Some could say I never made it. I’m not on Broadway, and you haven’t seen me on the big screen, or even the small one at home. I’m ok with that.
What you don’t see is how close we come. How much we give for that final callback, how much we memorize for that audition and the days spent waiting anxiously for the call that we booked it. Only to get a very different call explaining that there were two of us left, and today, it isn’t going our way.
You don’t witness our anguish. The moment our lives end, or begin with a single email or phone call.
You don’t see how we carry the feeling of something being just around the corner or just out of reach. You don’t know the strength of our optimism or the depth of our sadness.
You don’t see how bravely we walk in to the jaws of defeat. Or how we persist in spite of the ever present fear of failure. Or how we carry the feeling that we’ve failed ourselves. Or our loved ones.
Or how we celebrate. How we are filled with joy and the pride of accomplishment but will still struggle to find acceptance because our accomplishments are not typical. They don’t necessarily come with a raise. Or the ability to buy a home, or a second home. Or finally take that vacation. Or have a child and raise a family.
The sacrifices we make. Isolating ourselves to memorize, to invite a character in to our lives, our minds, our bodies with no real understanding of how long it will stay.
The cracks are how the light gets in. But you don’t see the thousands of tiny fractures that have been created over the years in order to be illuminated.
How many attend job interviews weekly, perhaps daily? Interviews where you must sit with the hundreds, if not thousands of other applicants? And you hear their interviews while you wait?
How many of you walk in to potential employment knowing that you will be judged, actively discriminated against, laughed at, or even worse, blatantly ignored?
We study, take classes, give of our time, put ourselves on the line on a sometimes daily basis. Often while typically maintaining an entire second or third career in order to make it all work.
We’re masters of the ability to “Find Something New”. We do it every day.
Or, maybe we thrive financially and we still are chasing that trendy accessory of being able to say we’re “so busy” because it’s easier to wear that than admit the harsh reality of just being exhausted. Busy sounds better.
We work past the point of sanity. Mentally and physically. We bend with the intention of going just up to the edge… to the breaking point. Sometimes we fail. We break. We may snap. I’ve heard people compare us to professional athletes but the key difference is that outside of a few, our jobs typically don’t come with an annual or multi-year compensation plan. No, our jobs come with the fear of missing out. If we break, we lose. We lose income, whittled away in 1/8th increments. We lose health insurance. In 6 month or 1 year increments. We miss opportunities. Life events. Massive changes. All for the sake of bringing important stories to life.
We sometimes even set our own dreams aside in order to help bring someone else’s to life. Gladly.
We are asked when we plan to have kids or don’t we want them? With no mention of the lives we have created on stage.
We happily raise your children. Through our work, our creations, our live theatre, our stories. We teach them about humanity. We show them who they can be. They remind us who we were. We build memories together and share our joy.
We give you the gift of escape. We manipulate emotions to bring you a catharsis, while we are often silenced or chastised for voicing our own in our everyday lives. Our fears invalidated because after all, we chose this.
At the start of the year I had just closed two shows that had been running at the same time. I was, “so busy”.
I was also in the midst of callbacks for the Chicago cast of a show that had just left Broadway. An audition I hustled for on my own, without an agent, and one that helped me regain quite a bit of myself.
In February, I flew to NYC for a whirlwind 48 hours of final callbacks for a World Premiere and was thrust head first back in to the world of competitive NYC theatre. At this stage of my life and career, this was the first time I was present in such a rigorous callback process having previously been in scenarios with fewer people waiting to be seen.
I fought for it. I booked the role.
I was set to leave for the East Coast to be a part of the original cast of a World Premiere musical at an iconic theatre. A beautiful little musical with BIG plans for the future. A collaborative situation I had only previously dreamed of.
A few of you know my journey. Most of you don’t. So you perhaps have no idea what this meant to me or how huge of an accomplishment it was. It felt, in some small way, like all of my sacrifices, dreams for my life I had put on hold, were finally paying off. I felt the shift and was so excited to bring this new energy in to my life.
A representation of my hard work that (unnecessarily) validated my choices to those who perhaps look at me with shame or embarrassment. That think I’m playing at a job that isn’t real. Or that I’ve failed. Or that have been waiting for me to give up.
But I have given up. I just don’t allow you to see it. Because I like to think, after all this time, that I’m stronger than that.
And then, like so many others in our industry, and in the blink of an eye… life went from a battle born cry of “It’s all happening!!!”… to a heartbroken sob of “It’s all gone.”
I’ve had “real” jobs. Salaried positions. Long term jobs with upward mobility. I’m capable of doing them. I excel at most of them. I’m odd and have a skill set that is at times ridiculous and confounding. I tick all the boxes and none of the boxes.
And yet, I am never more alone, never more sad, and never more unsure of myself than when I am away from being an actor. Even at it’s worst, this profession holds a light in my heart that burns so brightly, that I feel it with my whole self when I feel it start to fade.
So I return. Time and again. To that thing that “isn’t real”. I willingly give myself over to a profession where my best days may very well be behind me. I’ve been running out of time since the moment I began, but I keep going. Because now, and for the first time, I’m alive. I choose to live truthfully in this very real moment. This moment that will never come again.
Our industry is in peril. There is so much more to us than what you see. We need and we deserve to have our stories be heard, and for our industry to be supported. Please do your part to help us rebuild and keep our community safe from harm. Spiritually, physically, and most importantly right now, financially. Remember how much we have given to you and know that we will always find ways to tell your stories with compassion. It’s time for you to tell ours.