|No matter how successful you become, never get too comfortable at the top.|
Daisy Eagan, who won a Tony as a child for her role in The Secret Garden, famously tweeted, “I have a job interview tomorrow for a temp job packaging human breast milk. I also have a Tony Award.” This is the stark reality for actors.
It is a roller coaster of an industry with steep ups and downs. It bears no resemblance to the progressive corporate ladder of bonuses and promotions. As an actor, you assume that one job will lead to the next, that each show will be a step closer to your ultimate goal, that each paycheck will be higher than the last. You think, I am way above another “Summer in Ohio!” Yet, no matter how successful you become, you quickly learn that you had better not get too comfortable at the top. Just like that temp job, it could end tomorrow.
I wish I had known this when I was 10 years old. I wish I had been prepared for the fall from glory and the long, hard climb ahead. My first ever professional performing job was on Broadway in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
|The Minskoff Theater is now home to The Lion King.–-image via Playbill|
My mother had enrolled me in a musical theater class, simply to get me out of the house and off the couch. It was a fluke when the class whipped us into a choir that ended up on the Great White Way just a few short months later. It was that easy, and just as glamorous as you would imagine it to be. I thought “I’ve made it! It’s only going to get bigger and better! I’m going to be a STAR!”
|Any dream will do.|
It never occurred to me that this might be the pinnacle of my career, and that I would have to start all over again as if the entire experience had never even happened. It’s like winning the Olympic Gold as a teen gymnast. Where do you go from there? What do you do?
For the last 20 years, I’ve continued to do the only thing that I could do to satisfy my need to be on the stage: pound the pavement. Once a Broadway baby, now you’ll see me at giant open calls in New York City, standing outside locked buildings in the middle of winter at 6 am, only to wait 7 hours to sing 30 seconds of music for a show that’s probably already cast with movie stars or the director’s children.
I wait in line with hundreds of girls who seem to get increasingly younger each year. I call these youthful hopefuls, “The Shinies.” They are fresh off the bus, smiling and optimistic, truly believing they will skyrocket straight to Broadway.
|“Oh My God! Can you imagine being in your 20s and still going to these open calls? That won’t be us!”— by Henry via Flickr|
We are all equals on that line. The past triumphs on my resume will not get me the job. I must simply be prepared, be myself, and hope that I’m not too tall, too short, too ethnic looking, or not ethnic looking enough.
I also continue hustling to snatch odd jobs to pay my bills, while I search to reclaim the dream that I once had and can still taste. I recently interviewed to choreograph a NYC community theater production of one of my favorite musicals. I was stunned to find out that a former Broadway star was interviewing for the same position. It was both comforting and humbling to realize that as artists, we are all truly in the same boat.
Everyone needs to make money during these hard economic times. I suppose that being on a level playing field with your once-renowned idols isn’t so bad, even if that playing field is back at square one.
So, to the aspiring actors out there I say, go on tour, go earn rave reviews while starring in that regional show, go snag that first Broadway role! I will see you back on the field shortly, where we shall share the tales of our mighty adventures, high five each other, have a chuckle, and anxiously await whatever comes next.
|“If you think it, want it, dream it, then it’s real, you are what you feel.”–Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat|