I discovered that this person had texted me at about a little after 11 PM that night about the roommate ad, and I just hadn’t received it then.

    I blocked the number. Yes they may have behaved all nice and friendly when I told them they had the wrong number (maybe they believed me, or accepted that there could’ve been a glitch, as there had been). But if you’re going to get petulant and aggressive because you text me in the darkest hours of the night when I’m dead asleep and don’t get a text back well before dawn, then ya know what, you’re not roommate material. I don’t want to live with you. The fact that uou prettied up your attitude when you attempted to reach me again is irrelevant by that point.

  103. A little understanding*

    Just a little defense of the letter writer: there are a number of phrases in the letter that suggest that English might not be this person’s first language. If that’s the case, they may have gotten the idea from the theater’s application page that their “open to everybody” and “we accept all ages and walks of life” statements meant that they have an open acceptance policy – in other words that it would be like applying to attend a conference or something like that, where as long as they sent their deposit in by the deadline then they would be accepted. Those familiar with the theater group seem to understand that it doesn’t operate that way – but the letter writer doesn’t seem to have had any contact with them since her experience +/- 30 years ago, so she probably just didn’t understand the current culture or that it was selective.

    1. Delphine*

      I think it’s very possible that the LW felt that they accepted everyone who applied in time…to be rejected would feel very personal then.

    2. LawBee*

      I don’t think the OP understood the culture but I don’t see anything indicating that English is not her first language, or casting any kind of doubt on her fluency. Misunderstanding the application does not automatically equal ESL.

    3. Observer*

      Not really. Even with a “we accept everyone” policy, missing a deadline, which is what the OP believes has happened, is likely to net you a rejection. So that misunderstanding does not explain at all reacting defensively and angrily.

  104. Spider*

    OP, I noticed that when you wrote —
    Well, last year I was rejected and here starts the problem. It seems I must have missed the deadline because their response said they were full. When I read the rejection email, unfortunately I reacted defensively and aggressively. I wasn’t used to being rejected, and this is a small dream I so wish to fulfill and I really desperately needed and wanted to go away last summer. Fast forward to this March.[…]</quote.
    –you glossed right over what "I reacted defensively and aggressively" entailed.

    What exactly did you do?

    1. valentine*

      I really desperately needed and wanted to go away last summer.
      I’m wondering if OP was as forthright as they’ve been here and mentioned this and the college experience, admitting their objective isn’t about the particular org at all.

  105. Delphine*

    I’m really sorry, LW. I can tell this is a great dream of yours. And it seems like the first rejection came at a time when you really needed a break. I think you should take this as a bridge burned and think about applying to other troupes, as disappointing as that may be to hear. I hope you can find something and I hope things work out better for you!

  106. cmcinnyc*

    That is possible. But OP also missed the deadline to apply the first time around and reacted badly–and it was their own mistake! Even an all-are-welcome opportunity can fill up or decline late applications. Going ballistic at that point and hounding the administrator could still get you blacklisted from an event that had no entry criteria at all.

    1. Deborah*

      I DON’T think OP missed the deadline — I think OP ASSUMED they missed the deadline because otherwise they shouldn’t have been rejected. Which is yet another problem upon layers and layers of problems.

      1. BeenThere-1988*

        Yes, that’s the way I read it too. She got a rejection letter that said “no, sorry, we’re full”, and she assumed that meant she missed the deadline because otherwise why wouldn’t she have been accepted? There are only 30 to 40 spots per summer, and multiple times that many applications from all over the world. The application process is just to write a compelling letter – one that explains who you are, and from that alone is how you get judged as to whether you’ll fit in, get along, and add something. You can kind of see from the original letter that this person comes across as more than a little intense. And the place she’s applying to, well it’s creative, but it’s not a democracy, it’s all one person’s vision and everybody who works there has to accept that or it’s the highway. She thinks she’s being an attractive candidate by saying “I’m in love with the creative process” and “I thrive when I’m doing my passion” – but those are big danger signs because people don’t all get their first choice of assignments working there, and they don’t all get their creative ideas accepted or validated, and you just won’t be happy and others won’t be happy around you if you make it all about what you need or want.

  107. Liz T*

    Also the phrase “trust issues” in this context reminds me strongly of the common abuser tactic of twisting their own misbehavior into a sad story where they’re the victim, not the perpetrator. “Trust issues” implies a defense mechanism when this behavior was all, 100%, offense. You missed the deadline and they said they were full and you had trouble trusting…what? What reasonable fear makes this a question of “trust?”

    You don’t get to lash out at a perspective employer and then say, “sorry baby, I’ve just been hurt so many times before, it’s hard for me to trust people.”

  108. boop the first*

    Hmm. Okay but OP says that this anger/demanding thing is just a blip! Totally under control! Everything will be perfect upon acceptance!

    But… you aren’t controlling it NOW, when you are on your Best Behaviour. The coordinator doesn’t have any personal context of you, you are just a name. And then you were someone who reacted unreasonably. And then you were someone who decided on your own that you deserved a second chance, even though you gave no evidence to prove this. And then you were someone who did all this and then demanded immediate answers…. repeatedly. You’re telling the coordinator that THIS is your best behaviour.

