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Monday, April 09, 2007

Another ending of another show- Parting is such sweet sorrow, or not........

This is our last week. 7 more performances to finally get it right.

It has been a rewarding and interesting ride, as it usually is. But by this time, in the process, all our colorful and varied personalities start to grate on each other. So, you approach the end with a mix of gratitude and dread. Grateful that you had a good run, yet ready to move on. And dread, because the ever present question that haunts every actor's psyche rears its ugly head once more: will I ever work again? It's something we deal with on an ongoing basis, particularly when there are no projects on the horizon.

Stability is not something we signed on for, when choosing a career in the Arts. And some people might not understand the appeal, but there's something to be said for the instability that is part and parcel of the freelance performer's world. I think it's probably why we choose this line of work, as crazy as that might sound. There is something exhilarating about not knowing what's around the corner. What wonderful project might be thrown our way. Those of us who detest the 9-5 routine welcome the 'possibilities' that freelancing brings. I might not have a job today, but tomorrow that cell phone or pager might ring and with it, good news. Some are fortunate enough to have their season booked a year in advance, but that also locks you in to those projects, so that if something better comes along, you are loath to back out. Word travels fast in this very small community, and no-one likes an actor who bails out of a commitment, regardless of how understanding they might seem, at the time. Yeah, this is a business, and most of our union contracts have outs for 'more remunerative pay', but you won't ever work with those people again, believe me. Been there, done that. I was blessed last year to have 2 projects booked in advance, but there were opportunities that I had to turn down because of it. But those are the risks you take. And take them we do. Unfortunately, we have been forced to be less selective in our choices because of changes to our Union Pension, Health and Welfare plan.

Several years ago, our stage Union (Actors Equity Association) increased, substantially, the amount of weeks you have to work in a year to qualify for health insurance. Add to that the decrease in work weeks, because of the lack of funding for the Arts, and we are left to scramble where we can. We take whatever we can get. The average contract for a show used to be 8 weeks, it is now 6. I've had to take shows paying as little as $250.00 per week in order to accrue enough work weeks to qualify. Not a living wage, let me tell you.

Yes, we have chosen the Arts as a profession, so we've learned to take the good with the bad. We also acknowledge that the majority of us in the entertainment industry will never be rich, save for those few stars who make obscene amounts of money. But the rest of us, particularly stage actors, do it because we love it, because we want to entertain, or educate. We want to make you laugh and cry, to open your eyes. To bring some light to your lives, in some small way.

So, who knows what I will be doing in a month or a year. But I embrace the unknown, knowing that I will be led to whatever I am meant to be doing next, whatever that might be.

9 comments:

nat said...

Interesting to read about your profession. I've been in an office environment for many years now. It's funny to hear about careers that are so different from my day-to-day experience. I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on this given some things I am contemplating in my life. Can we e-mail about it (so my ramblings don't have to be posted to the world)? You can reach me by the e-mail link on my profile page.

Billy T. Johnson said...

You are living out Hebrews 11:1

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Very inspiring blog entry.

MUD said...

Did you hear the story about the young actress that told her agent that she would do anything for $300 a week. He told her to come over to his house in the morning, in her old clothes and she could paint his house. OK, that story was really told about hookers but don't we all really work for money.
I have always worked for some form of Government and been paid once a month. I went for the stability and retirement. MUD

Papa J said...

I have a sister that graduated with a degree in costume design. She is a genius at it but because of the cyclical nature of the business, high stress and pressure on one end and then high stress (about bills) and low job pressure when the job was done she became bi-polar. (I admit there may be other contributing factors as well.) Still, she had to get out to maintain her sanity.

Blazing Cat Fur said...

Nice post.

Panhandle Poet said...

I attempted this earlier, but it didn't seem to work, so... I have a close friend who is an actress/singer with an amazing voice and endless talent. Her dream would be to play on Broadway. She is now a teacher but plays in the local theatre and sings for almost every special event in town. She is inspiring a new generation of children each year with her special talents. Pursue your dream even when it's hard, but remember, "there's more than one way to skin a cat".

Incognito said...

NAT: It's not a career I would recommend to anyone unless they have a true calling. Aside from the lack of stability you deal with constant rejection. You have to be very thick skinned. As for the last part of your comment. Done.

BILLY T: Thank you. yes I am. The only thing one can truly rely on to survive in this world of ours.

MUD: :-) well, this business is a little like pimping oneself. Heck, I'm up for painting. And though I embrace 'never knowing what's next', I sometimes do miss the stability of a weekly/biweekly/monthly paycheck! There are always trade-offs, I guess.

PAPA J: Wow. Costume Design. I do admire those people. Without a good one we can look like terrible. That's too bad, esp. if she was good. Hope she is doing better now. What does she do? By the way, in my romps around this town I saw a pic of a Pizza place called Papa J's. :-) I took a pic of it. Will try and post it some day.

BCF: Thank you, m'dear. No response to D'Souza. ;-)

PANHANDLE POET: I've done the same thing, posted a comment which didn't go through. Annoying. Indeed, there is more than one way, just not sure what that way might be, at this point. Time will tell. That's wonderful your friend is a teacher and sharing her talents. I so admire teachers, but not my calling.

Mr. ODP said...

Sounds like Sales!

Incognito said...

yes, it is a little like sales ODP. and anything other occupation where one has to freelance. Not great for everyone. Though we have to sell ourselves, in a way, I always had a hard time with retail sales.