Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Double Duty

There is an as-yet unsubstantiated rumor going around about a big shake-up at a local theater company. I’m curious…and concerned. If anyone wants to assuage my curiosity, feel free to drop me a line.

While hanging out at Shuffles Dance Center (which is also the home of Stage 1 Theater Company, for those who have not yet made the entirely worth-it trip just a couple of miles up 301) with my daughter last night, I hung out briefly with some cast members of “Summer of ’42.” Several people are doing double-duty to be in this show. This isn’t an uncommon practice in the local theater world but it was kind of amazing to see two of the leads of currently-running shows (Audra Honaker in “I Ought to be in Pictures” and Frank Creasy in “Chapter Two”) in rehearsals for another one. And Fernando Rivadeniera must have been doing some double-time too, as he just closed out “True West” last weekend.

I think somehow the perception persists that actors are gadabouts or lay-abouts or couldn’t hack it in a “real” job. It’s nights like last night that remind me that actors are often among the hardest-working folks around. And when you measure the pay versus the hours invested, they are often among the least remunerated as well.


Thespis' Little Helper said...

Dave, you win the award for Captain Vague of the Day with that first sentence! :)

You gonna give a bit more info on what the heck you're talking about?!

Interest piqued.

Jeffrey Cole said...

Hey Dave.
I'd love to know what people consider a "real" job that actors or artists couldn't hang at doing.

I'm speaking from my own experiences. I teach high school in the Northside of Richmond, have a family (wife + 2 boys) and count myself lucky enough to be in TWO of Richmond Shakespeare's summer Festival.

(I'm also exhausted, so please forgive any ranting or rambling contained within this post.)

Anyone who doesn't consider acting to be a "real" job has never had to memorize lines, deal with malfunctioning equipment (and other actors), contend with massive supernova egos, as well as directors and stage management you'd rather do without, in addition to playing each and every moment you've rehearsed for a month like it's the first time it's happened, in front of real live human beings.

Of course, doing paperwork in a cubicle, answering telephones, filing data or attending the occasional meeting count as "real" jobs.

Some people need to wake up and realize that a desk job equals death, while the same individuals who turn their noses up at acting as "real" work sweat and hyperventilate when they have to present some prepared, read-off-the-notecards report in front of 6 people in suits in nice swivel chairs.

Balancing a social life, a home life and a theatre career is like juggling flaming chainsaws. Anyone who says it's easy can come hang out with me or any 3 actors for a week and do what we do.

End of ranting. Sorry to sound like a jerk to people with "real" jobs.

Come see Henry V and Hamlet!

Anonymous said...

I think the perception of gadabout actors comes from the glossy magazines with pictures of actors running in the surf and being cited for being too fat or too thin. Rarely does the public see actors working - especially stage actors. Unfortunately they all seem to get painted with the same brush.
Having said that - most of the actors (and directors and stage managers and crew and designers, etc....) that I know in Richmond are not fortunate enough to be able to make a living at it. The ones who do - more power to them - are many times the ones doing multiple shows. The majority I believe work "real jobs" to support their theatre habit. My desk job does not equal death, I happen to love my job. And it enables me to do something that I love which is theatre.
I understand where Mr Cole is coming from in his sense of frustration with the hours and the people, but if you are on the burn out track - get off. It can happen so easily, before you know it you are totally angry at the social affairs you miss, the school functions of the kids that go by the wayside, that actor who waits till rehearsal to eat a stinky dinner, the stage manager who won't give you a break for not being off book. I understand, I do! Take a break, for goodness sake. Heaven knows you can't depend on your theatre paychecks for the house payment.
Having reached the exhausted point myself about a year ago - I quit. Haven't done a show in over a year. I missed it at first, and I am starting to miss it again, so I hope to start work soon on another project. But I will go back with excitement and energy, something that was missing on my last show.
The last I heard - acting (and all other theatre) was a choice.


Dave, sorry this is so long. Edit as you see fit!

Princess Crabass said...