  109. BagLadyFromHell*

    I am going to make the rash assumption that (a) my Google-fu is correct as to what this theater company (TTC) is, and (b) it is the same company OP had a “magical” experience with in college.
    If TTC is what I think it is, then community theater is not going to scratch OP’s itch. I do community theater and love it — but it is very different from what TTC does.
    OP needs to do some serious soul-searching (on their own or with a therapist) and figure out what itch(es) they expected this apprenticeship to scratch, and find other ways to make that happen. Summer getaway with a theatrical component? How about being a counselor at a theater camp for kids? Involvement in political performance art? There are many outlets for that these days besides TTC. Recapture a joyful time from college? Sorry, ain’t gonna happen. Your 50-year-old self needs to figure out what will bring him/her joy NOW and not fixate on the very different experience an apprenticeship with TTC would be in the here and now.
    I pursued a “dream” career change in my 40s and I know what it’s like to be convinced that Only This Will Make Me Happy. My dream came true, but it sucked. It was not as I imagined, and I flamed out on New Career after just a couple of years.
    Bottom line: Nobody gives a rat’s patoot about (general) your dream. All they care about is what you can do for *them.* If your dream and their needs align, great. But be prepared for that to be the exception, not the rule.

  110. FairPayFullBenefits*

    Am I the only person who has no clue what this place is, and is now dying to know??

    1. AioliOnIt*

      It’s a specialized political and environmental activism-focused performing group, whose long-time base of operations is on a farm in a rural area. It offers about 30 apprentice spots each summer. They’re open in the sense that there are no particular requirements regarding age, experience, or abilities – and there are no auditions or anything – the only thing you need to do to apply is send a letter and a deposit (it costs the apprentice about $500 per week to attend.) But it’s not first-come first-served or guaranteed. There are many more applicants than spots, so what you write matters tremendously. There’s just the one “coordinator” who picks people – if you don’t get picked then so sad, too bad – there’s nobody to appeal to or overrule that. It’s not a theater workshop. Most of the apprentices take part in performances, but their purpose is mainly to help with production (think along the lines of making products that the group sells, and making props and costumes, minor construction projects, and large-scale art of a type designed and directed by others), and they’re responsible for all the typical farm chores, cooking, etc. to keep the premises running. Some of them coordinate the volunteers who participate on the days of the performances. The volunteer experience seems more like what the letter writer did in college. I would worry that if they picked her as an apprentice she’d get there and then be assigned to something mundane like staffing the gift shop and she’d get disgruntled because doing that isn’t in the midst of “creative process” and doesn’t even get to see some of the performances. Also the living conditions are very primitive – when they say “camping” they mean communally in tents or on the floor of junked buses, without conventional bathing or laundry. It’s a month of dirt, close quarters, and lots of menial labor. If the letter writer wrote anything like she did here then the coordinator probably thought she’d get disappointed and insufferably complainy – or quit and leave them understaffed plus it steals a spot from somebody else.

      1. FairPayFullBenefits*

        Wow this is fascinating, I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it. Thanks for sharing!

  111. chigrrl*

    I am so curious about these numerous angry attempts to demand satisfaction from the company. Even through OP’s perspective, the reaction to rejection was so disproportionate. It would be one thing to politely ask what one could do to improve one’s chances the next year, but it’s so over the top to harass the people in charge of the program. Presumably, if the company has been in business for this long, they have achieved some level of success and spots in their program may not be easy to secure even for individuals who have been actively working on their craft. It’s odd how OP just “knows” that they have all it takes to excel in this program without having actual experience sans their magical three days 30 years ago. In addition to anger therapy, they might want to resolve some of these obsessive tendencies, I find that just as troubling as the overreacting.

  112. Lifeandlimb*

    Hi OP, I don’t know what life circumstances have caused you to pin all your hopes on this one chance and then react so negatively to a fairly normal rejection, but I hope you will take this as a learning opportunity—and it’s possible to learn at any age! I admire your drive to make a change in your life at 50. Please don’t lose hope, and keep riding this momentum for change. You may have to make peace with the fact that you botched this opportunity, but as commenters have suggested above, it’s possibly because it wasn’t the right fit for you after all.

    I hope you will grow through this challenge and get creative to find other avenues to pursue your dreams. Sometimes good things come in unexpected forms. I hope you will seek help in managing your anger and negativity, and I wish all the best.

  113. Overseer Vimes of the Look*

    A lot of people have mentioned community theatre, and I think that’s a great outlet for creativity of the theatrical variety. A lot of universities welcome community members in their summer productions as well. It’s helpful to know going in, though, if you don’t already, that even these opportunities can be really competitive. So many people have dreams of being in theatre! But the likelihood of you being able to participate is possibly much higher.

    Another thought: if you have the funds, it might be possible to enroll in a study abroad course that focuses on theatre. There are often summer programs, which might scratch the “take me away from this place” itch. The SUNY system used to have a number of offerings, and “Theatre in ” is a pretty common program. You might not need to be a current student to participate.

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