That's Right, I Have to Work at This!
Being a working actor sucks.
Okay, that's a little disingenuous. Sure, it sucks to be very poor, working in a job that barely covers my college loans in the FOURTH most expensive city in America, all for the hope of someday being paid to make a fool of myself for the pleasure of others, but at least I'm chasing my passion! Well, sort of. As it turns out, I'm super bad at this. It's not that I've been bombing auditions, or even lacking in opportunities to bomb auditions, it's just being an adult is stupid and hard and I hate it.
If you've been playing along at home, you probably came from my Facebook profile or my Facebook page, or maybe my Instagram?? But you'll know I've seemed to keep myself relatively busy. Since October of 2017 I've been heavily involved with The Complete Theatre Company, doing various improv shows and variety shows, and that just recently I finally had my full-length Off-Off Broadway debut in CTC's Much Ado About Nothing. You may also remember that I have since started doing a lot of (really rewarding) work with Love Creek Productions. I got a new batch of headshots, and I've been doing my best at social media marketing. But almost all of these big leaps happened in the past five months. For the better part of the past two years, I've just felt stagnant.
As much as I say that I love putting in huge amounts of work in my craft, from building my character from the ground up, it's been damn near impossible to find the motivation to at times. There were so many times in the past two years since I moved out here where I could have worked on an audition monologue, or applied for extra work, or tried to even memorize the tiny amount lines that I had in front of me, but instead I chose to just...do nothing. Hell, I was telling myself it was time to get new headshots almost a year or so before I even reached out to a photographer for a price estimate. Even though I had pretty consistent opportunities to perform thanks to CTC, a series of Off-Off Broadway scene showcases and improv shows doesn't really do much to establish you, with the bonus cost of not getting too much time to work on any auditions for more fulfilling projects. And even now, as I've opened and closed my third full-length show in a year, the thought of even trying to work on a new project after this show closes is daunting.
How did I do this in high school? How did I do it in college? How was there ever a point in my life when I had two or three monologues burned into my brain to use at a moment's notice? For that matter, how was there ever a point when I had two monologues to use for auditions that were even good monologues? Finding a good monologue is its own special hell that certainly contributed to my stagnation in 2018, but that's its own beast that maybe I'll tackle in another blog post--wait do I have to write another blog post now god damn it, it took two years just to write this one
I think the big thing keeping my motivation low is I'm still not sure exactly what I want as an actor, and I get really frustrated when people ask me the usual questions that come with mentioning I'm an actor. "Do you prefer stage or screen?" I don't know, I can barely get on either at this point. "So you want to be on Broadway then?" Do I look like I have the endurance for a full Broadway run? "Do you think you'll ever be paid well enough to do it full time?" Alright, kindly fuck off. Really, I'd love to have a concrete answer to any of these, but I just don't, and it's disheartening to know that it's still likely going to be some while before I can change that. The only way I can find out what I want out of this world is to put more of myself into it. To use the phrase "leap of faith" here seems a bit too on the nose here, but considering how little direction I have in this, a little lack of subtlety is nice.
So how do I do it? How do I just dive in, when I'm literally the one who will go into the pool a step at a time, each step approximately ten minutes apart? The last time I did it was almost ten years ago, when I auditioned for Alice in Wonderland at Park High School, and even then I had been telling myself for a good three years, "Hey, the plays at school look like a lot of fun." I sort of did it when I started college, but the theatre scene in Marquette Michigan, as varied and surprisingly large as it is, is still small potatoes. If that audition back in 2009 was jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool, that was like cliff jumping into Lake Superior, and this feels like I'm jumping off a cruise ship in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.
Setting goals for an acting career is tricky, I've noticed. I can't make it a goal to star in a Broadway show by the time I'm 30--sure it's been done, but realistically the odds of booking Broadway are low, even if you're lucky. And I don't even know if I want to go the Broadway route. I could make a point to audition for x amount of shows or y amount of theatre companies, but then it comes to finding out what I can audition for and who will even let me audition for them in the first place. Why can't there just be one place where literally every audition is happening and it doesn't matter if you're equity or not, you can just show up with a monologue and hope for the best (I understand there are multiple places like this, but just let me wax anxious for a sec)? I could focus on creating a video reel, but I have literally no knowledge of how to make a reel nor any video footage of me acting anyway.
I could also make a point to not wallow in my own self-pity and anxiety. After all, I've been in about a dozen improv and variety shows, three full length productions (including two lead roles!), and have made a name for myself in two New York companies. I have a network now, and though it's small both in size and influence, it's still mine. I've been able to do a lot of acting and directing in New York City of all places. But I don't know how to word that as a goal, and I don't think achieving a new state of mind is really that much of a tangible goal anyway.
One tangible goal I can have is to keep a chronicle of what I've been up to here. It'll force me to actually get off my ass and work for roles, help me step back and look at my current trajectory, or maybe just share some amusing anecdotes (I'm only mostly anxious about my life, see). It'll also at the very least keep me feeling like I'm doing something to justify the thousands of dollars of college debt I have. Not to mention it would create a lot of opportunities for online engagement, which is a bunch of buzzwords I keep hearing are important. Really the only loss here is that I can verbally solidify the fact that I'm completely clueless as to what I'm doing with myself here.
So I guess I'll close this meandering blog post with a statement of purpose: I can do this; I'm currently doing this; I will continue to do this. It's difficult and stupid, and it's hard to even make any moves at the fear that they'll become huge mistakes, but I've gotta keep going, because feeling this shitty about doing something I love is so much more difficult and stupid.
See you in the next post, hopefully it will be happier and a bit sooner than I'm dreading it to be. In the mean time, don't worry. Your boys are doing well out here. We're just a bit sad today.