The day I realized being just an “actor” in New York City was not good enough for recognition was when someone inquired about my employment at a party.
“I won’t bother asking what you’ve been in recently,” the guest responded, presumably sparing me from an embarrassing mumble of shows to fill the space between career dry spells. Foolishly, he seemed to have forgotten that actors, and most creative-types, absolutely love to talk about themselves in excruciating detail, and I quickly rattled off the most recent additions to my resume, almost apologetically, as he politely smiled and waited for an opportunity to exit. For many, faux enthusiasm like this can be found rampant in conversations.
Often, actors will show a good deal of reluctance at proclaiming their involvement with their craft, as the typical reaction involves an eye-roll or sympathetic encouragement. Showing even a modicum of disinterest in acting can inhibit that person from truly realizing their potential, and pulls the actor further from approaching this industry as a business, requiring time, effort, grit and persistence from only one person. Nowadays, the title seems to be almost unreachable until someone has confirmed this status for us through a casting or reassurance.
My New York City dream can be summarized through my constant desire to fill a room with laughter. Joy comes to me from structuring a joke, and waiting to see exactly how it will land with an audience. Like many before me, I relocated to the city, drunk off the power of an undergraduate degree and attention, with the goal of turning this passion into a paying career. Ultimately, the ability to boast consistent acting work to the good folks back home in Texas justified my decision to move four hours away by plane.
In 2013, following a frustration with the complacency of my progress as an actor, I sought opportunities to discuss project collaborations with interested parties, rather than focus my efforts solely on the audition process. The constant rejection that we are trained to accept in this craft had slowly begun to wear on my psyche, and I desired to call the shots.
In addition to teaching us about the constant “No,” my education had also stressed the importance of being well versed in all aspects of theatrical production. With a few arts administration books leftover from college, and two friends interested in the main roles, I set out to write, produce, and direct my first show; I later found out I would be my own marketing department, costume designer, stage manager, and (later) therapist.
Months later, when the lights went up on the production, I nervously sweated behind the audience, praying for even a chuckle at what I hoped to be good writing; the show was well-received, yet reeked of amateur decisions and rookie mistakes: the lighting cues were late, the songs I selected could have been better, the list went on. Like many other newbies to producing, a myriad of possible changes filled my notebook, until the realization struck that the point of no return had been reached – the power to majorly adjust was now out of my hands.
That was the first time I sought out creating my own opportunity, and it placed things in an entirely new perspective. Primarily fueled by collaboration, you learn communication techniques that allow you to speak confidently to a number of different individuals toward a common goal.
Often, it seems that people fail to take creative-types seriously due to a lack of business-minded ambition. The importance of a daily note, mental or physical, of the steps taken towards accomplishing a goal is crucial. The next time someone asks what you do, throw your answer back in their court, and don’t apologize for one second for doing what you want.