Once again I am happy to share a post from my friend Sarah Dacey-Charles’ blog. Sarah studied with me in San Francisco and here in New York. She has seen both high-times – playing Madam T in “Les Miserables” on Broadway – and a few not so high-times. Here’s how she deals with this crazy/wonderful business we have chosen for ourselves.
As actors, losing our artistic vision and joy is a frequent consequence of having to play the dual role of artist and entrepreneur. We spend so much energy trying to make something happen in our careers. We push and fight to get auditions and to nourish relationships with directors. Sometimes just scraping together the monthly nut can be exhausting.
We work our asses off preparing 30 pages of sides, give a brilliant callback for our dream role, only to feel devastated and empty when the phone doesn’t ring with the offer we knew was coming. You don’t have to be an actor to know what I’m talking about. Maybe you just finished writing a play or made the deadline of your company’s project. It was exhausting but it gave you purpose and a sense of pride and and now that it’s done, your appointment book looks like a dust bowl and your phone rings as loudly as a pet rock.
Travel back with me to the middle of August. I’m on the mountain top. I’m on set shooting a corporate video for treatment of schizophrenia. My spot on Elementary will air in a few months and I feel unstoppable. I’m on a roll, baby!
I have a callback and “first refusal” for a car commercial, another callback for a musical, and I’m on hold for the TV show, Person of Interest. I calculated that if I book all the projects I’m up for, I’ll make close to $10,000!
And then… wait for it… I was released from each and every project, booking none of them. You could just see the road sign of my mind saying: You are now entering the Valley of Doubt and Discontent. My gremlin starts taking over, “You had a nice little run, but that was a fluke. Face reality, they don’t want you anymore. You couldn’t even book one of those gigs. Summer fun is over, it is going to be a long, sad winter ahead for you in loser-ville.”
Fortunately, I got some perspective from my dear friend, John Howard Swain, a gem of a director and awesome acting teacher. When I confessed to John that I felt like I had fallen out of sync with my creative juju he reminded me of a folk story that he had heard recently about a farmer who tried to dig a well.
The ground was still dry about 15 feet down and the farmer grew frustrated. He moved to another location and repeated the process twice more. He’s about to quit when his wife suggested he simply dig deeper right where he stood. He followed her advice and soon found an abundant water source.
John went on to tell me, “So many of my students who are progressing really well, and are right on the verge of a breakthrough, want to throw in the towel because they don’t yet see the results. Sarah, now is not the time to stop all the good things you’re doing. Just dig a little deeper.” John is a wise, wise man.
Digging deeper for me means finding ways to get my creative juices flowing. It means practicing my craft more, not less.
Here’s all the ways I have been getting busy digging deeper.
— Lining up a videographer to videotape some songs.
— Getting together with fellow actors to sharpen monologues
— Practicing physical theatre with actors in a studio space
— Taking a seminar with “Frantic Assembly” on devising theatre
— And most importantly, singing in my kitchen at full performance level!
If an actress throws down a devastating performance of “Rose’s Turn” in her kitchen and no ears hear it but her own, is she still a badass artist?
Why, yes! Yes, she is. But what has she to show for it? A hopeful heart, a well-tuned instrument and most importantly– MOJO, baby!
Thank you Sarah. I hope when the rest of you get frustrated – and it will happen – that instead of moving to dig another well in another location that you simply dig a little deeper right where you are.
Don’t forget the FREE Industry Workshop we are hosting on Wednesday Nov. 4th with Kim Graham – co-casting director on Homeland. Invitations will be going out soon.
Check out Kim’s work in the upcoming episodes of Homeland.