The hospitality industry gets a bad rap. People make fun of actors literally “waiting” for their big break. The truth is, food service is about the only thing that offers flexibility. An audition, callback or rehearsal that pops up at a moment’s notice is the true full-time job. Waitressing is merely a means to an end. I certainly don’t plan on serving dim sum and folding napkins until the end of my days. We’re introducing a new column today called “Stagebound.” Living the life of a Broadway gypsy isn’t easy and neither is getting there. If you’ve ever been to a show on the Great White Way, you understand the talent and determination needed to succeed as a musical performer. We’re going to chronicle the real-life experiences of a singer – dancer – actor, auditioning and waiting for her big break in New York City.
I’ve heard that success lies just beyond the point of giving up. I’d love to impart this wisdom to my mother who tells me, “You can’t go on living by the seat of your pants.”
Actually, she would prefer if I left the food service industry, obtained a more stable job, and made performing my hobby. “If you got a 9 to 5, you could star in all the community theater you wanted!” To any artist reading this, you know that sounds like a dismal fate.
|I am embarrassed to admit that I can list every ingredient in these dishes.–by Nate Robert via Flickr|
It’s difficult not having parents in the arts. My father is a lawyer and my mother is a physical therapist. When I book a new show, it’s not met with cheers of “Congratulations!” but rather the age-old question, “How much does it pay?”
To be clear, I am financially independent. I try to avoid ever asking my folks for a helping hand. Nonetheless, they want me to have a 401K and a cushion for that future wedding, and I understand that. But that scenario is probably never going to happen. (I mean, I’m already pushing 30 — I’m practically a spinster.)
The constant nagging is beginning to take its toll. I think, maybe she is right. Maybe it’s time to stop kidding myself. Maybe being a waitress at this age really does make me a failure. Maybe if my big break were meant to happen, it would’ve happened already. That’s a lot of maybes.
In order to quiet the incessant buzzing, I’ve applied for a broad range of jobs: tour guide, teaching artist, bikini-clad bartender, music teacher, babysitter, law office secretary, dog walker and even a phone sex operator. Yes, really.
Last week, I interviewed for a choreographer position where I’d be working with young, rambunctious, untalented children. It was a part-time job, and I would be required to remain in town and available through June (the prime time for regional theaters to begin their summer seasons). This could mean that I might have to potentially give up a musical theatre job I really want.
|They aren’t interested in dancing. They were dropped off by harried parents who needed a break.–by marissa_strniste via Flickr|
The man in charge asked me, “Why do you want this job?”
Many answers would have sufficed. I could’ve said, “I love working with kids,” or, “I want to spread my love of the arts to the youth of America,” complete with a winning pageant girl smile.
What I said, however, what literally came out of my unfiltered mouth was, “My mother wants me to make more money and get out of food service.”
That’s when it hit me. I was only trying to appease my mother with something that ultimately wouldn’t make me happy. I don’t want another job. I don’t want to have to settle. I don’t want to have to commit to anything that will interfere with my dreams. Maybe I’m just stubborn, but I’m content as a waitress, just making ends meet, going from gig to gig, living a balancing act, excited at the uncertainty of not knowing what’s just around the next corner.
I am the only one living my life. I can’t live it for others.
My parents might never understand what it is I do, or why I would choose this lifestyle, but the point is — it’s mine.
Maybe eventually I’ll settle down and find something more “stable,” but that time is not now. I’m glad that I have finally come to realize that.
And just in case you’re wondering, I did not get that choreography job.
|My big break may be right around the corner.–by Susan Montgomery via Flickr|