And then the four of us will do that thing actors must do when their performances come to an end: Say “Goodbye” to this pattern of doing things in a particular way, with a particular set of blocking, props, costumes, set dressing – essentially to something that will never be this way again.
Theatre is such a powerful and temporary thing. I used to marvel in college at huge and beautiful sets being built up, used for a number of weeks, and then torn down again. It really made me realize that even if we all did the same show years from now, it would never be the same show again.
Theatre can be a reunion, an introduction, or a mingling of the two..but it ALWAYS ends in a figurative and literal..break up.
This show in particular is 90 minutes of non stop emotional escalation. I’ve carried Sister James with me everywhere I’ve been this late spring / early summer. Her experiences have infiltrated my dreams ! It’s creepy, but also tells me that I am in the right place.
I’m proud of this production of Doubt because it’s never black and white, and our awesome director, Hunter Parker, never intended it to leave people with a comforting feeling of “I know who did it.” Instead, it gets people thinking.
Every single person has a different response at the end of the night. I see that as a good thing. Theatre is best when served with thought. There’s a name for a theatre group in there somewhere.
To my friends, colleagues and show patrons who have come out to see the show -Thank you so much. It has been a pleasure sharing this show with you. So please spread the word! Looking forward to leaving it all on the stage these last two performances.
Does anyone truly know what the hell that means, anyway? I am sure if you google it right now you will come across a gazillion blog posts about it, as well as a lot of “ten steps to life-work balance” type content as well.
I’m going to go ahead and throw out a crazy idea..what if there is no such thing as life / work balance? I say there isn’t, and here’s why.
The entire assumption that a balance between life and work is needed implies that there is something wrong with you. As in, you either are spending too much or not enough time at work or home or vise-versa. Everyone’s looking for the “secret” to success. “What does it take to have it all?” It also suggests that your life is compartmentalized. Um. Your life is just your life!
I think there’s a new way of looking at this all together. What if we just start accepting that parts of our lives are going to sometimes be more chaotic? That some of our time is spent having fun? that sometimes life gets outweighed by certain things more than others because hey, they good and the bad both happen when you least expect it and adjustments need to be made accordingly.
But just because something may be chaotic, or you might have had one too many GTs at the company picnic or didn’t get that gig yo uwanted..it doesn’t mean that you have to get riled up over it. Right? I know, easy for me to say.
To get more specific, in this world of acting and the entertainment business in general, there are a lot of misconceptions. Some common questions:
How can you drive that far?!
Is it really worth it?
Don’t you get sick of auditioning?
And the list goes on and on from there. I think that what happens to a lot of us is we try to fix problems.PROBLEMS. You know what I say? I say there are NO problems. I say
I can’t do this because I don’t have this
I can’t do that because I don’t have enough money
I can’t work out because I don’t have enough time
I don’t audition past the state line because it’s too time consuming.
But what do all of those things really even mean?!
I think there’s a whole lot of stress getting shoved around and mislabeled and overdiagnosed with medications and distractions when really, a lot of the time many of us are just afraid to live.
For example, I used to get (ok and sometimes still do) extremely stressed out when I looked at my schedule for the week (See Episode 2 of Holding) and didn’t understand how I was going to get from point A —–> Z without running on fumes or without failing miserably or whatever, really.
I am not saying that this is the same thing as overbooking yourself. That is something that needs to be determined on an individual basis and I am happy to explore that in another post because I have a classic case of burn out in my repertoire.
What’s the big deal? You got big dreams? Well, chances are you won’t have a lot of down time. There will be a lot of doing and trial and error. Sometimes you may have stretches of nothing on your schedule and that doesn’t mean anything bad either. It doesn’t mean that you are not perfecting the “work-life” balancing act. Cause guess what? It’s just some construct some uppity person with too many degrees decided was wrong with the overworked working class.
Start from where you are. Accept that you have chosen a life for yourself that is not always full of certainty. Hell, even if you have a stable job there is always going to be uncertainty. Live one day at a time. Then one moment. You can do it. You can get everything done that you set out to (IF that is what you really want to do!) Just believe.
And here’s my run down of Don’ts
that you haven’t gotten enough sleep
that you didn’t get that part / job / internship / contest
that you haven’t had a vacation in…ever?
to people who tell you you are “doing too much” (they are probably just jealous or shocked or both)
Give yourself time to breathe every day.
Enjoy each moment
treat your life, work, and play all with the same integrity. It’s your life. Compartmentalizing things physically and emotionally doesn’t work in the long run. Screw life / work balance. How about just living with integrity?
