An Actor’s Struggle: Career v. Day Job

Every actor I know, and mind you, there are so many I don’t know, has struggled with striking a balance between supporting themselves financially, and pursuing their dream. When I began my journey to become an artist, I began skeptically, and I had a backup plan ready to go should I feel I wasn’t cut out for the life of an actor. But a year into my training at Stella Adler, I realized that in order to become an artist, you must commit fully to what you’re doing, because ultimately, talent is not enough. Belief and drive will take you much further than talent ever can. So I jumped with my two feet into actor training, and I never looked back. I’d been offered full time day jobs by reputable companies, and the idea of a 9-6, 40K +/ year and health benefits tickled me, but it was nothing more than a tickle. I wasn’t going to sacrifice my journey as an artist for any unnecessary comforts. And, I’d been working since the day I stepped out of training. Things have moved forward since.

This coming June will mark 3 years since I graduated from Adler, and circumstances have changed. I very much love acting and I’m still working, and still none of my acting jobs sustain any sort of independent living. I’ve maintained a regular day job that I mostly enjoy, that is flexible, understanding, and allows me to work as an actor, which is great.  Recently, that job has offered me a hefty promotion, and the perks are pretty serious. And I’m faced with a really tough decision. To allow myself to make some substantial money for a little while and invest less time in my acting career for a bit, or stay the course.  Mind you, I’ll never give up acting. Never.

And this job offer was much more than tantalizing. And it’s challenged me to take steps I’d never thought I’d take. Jumps in fact. I jumped out of an airplane and went skydiving on a manager’s conference. I was fairly certain I wouldn’t jump before I got to the conference. Next thing you know, I’m cool as a cucumber free falling out of this tiny little plane. The temptations of financial stability and the opportunity to enjoy life different from how I have the past few years, have been working on me. It’s such a strange dilemma. I feel like if I pursue the day job more than acting, that I’m giving up a piece of me. Yet, I feel that if I fight what has been basically dropped in my lap, I’m going against part of what it means to be an artist and a human being- which is to allow life’s circumstances to work on me. 

On the other hand, I feel I can do both. And so while I’ve been canceling auditions and turning down a few gigs over the last two months, I feel that after getting used to the new responsibilities, I can once again work my tail off to both make a more than decent living, and kick butt in my acting career. Talent only goes so far. Belief and drive will take me as far as I want to go.

I’m leaving for Texas tomorrow morning for work, where I’ll be training others the art of pitching. We demonstrate mandolin slicers and knives in grocery stores and big retail stores. I’ll be in Texas for a month. While I’m there, I will be doing very little, if no audition searching. It will be a wonderful learning opportunity. Learning about the new job, learning about how it makes me feel to pursue it more fully, and how it feels to pursue acting less. But it’s only a month. 

Thankfully, I’ve got a very exciting theatre job lined up for this summer…. More details to follow as it gets closer. But… I’ll be acting internationally!

If you’ve made it through this entire post, you’re a trooper. Thank you. And if you’ve gone through a similar experience, I encourage you to share your thoughts. We’re all in this life together. 

Onward!

 

 

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Bring Solutions, Not Problems!

The last few months have been wonderful and work filled, something for which I’m grateful. I was involved in 3 films and a play, and it was immense fun to play different characters for each project simultaneously. I enjoyed going to work doing live infomercials and then driving into the city for rehearsal on The Tragic Muse, or getting up at 6 AM to be on set for Bar Songs by 8, leaving set around noon for rehearsal, and then going back to set to complete filming for the day. However, at one point, two projects I was in had competing interests, and I learned a lot about how to problem solve from this experience.

I was cast in Bar Songs, a rock musical feature film, in September, and shooting spanned over the course of December and January. In December, after I’d begun shooting for Bar Songs, I was cast in The Tragic Muse. My character in Bar Songs was clean shaven, while the look the production was aiming for in The Tragic Muse necessitated facial hair. My last day of shooting for Bar Songs was a week before the opening of The Tragic Muse, and unfortunately, I need to devote at least a month of no shaving before I have something on my face worth looking at. (Because really before then, it’s hideous!)

I felt obligated to remain clean shaven because the film hired me first, however, I was working on the film for free. I was receiving a stipend for my work on The Tragic Muse, and felt that because of this, I had an obligation to grow facial hair for the production. I also wanted to look as right for the part as possible. Both projects wanted what they wanted, and it seemed to me I wasn’t going to be able to satisfy either party 100%. 

