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.