Let yourself be YOU. That’s all any of us can do anyway. 🙂
This is a shout out to my fellow acting peeps out there. First of all, let’s draw a big X over the cliche of the “Aspiring Actor.”
There is nothing I detest more (mild exaggeration) than when someone says to me or one of my fellow actors, “OH you’re aspiring to be an actor.”
Definition of Aspiring: to long, aim, or seek ambitiously; be eagerly desirous, especially for something great or of high value
So, after you just explained to someone that you act in theater, you do commercials, etc, they negate everything you just said by saying you aren’t there yet, which is insulting. I am pretty sure what people mean to say is “OH you’re hoping to be famous and rich and be a well-known actor!” OK so part of this may be true but if actors were defined by this, then there wouldn’t be very many actors.
Let’s look at more stereotypes:
-waiter / waitress
-live in NYC or LA
-agents get all the work for you
-you must be broke
-you must be a “struggling artist”, which I think sums all of this up.
So how can we empower ourselves to use our talents to work in non-conventional ways while we wait to hear back from that audition or agent or casting company?
I have a couple of ideas for you! First of all, I think it is important to find a way to give back. And no, I am not saying giving away your talent for free. Yes, a few unpaid student films in the beginning of your career are awin-win for both parties, but if you’ve been at this awhile, it’s time to buckle down and creative with your creativity.
It doesn’t matter where you live. Reach out to your local hospital and / or university and seek out a professional in the medical program. Ask if they have a simulated patient program and explain that you are an actor. And you are brilliant and so on. This is one of the most empowering and “good vibe” generating experiences you can have as an actor. You are acting in real time with a fully loaded character using crazy improv skills AND helping a medical student learn how to interact with patients. It can also pay very well too.
ACTOR COACHING / TEACHING
If you are a trained actor with a lot of experience, particularly on film, coaching can be a profitable and viable option for you. Start out by branching out in your community, seeking out actors at local and / or community theaters and schools and try to find the green actors (note how I didn’t say aspiring). This makes you feel good because you are helping others AND using your talents to get paid for it.
Teaching can be an iffy one. But I think it’s important for everyone to try it out at least once. Find out if you like little kids, older kids, college kids and then you can seek out drama schools, programs, etc in the area where you live and offer your services. This pays more if you have a Masters Degree, but in my experience it is not always necessary! You can even offer private teaching on your own and make some money helping to shape the young creative minds of the future. That is never a bad thing!
Of course, this can go as paid OR unpaid but I am putting it out there because either way it will save you money. typically if you usher at local professional theaters you can stay and see the show for free! We all know how expensive theater can be these days. You are helping out a local theater while saving some cash!
Some theaters pay their ushers too which of course would be the ideal situation. Ask around!
Sometimes as artists, it is good to get out of our heads and go out there and serve someone else instead of chasing after the next audition and constantly worrying about how we are going to get hired or put food on the table. These are just a couple of ideas and I encourage you to leave some of your own and let me know if you have tried any of these already!
Have a great week and get creative with your work!
“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.” – William Cullen Bryant
This quote is how I feel these days, especially with wrapping up and beginning new projects that are slated to be presented within the next month. I am busy with class, editing, rehearsals, applying for an important internship for next year, working on getting “Holding” out to all of you, writing, and I just feel so grateful to have this beautiful season in which to complete it all.
This Labor Day weekend I watched a videotaped performance of a show I did last November called “Almost, Maine” with Valley Repertory Company. It was a group I had never worked with before, with all new friends and actors.
Watching that video got me thinking. Not about my acting or anything, I can watch myself all day (Once you’ve done enough camera work, you get over it. Watching yourself becomes more objective rather than “EWW I look so gross!” or “How do I sound like that!”). OK maybe not all day. But I realized that my life was in a completely different place on that stage than it was in the moment I was watching the video.
This weekend I was sitting next to the love of my life, surrounded by theatre friends I consider family, hanging out, drinking, eating and sort of marveling at the changes we’ve been through.
If you told me a year ago that this year I would direct a play, be a Production Assistant on major motion pictures, become the Artistic Director of a theater company, act in pieces I’ve always wanted to, write and create my own webseries, plus be able to share it all with someone who loves me and supports me for everything I am and do? Holy crap.
Last year I was having trouble facing the fact that I needed to drop people and activities from my life that were no longer of any use to me. I was hurting in more ways than one, but I wouldn’t fully let myself come to that realization. In fact, the only fun I was able to scrounge up last holiday season was the show, “Almost, Maine.”
So a few days after Thanksgiving, I hung out with my best friend Stephen and we walked around Hartford looking at the Christmas lights and bracing ourselves for another season of festivity / insanity. I walked around that night and grounded myself in the fact that things kinda sucked. But Stephen reminded me to “breathe” and I reminded myself that however big the next hurdle was, it would be over eventually.