I brought the problem to both the film and the play, and both agreed it was a nasty little problem that was unwelcome. The film eventually told me that it would be impossible to complete the project unless I was clean shaven, which meant I’d have to tell the play that I wouldn’t be able to grow facial hair. The play was running under a tight budget and couldn’t afford to pay for an artificial solution. So, after seeking advice from my peers and my twin brother, I found a solution! I asked the film to reimburse the expense for an artificial facial hair solution for the play. Both parties were relieved that they’d be able to get what they wanted, and I was able to attain the look I needed for both the film and they play, without compromising the integrity of either!

The point is, next time, before I bring a problem, I will search for the solution first, and then present the issue, with the suggested solution. This would have worked far better and would have represented me as an in demand actor who brings solutions, not problems. Because really, who wants to work with an actor who causes chaos off the set or the stage and makes things more difficult for the production team!? I certainly don’t want to be that actor, and I’m glad that in this case, both creative teams were patient and understanding and were willing to work with me to forge the compromise that satisfied everyone!

Also, in general, it’s probably healthier to frame dilemmas in terms of opportunity for solution rather than problems. Happy solution hunting!

Tonight Is a Special Night! Thank you!

At the moment I’m overwhelmed with excitement and a flurry of thoughts, and I’ll explain why in a minute, but first, I need to express lots of gratitude. Choosing to live as an actor can cause those closest to you a great deal of worry and stress. An actor’s life is one of uncertainty and of constant change. For many (myself included) it does not offer much financial stability and requires a lot of love, understanding, encouragement, and patience from those close to the actor.  You who have shared this journey with me for the last 5 years when I decided to pursue acting, THANK YOU. My teachers, friends, and family, you have been an incredible source of inspiration. I have learned so much since I was admitted to the Stella Adler Studio, and I’ve continued to learn since I graduated. Through every step of the way, I’ve relied on some very special people to help keep me going. You’ve taught me, sheltered me, fed me, cheered for me, come to my shows, liked my posts, listened to me during rough times, and shared joy in my successes. Thank you so much. You know who you are.

In my journey I decided to continue training last summer at The Funny School of Good Acting and take clown class with Christopher Bayes. It was absolutely a life changing experience in which I rediscovered a part of me that had been lost since I was about 8 years old. I was particularly interested in this clown training because I was gearing up to play El Gallo in The Fantasticks at The Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Meredith, New Hampshire, my first professional musical. I was very excited to take on this role and to bring El Gallo to life.  Under the leadership and direction of Bryan Halperin and the partnership of Katie Proulx as the Mute, as well as an incredibly talented cast and crew, I was empowered to create a very provocative back story that fueled my emotional journey through the production. Many nights the run ended in tears for me, something I was completely unaccustomed to, but something I was drawn to, because I felt growth. At Stella Adler, we studied under the premise, and something I’ve come to fully believe in, that growth as an actor and growth as a human being are synonymous. 

Our work on The Fantasticks at The Winnipesaukee Playhouse was rewarded in a big way tonight. To my knowledge, so far, we’ve been awarded Best Director (Bryan Halperin), Best Music Director (Judy Hayward), Best Lighting Design (Matt Guminski), Best Supporting Actress (Katie Proulx), and Best Actor (Me!). I’m so thankful to have been given the opportunity to play this part and to have worked with such wonderful people. The new theatre is gorgeous, and the people who run the theatre are caring, dedicated, passionate, warm, and welcoming. I’m so happy for all of us, and just, THANK YOU!

I was unable to be at the awards ceremony in New Hampshire this evening because I was performing in the closing night of another project for which I’m extremely grateful to have been a part of, The Tragic Muse. Again, I had the privilege of working with an amazingly talented group of artists, and I just couldn’t be happier with how the run went. My family and friends came to see the show and we all went out to Katz’s Deli afterward, where I ate far too much pastrami! I can’t wait until the next project. 

Follow your dreams. Figure out what your dreams are, and go after it, as hard as you can. It isn’t always glorious, glamorous, or filled with money, but damn, does it feel good to know that you’re doing what you love, you’re good at it, and your family and friends support you. 

So much love to you all. I can’t thank you enough. 

Two Stories About Why You Should Always Bring Your “A” Game to an Audition!

Happy New Year Y’all (not from the South, but I love this word!)

One of my resolutions for 2014 is to write a new blog post once a month! Those of you who know me, you know I’ve always got plenty to say! 

2013 was filled with many wonderful successes for me as an actor: I did a 6 month Shakespeare tour as an actor and company manager, I did my first professional musical and am a finalist for best actor in the state of New Hampshire for the work I did, I’ve gotten the ball rolling on meeting important folks in the industry, booked my first feature film, and booked 5 plays this Fall (though two of them got canceled and I turned one down). It’s been a great year professionally and I’ve learned and grown so much!