Jeff - Maybe I'm missing the point of your comment, but is teaching high school NOT a real job? And why apologize for sounding like a jerk while you still had the ability to edit?

Anonymous said...

Sue, you took the words right out of my mouth after reading Mr. Cole's comments. But I think the point is more that we have the perception of actors as being lazy, do nothings. This is because of the famous hollywood type exactly as Sue mentioned. However, I think the point was more to take a look at an actor such as Frank Creasy. Frank has a "real job". It is even a deathly desk job, but still finds the time and energy to have a show running as well as rehearsing his next endeavor. I say good for you Frank!

I am typing from my cubicle right now, and I thank god that I still have my job. Without this job I would not be able to be a part of the theatre community in Richmond, as a designer or even a patron. That brings me around to the real reaction to what I have read. Without the jobs that were insulted (which I am sure was unintentional, seeing as he insulted his own job a bit) we would have no one to perform for, and then where would we be?

Jacquie O. said...

I guess you can add me to the list of people working back to back (started rehearsals for Henry V the day after we opened Trailer Park.) But this seems normal to me, because you never know when your next acting gig is coming so you take it when you get it. Oh for the joy of planning it out...Bruce I would like to do show A, and then Chase...can I do show B, which you may have to move because I need a vacation first. I used to think I could make a middle class living at theatre, but I don't believe now that there is a middle class in the arts. You are poor or you are rich and famous. But as Sue said it is a choice...sort of...for most of us it is a calling that we can't live without. Come on back Sue, you know you want to!

Frank Creasy said...

Dang, I was gonna leave this posting alone, Dave said such nice things and all and that was quite enough for me...but now I kind of have to weigh in on the "theatre versus other work" line of commentary.

You see, by day I manage a tech support help desk for a large company. I'm taking Jeff at his word that editing was not foremost in his commentary, though I know plenty of artists really do believe "desk job equals death" or similar line of thinking. I had a friend once refer to "selling out" by me working a non-artistic job. So here's my take on all that: Flawed as I may be, if I didn't do this job, who WOULD? Someone possibly with very different values and priorities. Mine are based on balancing corporate responsibilities and accountabilities to customers and budget concerns with the honesty and compassion needed to manage a team of service professionals. It takes courage, it takes commitment, it takes passion, it takes vision to do it well. You have to be honest with people about what you expect and how their performance is measured, and have the courage of your convictions to reward those who meet or exceed that, and to hold accountable those who do not. So, in sum, qualities required on my "deadly desk job" include: Courage, compassion, honesty, conviction, commitment, passion (among others). Any artists out there think these same qualities might apply in the theatre or on camera? Might not these same qualities and knowledge of them inform our art?

Having said all that, I also keep in mind WHY people work jobs they might not love: We have to pay the rent or mortgage, put food on the table, and love our families and significant others by taking care of them. But knowing I can go and do something I love at the end of the day (theatre) helps get me through the things each day I don't love so much. I like my job (not every day), but I LOVE theatre.

Working in theatre means burning the candle at both ends. But we picked the candle, and we love the candle, and we don't even mind if it burns us on occasion. Because, after all - we LIVE for the candle. And we're lucky, so very very lucky, to get to do something we love, and to share that passion with others. We get to remind people of what's most vitally important in life, why it is such a joy despite all our trials. Can it be anything other than a blessing? Yeah, I hate learning lines, and I've pushed myself past exhaustion too many times, and some people have been difficult on occasion. But I still love it, and if I get too tired, well - I can step away as needed. As Dave points out, it's not like I'm counting on this money or anything from working in theatre.

I don't always succeed in everything I set out to do on stage, but I never forget the most important thing: The people in the audience have come to be ENTERTAINED. They might leave informed or enlightened as well, but first comes entertainment. This is always my first goal, and I hope I at least succeed in that measure most of the time. I hope what I do helps in some small measure to remind people of what they're working for. After all, it's all the people working the jobs most artists hate who buy the tickets and donate to the non-profits. It would behoove us not to look down our noses on their livelihood, since it makes our work in theatre possible.

