Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Up Ladders and Down Hills

If corporate America is a ladder to climb, I think acting is like a ski resort, minus the chair lifts.You do your best, climb or otherwise somehow get to the top of the mountain and into a show, then you do what you love and ski down. Then you're done and you have to figure a way back up the mountain again.

So I may have just had a great run with a fun show, but I'm back at the bottom of the mountain. It's odd because you've got this instinct that somehow because you've accomplished something, you should have climbed higher like those 9-5 folks on the corporate ladder over there. But you haven't. You're really right back where you've started. If you want to act again, you need to find another gig.

And the funny thing about it is, every single actor goes through this. From the recent graduate of Middle-Of-Nowhere community college with an associates in "general arts" on up to Mark Rylance and Natalie Portman. You do your job, then your job is over, and you have to find a new job. You may have just had a spectacular run down a triple black diamond with cameras from all over the world following you, or you might have just rolled sideways down the bunny slope. Either way, you're at the bottom of the mountain and if you want to ski again, you've got to find a way to the top of a slope.

It's sort of reassuring in an egalitarian sort of way. Sure the stars have some power through their name and can probably convince somebody with a snowmobile to tug them up, but another star will want that seat, and there are only so many snowmobiles going around. We're all just trying to get back up that mountain.

It's cool for me in particular because last September. I came to New York to see if I could be a professional actor. It's June, and the answer is yes. I just deposited my last check from my most recent show. I am a professional actor. Done.

But beyond that, this lifestyle makes your goal set more interesting. As someone climbing the ladder, your goal is pretty simple really: get to the top of the ladder. On a ski slope, it's a bit more nuanced. You get an idea for what kind of slope you want to ski down. There are all different kinds, and no direct way to get to any of them.

So I've reached my goal of acting professionally. But for "real actors," it's not a check box, it's a lifestyle. I don't know if I'd put myself in that category of actor quite yet, but I seem to still be submitting headshots and resumes, so...

When I first got to New York, I met with a professor of international relations. I talked to him about pursuing a masters degree in the subject, but told him I was here to act first, in the short term. He asked me how long I'd do that for. I told him that if it didn't work out, I could see myself getting sick of it after about a year and a half.

It's been nine months. I've hit my main goal. So I don't know if it "not working out" still applies, but we're halfway, and I'm not sick of it yet. I just need a new goal.

1 comment:

  1. That metaphor is pretty spot on. What's interesting is that it generally takes a good chunk of time to get back up that slope, which means it can be a breeding ground for doubt or a flourishing garden of determination. I think the climb alone is what separates those who really have it in their souls to keep going from those who don't. So especially if you're not sick of it, more power to you friend!