Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I could just quit

Sober has been encouraging me to write about the New York Actress experience... I don't know whether I have anything new to contribute to the subject, except to say that sometimes I think that if I left the business I would love to spend my time doing a demographic study of performers, so that I could publish a report of statistics to support/refute some of the things I've been told over the years about my own profession. I often wonder how many of us are single, how many of us are truly poor, how many are clinically unbalanced or suffered a difficult childhood... and especially, how many of the people running around calling themselves actors actually make money at it, or invest money in their careers, or make any effort to be cast in something other than Third Businessman in the latest blockbuster.

I did my first play when I was 5 - Puss in Boots, and I was the lead, y'all - and my first professional play when I was 16 - A Christmas Carol at the local music theater. The latter experience was amazing, and eye-opening. I loved the other actors (almost all New York-based musical theater people, a different breed from "straight" actors like myself), but found them so odd that I wasn't convinced I could spend the rest of my life hanging around such people.

I didn't make the final decision to enter the field until senior year of college, while everyone else at my fancy university was taking part in corporate recruiting. I remember taking a meeting with one of the career guidance counselors, telling him that I wanted to move to New York to become an actor, and receiving this response:

Counselor: [pause] Well, that sounds like fun!

I was on my own. Before moving, I secured an apartment, jobs, and later through some interesting machinations, health insurance. It took me a little over a year to get my first paying job (though I did plenty of nonpaying stuff before that). After that, jobs kept coming. I've never had a real dry spell; but my income as an actor has never risen very high. I've had a few shots at high-profile work- for example, just a month ago I auditioned for a series regular role on a hot new pilot - but so far, these shots have renewed people's interest in my career, and given me just enough hope to keep going, no more.

I love what I do. I've received great reviews for (most of) it. I've been at it for eight years, and in Year Nine I've considering my options. I met with a career counselor at the behest of my parents the other day, far better than the one provided by my college. I talked, she listened.

I love what I do, I told her, but some mornings I wake up and think, "I could just quit. I could take my headshots, those stupid books about how to succeed in The Business, chuck them in the recycling bin and never look back." The thought lifts me somehow - knowing that, and canceling a few subscriptions, would free me to do whatever I wanted with my time. It is somehow liberating to know that I am not trapped. I have no ties that require me to keep this career. I do it because I love it more than I hate it... and the minute the scale tips in the other direction, I can toss a few papers and walk away.


Tomorrow: I shall review the highly-publicized and controversial production of Hedda Gabler starring the fabulous Cate Blanchett (who has been called "luminous" in the reviews so many times that I'm sure I shall be disappointed to discover she does not, in fact, glow in the dark). I've been trying to see some great female performances to inspire me, so expect upcoming reviews of The Emperor Jones and Doubt. TDF vouchers rock my low-budget world.

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posted by Addy @ 3/22/2006 09:59:00 AM |

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