Saturday, January 26, 2008

"You know you don't want to sit behind a desk for the rest of your life, so, you're not going to be put in that situation."

That was the Blackberry message from a very close friend that has completely changed my outlook on my short-term goals. The funny thing is she wasn’t telling me anything I didn’t already know. I’m an actor for God’s sake. Ask any clear-headed thespian whether he’d prefer sitting behind a desk crunching numbers in some fluorescent lit office or stomping the boards in some rat-infested theatre praying not to melt under the heat of a color gel filtered light and you’re liable to be smacked upside the head with a monologue book.

Am I not clear-headed? It’s a question to which I really want no answer, but I ask because over the past 2 months, I’ve been actively looking for a legit full-time job. What gives?

Let’s face it. For most actors, times are hard on the Boulevard unless you’ve got a star on it. And many don’t. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “fewer than 5 percent of all actors actually make a living at their trade alone.” Most actors are forced to use their creative prowess on and off the camera as they attempt to maintain a job that pays the bills.

Technically, I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve been able to hold down the same job for eight years and still make every audition without the fear of being fired looming over me. However, that’s not the case for everyone. George Jordan, an actor in NYC, is sometimes forced to choose between keeping a job and attending an audition. “Many times, folks hire me knowing that I’m an actor and that I need lots of flexibility, but when its time for me to take off, it’s a problem,” says Jordan. “I’ve lost plenty of jobs because I chose to attend an audition instead of working my shift. The sucky part is that most of those auditions, I didn’t book!” Jordan looks down, chuckles and shrugs, “but hey that’s the nature of the business and I’m used to it.”

Though, I’ve never had that problem, as I get older, the need for stability seems to be more important and my part-time job, while steady, is not going to make these stable dreams come to fruition. Julie Schwartz knows this story all to well. A hometown girl from the suburbs of Colorado; Julie moved to NYC to study acting almost ten years ago. “My parents paid for me to go to school but said I was on my own after that,” says Julie. “Three years after graduating from acting school, I found myself broke, jobless and questioning if I could continue living like that. I ended up packing up and going back to Colorado.” Julie currently works as a city social worker and is married with 2 children. Asked if she misses acting and she says, “Are you kidding me? All the time! I’m always playing the ‘What If’ game in my head. Wondering if things may have turned around had I stuck it out one more year or so.”

The question remains: How do you know when it’s time to throw in the towel? When you’re broke? Haven’t booked a job in a week? A month? A year? Or when you’re just plain old tired of the instability? I wish I had the answers, but as I sit here dizzy from the confusion that is my life, I can’t help but think about that Blackberry message from my friend. She’s right; I don’t want to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life. So now what?


cree said...

Great advice from a lost soul trying to figure her own life out as well. Good thing we have each other to lean on as we stubble through this thing called life!

mish said...

i agree with last commenter. (sigh)