And now I'm done. God bless us, every one!

Anonymous said...

This is a little ridiculous. To insult people at desk jobs is immature and I hope was just said out of frustration. Yes. Actors work hard. They don't get paid enough, it's true.

But it's the people at the desk jobs- the people who aren't actors- who are the ones donating money so your non-profit organization is able to put on productions so the actors can perform. And like someone else said, they are the ones in the audience, watching your show, hoping to find some enjoyment and excitement after leaving their stupid desk job. This is not to say that there aren't actors who are supporting the theatre. Obviously they are. Actors here not only are supportive of other productions, but I've known quite a few families of actors who are big donors. But to insult anyone with a career that's NOT acting? Please.

And for an actor to fuss about juggling schedules is also ridiculous. No one is doing that here, thank goodness. Of course we all say things like, "Ew. Tech rehearsal." But I like to think that even though it IS rough, we love it.

Richmond's a very small theatre community. To be cast in one show is a success. For some, once you're in one, you're in them all. For a director to work around your schedule because you are in another show is a privilege. Often, auditions aren't even held because a director KNOWS who they want for a role, and in doing so, leave out others who might be just as good. This is a whole other thought completely, but my point is that if a director is working around your schedule because you're in another show, let's not complain about how busy you are. Be grateful that you have made it to a place where you CAN have the ease of going from show to show.

And yes. I mean ease. Acting is an incredibly hard job for the reasons we've pointed out. But there's something to be said for being able to perform and NOT sit at that desk... and die, apparently. To be able to do what you love.

I don't usually comment on this blog, but a little perspective and a little appreciation of what you have is key to get through the day.

Anonymous said...

Some really great stuff is being said here by everyone and I can shake my head yes and no to some portion of each viewpoint. For me, here's another little tid bit to think about that can be taken with a grain of salt: The "job" of being an actor is like no other in the world. Any bafoon, on any given day, with absolutely no training, talent or acting resume whatsoever, can roll out of bed tomorrow and proclaim to the world, "You know what? I've decided that I'm now AN ACTOR!!" Humbug, I say. There's no way in hell I can roll out of bed tomorrow and say, "You know what? I've decided that now I'm a CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT".

Unfortunately, there is no license to be an actor. You don't have to have experience or even a whisper of talent to call yourself "an actor". Personally, I think that's a crime. I often wish that it was a title that you had to EARN, like Knighthood or passing the bar. I sing in the shower, but I'm not a singer. Realisticly, in my opinion, Richmond has tons of performers whose goal is primarily to "entertain" and be "entertained" with their "entertainment". And that's way okay with me; good for you. However (again in my opinion), there is a only a realitvely small group of artists out there who should be allowed (if it were possible) the esteemed title of "actor". Doing a couple of shows a year does not make you one, having it as a hobby does not make you one, being poor and overworked does not make you one, being an extra in a couple of movies does not make you one, playing Hamlet in Richmond or Willy Loman in Topeka does not make you one, being a dancing bear selling soap does not make you one or even being a card-carrying Union Member does not make you an actor. Either you have talent or you don't. Either you have a deep seeded passion for the CRAFT, I'll say it again, the CRAFT or you don't.

Anyone whineing about hard how it is to be an actor and holding down a "real job" (or 2, or 3...) should shut up. Don't paint yourself to be a suffering artist if you don't have the art to back up your bitching.

I agree with Jacquie--acting is (or rather should be) a calling no more and no less then being a priest; for some of us it is just that--A SPIRITUAL CALLING. Maybe if more of us felt that way the quality of the art would rise. Maybe our art would be respected more. Maybe our paychecks would rise. Been to Blockbuster lately? For every Slumdog Millionare there are a thousand Dude, Where's My Car(s). We desperately need more people, more actors, for whom it is not a choice, but an obsession.

You need a hobby? Collect stamps and give an actor your part in the play. For those who call it a choice, I say get off the stage and leave the acting to the ones who feel the NEED to act. I'm willing to bet that they could use the gig.

