Disappointment: The Actor’s Advantageous Companion

This is a guest post from Rhonda Musak

In an article that I recently came across about author Bret Easton Ellis* (Less Than Zero; recently Imperial Bedrooms), the article’s author, Alex Blimes, refers to a conversation he had with both Ellis and Gus Van Sant:

“Both Bret and Gus, for all their successes, know the pain of trying and sometimes failing to make films, and the angst and ennui that life in LA can engender.  Gus says that if you are unable to inure yourself to disappointment, as everyone in his business must, you can find yourself consumed by bitterness and paranoia.”


A word that sinks into the pores and settles into the bones of actors everywhere. Immediately, what jumps to my mind is a fantastic callback I had with a company I really, really, REALLY wanted to work with.  Out of the myriads of shows and projects that I have auditioned for and was not cast, this one is always first in line as the-one-that-got-away.  The one, to my mind, that had the ability to totally transform my life.  The one whose memory of that callback day is still fresh in my mind.  The one overflowing with layers of disappointment.
How do we do this?  Keep putting ourselves out there again and again and again.  As an acting teacher, I sometimes field a question that comes to me in one form or another and means, “Do you think I have what it takes to make it as an actor.”  My first response is usually an honest “who knows” followed up with “what is your definition of ‘make it’?”  But what I ultimately ask is how comfortable the questioner is with living with instability.  As one of my acting teachers, Mark Zeller, once said to me, the highs of this business are so high and so wonderful, but the lows are really low.

I love the word that Gus Van Sant uses to explain our best reaction to disappointment: Inure.  According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary the transitive verb form means “to accept something undesirable.”  I find it interesting, however, that part of inure’s etymology includes the meaning “to put into practice” and the intransitive verb form of inure means “to become of advantage.”

So, if we are to inure ourselves to the many disappointments this business willingly offers, we not only accept something that is undesirable, but we also put it into practice and therefore become better at accepting reality.  When we stand firmly in reality we are present and in the moment and then able to accept this practice’s true gift: disappointment turned to advantage.  Brilliant!

I am reminded of another audition I went to while I was in college.  I was bitterly disappointed not to have been cast in that particular show, but inside an enormous geode of disappointment lay a hidden gem: I vowed that I would strengthen every area that could’ve been a weakness for me in that audition and I began taking action in that direction immediately.  From that place miracles started to unfold in the form of new opportunities that never would’ve come my way had I not had the great gift wielding advantage of disappointment.

* British GQ, July 2010


Rhonda Musak is the owner of NYC acting studio, Art & Soul Acting. As an acting coach and an Erickson-trained, solution-focused life coach, Rhonda blends powerful acting techniques together with transformation solution focused life coaching; a dynamic combination that insures that students learn sustainable acting tools as well as know when to use them and why.

For more information about acting classes, private acting coaching in person or via Skype, college prep program and the Art & Soul Acting Book Club for Actors’, please visit www.artandsoulacting.com

1 Comment

  1. Erin Cronican

    May 24, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    You’re amazing, Rhonda! Love that help us take a word and give it a positive, useful spin. Thanks!

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