I’ve taken a hiatus from the acting business. Not to be confused with a hiatus from acting; just from the business side of things. I’ve written about the many reasons we left New York and the current state of the business was one of the biggest reasons. I recently realized how little it is in my current life and how much lighter I feel because of it.
You know the Konmari method? The Magic of Tidying Up book that’s all the rage? Well, I did that to my clothes and then to my life. I guess it does actually work for more than just your stuff.
It’s been almost a year since I left New York and I have been reflecting on the changes that have occurred. The biggest being this surprise hiatus I seemed to have taken without planning it. I realized it when I started receiving my Backstage and various other casting site emails earlier this year.They usually come in droves in the spring for the summer and fall productions in both theater and television/film. I had planned to be aware of regional theater auditions and submit for film productions in New England. I signed up for the SAG AFTRA New England branch and changed all my settings on the sites to be local theaters in my new surrounding states and also New York. I planned to travel to the city often for auditions.
I didn’t look at any of them. In fact, I was annoyed at them in my inbox and I unsubscribed from receiving them.
The tiny New York City mouse inside me was like “WHAT THE F ARE YOU DOING? HOW WILL YOU EVER BE AN ACTOR NOW?”
The answer is: I’m never not an actor. The above is not what makes an actor in the slightest. I’ve felt more like an actor, an artist, a storyteller in the past year than I did in my last two in the city.
I’ve found this accidental hiatus to be healthy. For some reason, that surprised me. I suppose because I felt badly at first that I wasn’t doing everything in my power to succeed in the ‘right’ way. Without being conscious of it at first, I alleviated myself of the weight carried by the guilt of having 100 emails for auditions in my inbox and seeing my Facebook feed filled with CASTING SEMINAR YOU MUST ATTEND OR ELSE or 10 THINGS YOU NEED TO DO FOR YOUR HEADSHOT SESSION OR YOU WILL FAIL MISERABLY. I was feeding into it. I was letting it get to me. I was so deep I wasn’t seeing how that business model was not working for me. I just felt like I was failing.
So I hit “Unsubscribe” several times.
I have two quotes that I had forgotten about until this personal revolution. Both are “Inside the Actor’s Studio” interviews (Also, how great is that fucking show?) One was from when I was lucky enough to be in the audience in college to watch Dustin Hoffman’s several hours long interview, every minute of which was incredible. He said that if his career had not taken the path it had, he would be happy just doing community theater in a small town somewhere. That really spoke to me because I felt the same. I always thought as long as I was acting, I would be happy. It was nice to know my favorite Captain Hook felt the same way.
The second interview was Jude Law. He spoke about how powerful a job it is to be an actor but he didn’t call it acting. He called it storytelling and how remarkable a profession it was and how important it is in every culture. I loved that quote because I love stories and hearing him say those words, I realized that’s the heart of why I love acting. I love telling stories, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs. Sigh, Jude just gets me.
Both these moments I had shoved in the back of my mind in the last few years in the city. I was focused on everything doing everything I was ‘supposed to do’ and not the reasons why I was an actor to begin with.
Everything was about money, even the small theater companies, and putting the right person with the large following in the right role to make that money. I submitted like a fiend to everything, sent postcards, letters, emails, whatever I could. I was doing everything right, everything within my power, but I was in a pile of lots of fairly attractive brunettes and I was losing my drive. I was grabbing after everything as I was falling like people do with fad diets.Try this! Try that! This worked for her! That worked for him! I spent so much money…it makes me ill to think about how much it was total. Actually I could probably look as most of it is still on my credit cards…
Once we were settled here, after several months, I was finding joy in little things again and in acting. It wasn’t immediate; I was feeling left out and guilty that I wasn’t trying hard enough. But we’ve been making movies, taking classes, auditioning here and there. Now it doesn’t run my life. That works for some actors, they thrive off of it. It didn’t work for me and it took a long time to realize that.
During my Level 3 improv class performance last week, we were in the dressing room, waiting to go on, and my classmate picked up a guitar that was in the green room and we started making up a song. We just launched into it naturally. I felt so calm and out of my head and had one of those “this is where I need to be” moments. Our teacher insisted we do it again on stage. Not only was it absolutely hysterical but a really great thing we created together as team Volcano Merit Badge. The sense of fun I had missed my last year or so in the city came back. The pressure had finally left me and I was free to explore again. I left that performance feeling elated, not weighed down like I had been in the recent past. I felt energized. I felt like I was home again.
I no longer have 100 emails in my inbox (unless you count the ones from Michael’s that they won’t stop sending me even though I unsubscribed 85 times!) I no longer feel I need to take a chunk of time out of my day to submit online to projects because if I don’t, it will gnaw at me for a week. I do that when I have the desire to. Instead, I fill my time with writing, reading, watching female driven comedies, walking in the woods, playing with my cats, doing a puzzle with my husband, coloring. I help with our production company, researching film festivals, reading drafts of scripts, writing ideas, finding actors. I’m making to do lists that are not just filled with acting necessities but other projects on the horizon like my princess party business (coming soon!). I’m making connections with people and growing as a person, not just an actor. I’m finding the challenge of playing my first leading lady in a feature film later this summer welcoming and exciting, not terrifying and pressure laced.
I have more going on now than I did in my last years in the city.
I thought a hiatus would make me less of an actor but I think, for me, it has made me more of the actor I want to be. I am still a professional, union actor. I am still working. I stay active in both my unions, read reviews of movies, television shows, and theater. I seek out projects I know I’m right for and have the desire to be a part of. I take class. I update my website. But it’s all with joy. It doesn’t feel like I am obliged to perform these duties. I do so because I like to and I am smart enough to know many of them are necessary to continue on this career path.
That being said, I am finding I am more and more like Dustin Hoffman. If the work I do gains me a successful career like him or Jude Law, I know it may not last forever. But the joy is what will persevere through it all. I’m just glad I was able to find it again.