Things did get better! Especially this year when I opened up to others about my dreams in a practical way and FINALLY heeded the advice given to me by fellow theater friends, Jim and Mary-Ellen: “Remember, ask for help. People want you to succeed!” And sure enough, I’ve had the extreme privilege and honor to create art all year that is reflective of the visions I’ve wanted to execute. Voila!
And I will say, it doesn’t only extend as far as artistic / theatre / film folks. It’s the friends and family who just love me for who I am and urge me to keep moving forward.
For the first time I’m finally saying, “THIS WILL HAPPEN” as opposed to “Eh, it’s okay if it doesn’t happen.”
So. THANK YOU to each and every one of you out there who has supported me. It means more than I can express. And remember, there are people out there who want to help YOU pursue your dreams, no matter how crazy or “out there” they may seem. And I’m one of them!
I mean, do you remember being a teenager and ushered into the auditorium and having to sit through some presentation or assembly?
There is an inherent skepticism on the individual level, that proliferates in a room of other teenagers. “What can this adult possibly tell me about myself that I ALREADY KNOW!?” Ahem. Maybe it’s that whole, you-don’t-realize-until-you-get-older….thing, but I remember feeling that way, and the first time I ever stepped onstage as a “grown up” for 1100 students for a Deana’s Educational Theatre show, I was reminded of how my peers and I felt “back in the day” about required school assemblies. It made me feel a little nauseated.
After being with DET for almost three years, I can attest that it’s not always easy to garner the attention of an entire class of teenagers but it is certainly not impossible. And YES it varies from school to school, town to town, state to state. Seriously.
So over the past few days, some members of the company and myself rehearsed and presented a new show that’s in development, to a couple of groups of teenagers. Talk about intimidating. Classroom setting! Digital Age! Short attention span!
I really felt out of place generation-wise when I saw a sign that had a big X over a photo of ear buds. “In MY day, in MY high school we had CD players, not these teeny inconspicuous ipods.”
But something rather miraculous (strong choice of word I know) happened. They were engaged during the entire presentation. And they had TONS of feedback! The parts we thought they would find corny, they fully accepted. And they pointed out issues that we hadn’t really thought about.
It was then that I also realized that these kids respected us, and maybe some of them even looked up to us. Many of them also cared very much about the issue we were trying to address (cyberbullying) and gave us detailed responses. Definitely encouraging.
I guess I kind of fell for stereotypes about teenagers, even though I’ve already been one. LAME. And I guess these kids were already ahead of ME because they were completely open, accepting, and willing to help us help them.
In college, playwright, professor and overall awesome person Michael Bradford used to say to us “You all are so lucky. You get to do what you love EVERY. DAY. Most people in the real world don’t get to act, direct, or design every day. But you do.” And we’d all sigh, and lament behind our desks, dressed in sweatpants and smart-ass responses.
Here’s the thing…he was right! Of course, graduating from college is great, and being on your own and all is…great. ahem. BUT it’s true. the emphasis in college is on the craft, not on the business. I’ve definitely learned the business side on my own, but that’s not the point. The point is, we were invited to be imaginative, creative, and taught to find inspiration from past events in our lives, people we met, and the environment surrounding us.
When you get out on your own, sometimes it’s trickier to be inspired on your own.
Recently I sat down with a professor from college and two of my classmates from my Acting Class. We weren’t really getting together for any other reason than to catch up. Thomas, Glen (my classmates), and I have done a pretty good job at staying in touch. But Ms. Jean had a ton of questions for us. What were we doing? How were our social lives? Were we happy? What was our focus?
We talked about acting, theatre, film, politics, love, everything really. It was only a span of a couple hours, but something happened. We became inspired. It made me realize that a lot of us had probably taken a lot of the creative energy that we were always surrounded by for granted. At the same time, it was wonderful to meet up with people I’ve known for a long time and just talk about what’s making us tick these days.
I walked away from the lunch feeling very good about how far I’ve come since I graduated, but also with a sense that I have a very long road ahead of me. It’s exciting and scary, all wrapped up in one.
A couple days later, I get a call from Glen, and it turns out that he and Thomas want me to help out with their next project. I’m very excited, naturally. And the word Glen used to describe the meeting of the four of us?
No matter what you do, or what field you’re in, I challenge you to find ways to become more inspired. Feel like you’re in a rut? Maybe an adjustment is needed. A new environment, a break, a new group of people, whatever it is, find ways to break up your routine. You may surprise yourself.