If acting paid half a damn, everyone and their cousin would be lineing up to do it. And I believe the arts should be open for anyone to experience, I do. I really, really do. More should try it to actually see what we go through and how truly hard it is. I'm not a theatre snob who feels only certain people should be allowed to do it. Hey,come on in, the water's fine. But please, for the love of God, tell people that you're acting, say you're performing, tell folks you're at the "TheeeAter doin' some dramea", but stop calling yourself an actor. It's insulting to those who are; the ones who ARE working their asses off at those "real jobs" because their art, their CALLING won't pay their electric bill.

Call yourself what you are, be proud of what you are (in any honorable profession), but try to make sure you deserve to call yourself what you think you are.

Scott Wichmann said...

“Whoever I am, or whatever I am doing, some kind of excellence is within my reach.”
~ John W. Gardner

Jeffrey Cole said...

Jeez. There I go, posting on little sleep and a lot of pent-up frustration. To all those I may have leaned on too heavily or unrightly taken to task, I apologize. No insult or disrespect was intended. When my dander gets up, I can be a bit of a bitch.

Kudos to Frank for helping me put things in a little perspective.

The context of my comments springs from Dave suggesting that some people (certainly not all) see actors (or possibly anyone else in the arts) as layabouts, afraid or unwilling to get hard-working, respectable, 9-5 jobs. Those people, who don't see or refuse to take hardships into account, are the people to whom I was referring.

I most readily accept that anyone, regardless of employment, who comes to see a show should be given thanks. I'm not a professional football player, but I can respect the hard work they do. We don't have an eagle eye perspective into training camp or the players watching game footage. Likewise, most audiences have no concept of what it takes to be an actor, to inhabit the psyche of another human being from show to show.

(And before I get accused to being self-righteous again, I appreciate every role I've ever been given, and I understand that every actor works hard. I'm not saying my circumstances are special. I'm not saying "Woe is me." I'm merely stating the fact that it's difficult to raise a family and work another job in addition to working in the theatre.)

I'll be the first to admit that everyone has a niche; if we're lucky we can fill 2 or 3 of them. I am humbled to be able to do the work I do, to meet the people I have and seen the work of others. This is truly a profession where you can learn something new every day. Like not to post reactionary ramblings without thinking first.

Speaking of thinking, I think I'll go to bed now, duly chastened. If any offense was reinforced by this attempt at a clarification, it was unintentional and unwanted. I hope I've helped and not made it worse.

Of course I love working in the arts. But that doesn't mean it's easy.

I'll leave the last anonymous poster alone.

Shannon McCallister said...

When the arts call to you, whether it be theatre or painting or dance or any art form to ignore it is misery. I know, I have tried continuously. In the attempt to sastify the political correct idea of "real job" I have found myself in various types of employment. Even attempting to cheat art by attemtping to find a socially accepted substitute. And the only thing I found was that it was never enough. You can't cheat, you can't ignore it, and you can't substitute for it. When art calls to you, you must answer it or forever live in a state of regret. If you miss the art there's a reason for it. And there are many avenues open, especially in the theatre, that will allow you to come back home.
Honestly, there is no "real job." It is only a label that we have self-imposed on an idea. Is a lawyer a real job, a doctor, a dentist? Why? Because they perform a service,a needed service? But do not actor provide a much needed service? Yes, they entertain. If you were look at history you will find people's need for entertainment sprinkled through out. And although I'm not looking at the psychology pyramid right now, I'm pretty sure there was a section involving man's entertainment (in some form or another)
A job is providing a service, however, we have gotten to the point where we associated a person's job value by the income that they bring in. But some of the most valuable jobs in the world had very little financial profit. It is not your level of education, or what you do that defines you, it is your actions. (And I'm sorry, no one is better than another all because of the job they have.) Everything else is just labels. If you took a label off a can of stewed tomatoes, isn't it still a can of stewed tomatoes?