I want to share a couple of anecdotes about why it is so crucial for an actor to always be bringing his “A” game to an audition. As a Stella Adler graduate I received a very handy perk of having my audition and fees waived to become a member at One on One Studios, a service that provides opportunities to meet prominent people in the industry and to take classes. However, I didn’t take advantage of this perk for 2 years and as a result, I lost my ability to become a member without auditioning. Thinking the audition would be a walk in the park, I scheduled the audition and went in without much preparation. I used two monologues that I hadn’t worked on very much before the audition, but that I had down cold at one point. Suffice it to say, I didn’t give the best performance, and I wasn’t admitted to One on One. Since that audition I have been practicing my audition pieces every day while I drive to and from work, and let me tell you, I can do those pieces very well, any time. Next time I audition to become a member at One on One, I will be ready. 

The second story has got a more positive ending! I had an audition for a project via Skype back in September. The audition went very well and I established good rapport with the director. We had a candid conversation about the project and came to the conclusion that there didn’t seem to be a good fit for me in this production. I followed up with a thank you email, as you should! 2 months later I got an email from the same director inviting me to join him on another project he’s currently working on. Good auditions will come back to you, even if you don’t book the initial gig! AWESOME!

May 2014 bring you that much closer to your dreams!

Check out the homepage for links to my new voice demo and information about The Tragic Muse, a new play I’m in THIS MONTH!

 

Son of a Gun!

This past weekend I had the privilege of being an audience member in what I believe to be the best confluence of drama and music I’ve ever seen. Son of a Gun, a new musical conceived by Don Chaffer (of Nashville’s Waterdeep) with a book by Chris Cragin, is the story of the Khrusty family band, comprised of a husband and wife, and their three sons. The Khrusty’s are a talented bunch, and all the actors delivered incredible performances as the musicians, playing guitars, drums, basses, and bag pipes! RIDICULOUS! Oh, and there was a vintage washboard used for percussion, cowbells, triangles, keyboards, and a trumpet!

I was so impressed with the musical ability of the entire cast, not to mention their truthful and powerful performances as actors! I look forward to seeing the growth of this project and hope to see it on Broadway soon!

http://firebonetheatre.com/son-of-a-gun/

Still Alive

Hello people!

Apologies for MIA posting- this will be a very quick one as I must capitalize on the little time I have to sleep these days!

I’m currently working two jobs (doing a little stint at Starbucks, and still doing live infomercials for US Jesco).

I’m also playing Mal Beineke in The Broadhollow Theatre Company’s Addams Family! We open this Saturday!

SETCs was a great success! I have been offered a position with North Carolina Shakespeare Festival for their upcoming 2013 Tour! I’ll be playing Lysander and Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet!

I’ve been trying to play as much tennis as possible, though not getting to play nearly as much as I’d like. Life is busy, life is good!

I hope all is well with you too!

I hope more to come soon.

Listen

I just got back from The Lost Colony two days ago, and I am very happy to have learned so much and to continue learning every day. At the Colony, I learned about how to deal with one of an actor׳s greatest challenges- repetition. I performed the same show 6 nights a week for 3 months. Not once was I bored while being on stage. I found myself discovering new motivations and feeling new sensations through the final performances. Why? Listening. To stay open and hear and listen to your scene partners on stage allows you to continue to be freshly in a moment you’ve created night after night.

People that know me know I have a tendency to want to speak… Often. This summer I felt I had difficulty participating in conversation because I wasn’t contributing by speaking- I would just listen, and then grow a bit self conscious and anxious over the fact that I wasn’t talking. But today I’ve realized finally that it’s not always necessary to talk at all.
I had a teacher ask me once rather furiously if it had ever occurred to me that I talk too much. Well, I think I’m going to try out speaking much less.

I was delighted to attend The Shakespeare Forum tonight. On Tuesdays they hold free workshops in which attendees volunteer to share their work (a monologue) with the rest, and then receive some feedback, and then do it again. Afterwards, the gathering transfers venues to a nearby bar. I didn’t go to the bar tonight (new headshots tomorrow!), but as I sat there listening to others work, I realized the power of listening. To give to the person working in front of us is a wonderful thing for all involved, both performer and audience. Perhaps this is all pretty obvious, but I’ve been struggling for a while about my tendency to speak often, and feeling uneasy when I don’t wish to speak, and today I can move forward knowing that it’s ok to relish in silence, and to just listen.