Feeling artistically stagnant and starved is something I didn’t understand when I was little. If I was in a grouchy mood for days at a time, I was often told, “You just need a show!” But I didn’t truly understand the validity of this until my twenties. I did legitimately need to do something artistic, to create, ANYTHING. And since theatre was my thing, I would riffle through the local newspapers and Backstage every Thursday, hoping to solve the theatrical dry spell. Usually it worked. As I got older, it worked less.
Kindertransport in 2001. Photo credit: Barntheatre.org.
Turns out, I am not the only female brunette 20-something aspiring to be an actor. So back in 2010, my husband very wisely suggested I take up writing as an outlet for this all-too-familiar theatrical dry spell. As he always says, “No one needs to hire you to write!” It was a definitely a breakthrough for me. With theatre, I could perform my monologues to the cats all I wanted but at the end of the day, unless I took a class, was cast in a show, or produced the whole thing myself from the ground up, I wasn’t creating. Writing was my savior during those days.
“So are you a writer now?”
One of the unfortunate negativities I have come across in my career is the “throwing in the towel check-in.” Even if they don’t realize it, there are a group of artists out there that like to ask the questions, “Oh so are you like, not an actor anymore?” Will you cool it please? I realize that this is just a projection of your own instability as an actor, but working on another art form or career does not mean you are giving up your passion. If life was as easy as waking up one day and following your dream, then would no one would write about it!
The truth is that writing has put me more in touch with my acting and acting as put my more in touch with my writing. I currently work in the Curriculum Office of an Independent School and I am reminded every day of the importance of interdisciplinary education. If you think back to middle school, you’ll remember it. “Huck Finn rafted down the Mississippi. How many miles did he float down the river if the speed of the current was….” and then there would be a lot of math and I would go to la-la land. But you get the idea. We make these connections with different parts of our minds to better understand them.
Put on your writer pants
Sweatpants are great!
Discovering my love for writing was like finding out that I could wear my pajamas to work. I have always considered myself an introvert. When you’re little, they just call this shy, and you assume it’s a phase when you hide behind your parent’s knees when a stranger tries to talk to you. And yet the feeling to hide behind things on some days never quite went away. And then suddenly, the creation of Buzzfeed and the internet’s obsession with lists taught me that there are other introverts out there that ALSO want to hide behind things! And apparently that’s cool now!
Being an introverted actor is often difficult. A good deal of the business is networking and building your community. Performing is actually one of the most personal and introverted portions of the field. Standing in line with 30 people that look just like you who are talking about going on their 5th world tour of Midsummer, while practicing scales in between each sentence, is not as bearable. There are days when I just don’t want to put on my actor pants. I don’t want to wear makeup or curl my hair, or bring a change of heels. I don’t feel like maintaining my “I could take this or leave it” persona while being graceful and welcoming, all the while remembering the words to my monologue. Sometimes, I just want to throw my hair into a pony tail, find some flip flips, throw on my college hoody, drag myself to the nearest back corner of a coffee shop, and write. The only person who has to deal with me sounding/looking like a recluse is the barista, and I know from experience that she has seen worse.
And by cafe, sometimes I mean my couch.
No one needs to give you permission
The most wonderful thing about writing? When you sit down and create something, you are a writer. Congratulations! Some days, you just need this freedom. No outside force is telling you yes or no. And the best part? When I do return to auditioning, I am not so artistically starved that getting the role is the only salvation from insanity. Because as I’ve heard before, desperation is always louder than your audition.
An actor friend of mine relayed this idea from a teacher to me once, “Theatre is like a healthy romantic relationship. You need other passions in your life other than just that person, otherwise you’re not growing, and all of you happiness is dependent on things working out.”
So, Theatre, to keep myself from being a needy girlfriend, I will be over here writing in my metaphorical sweatpants. When I’m ready to put a dress on again, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps next month, I will be back.
I strongly encourage the opportunity to explore other art forms without permission. The difference between someone who is judging what you created, and you, is that at least you created something. So if you are worried about judgment due to lack of experience, training, or a relevant career, throw that aside. Creating art is never for the critics, so you might as well give it a go.