Applying My Theatre Superpowers While Not On Stage?

Every night last week I drove a half an hour or more to spend two or three hours a night in a small room working on a project with people, some of whom had not prepared at all for the event, some of whom tried to take over the entire project, and some of whom would become so nasty at the slightest indication that they would need to compromise that they threw things and yelled at the people in charge. (This behavior coming from someone in their 70’s.) Then I’d drive for 30-40 minutes back home every night, sometimes as late as 11:00PM.

Last week came at the end of a five week process during which there were many absences by team members, scheduling conflicts, habitual tardiness, ego driven task driving, and in some cases a total lack of respect for other people.

As of this moment, the end result of the project in many ways has been mediocre, with some semblance of excellence here and there.

The final bit of information regarding all of this? I didn’t get paid for any of it.

What I have described is an amateur theatre production of  A Thurber Carnival. More details can be learned by reading my other blog related to acting.

There can be a lot to hate about community theatre. Some of which I have described. Most of which I have no patience to deal with for very long, despite it being rather common in some places and with some actors. I’ll admit that the pain to pleasure ratio has slipped slowly towards pain over the last few years in most of my theatrical endeavors. It can become a draining process, with sometimes little reward. And yet I end up doing it anyway.

Why? To begin with, I do it for what it can be. I have been in amazing shows. Rewarding experiences which have forever altered my view of myself, and of performing. Shows that I can promise you have equaled or even surpassed the quality of a professional show you could see any given day. Shows with inspiring, dedicated people, true artists that I would otherwise have not had the chance to meet and befriend. The frequency of such experiences has decreased in my theatre career over the last few years, but I cannot stop looking for the next chance for that to happen.

The fact is, (and I know I will get some flack for saying this), one can be an artist longer, and in more ways in community theatre than one can as a professional. Or in the very least, one has more freedom than an Equity actor would have. Non-Union professional actors have considerably more artistic freedom than unionized actors do, but that is another post for another time. Suffice to say that despite my love for performing, and the very positive feedback I always get on the quality of my performances, I have no motivation to go the, “make it as a professional actor” route at this time. I deal with politics enough as it is…

Yet there is something about acting in the theatre that is connected to what I am. I know this, because like I said, I keep going back to it. Despite the sometimes ultra-high levels of straight up bullshit in theatre, my pain threshold is much higher when I am working on a show. I get pissed at people and their nonsense, don’t get me wrong. But when I am in a play, especially one that is going well, I can summon up more energy, find more time, deflect more crap, bear more pain, create more efficiently, and recover from setbacks more rapidly than in any other single endeavor in my life.

In these things acting surpasses even writing for me in terms of input/output ratios, adaptability, productivity, and return on investment. When it goes well, anyway. And even when it does not go well, I still can handle more. If any other endeavor caused as much trouble as theatre can, (especially lately) I would have washed my hands of it long ago. Yet it endures.

It seems clear to me that theatre acting is something for which I am built. (If you need any more proof, consider the fact that I spell it “theatre”.) Which to some would indicate that it should be the thing I pursue as a career. Do what you love, and all of that. But as I said, I have no stomach for that. Because then you get into politics. Management. Marketing. Things for which I have almost no stomach in most cases. Yes, I deal with some small aspect of them now, but I would have to marry myself to them to make it as a professional in the conventional way, and I guess despite my passion for the stage, I am Too XYZ to fall in love with such things.

Yet I have been asking myself what I can learn from my nearly ten years as an actor. I know the nuances of it. I continue to build my skills arsenal. I write about it. Most of my friends and network I met through it. I seek greater challenges within it. I have been doing it consistently since the year 2000. 30 shows. Dozens of venues.You know, all of the things the gurus say make you a highly sought after employee??? I mean if I were this deeply entrenched in the world of marketing, or accounting, or journalism, I’d have a full time, high paying job by now. But of course, nothing like that has ever happened. This obvious part of my DNA has never been translated into anything else.

Yet it is more than just a hobby. It’s a hobby for some people, or even most people I work with on the stage. But a hobby doesn’t give you that kind of strength. Insight. Resilience. Fantasy Football is one of my hobbies. Stage acting is one of my purposes.

But I wonder if there are aspects of it that could also be found elsewhere. Is there something intrinsic in the components of theatre which can also be found in some other field? And if so, would my sometimes superhuman abilities in same translate into the new field? Is there not some sort of career path or paid position that would tap into the same obvious talents I posses? Something that could make me money when I am not on stage, and allow me to enjoy the stage when I am not making money.

This is one reason I have in the last year or so looked around and tried to become involved in arts organizations. One doesn’t perform while working for an arts organization, but one does put forth a lot of time and energy into supporting those who do, and educating others about same. I theorized that if I am built for the arts as a performer, some sort of position with organizations that are dedicated to arts and artists would be also benefit from my powers.

I haven’t been very successful as of yet, despite Twitter and other such tools. Possibly because one needs a different set of traits to work for an organization than one does to be an artist. Maybe you have to love things like accounting and meetings and such to work well in any type of organization. I don’t know.

Either way, I still wonder if these theatrical traits of mine lend themselves to other careers, even outside of the arts. Freelance writing will hopefully take off, and still give me the freedom to pursue whatever I want afterward, but writing can be tiring. Its return is slower. My recovery time from writing a lot is longer. It is a good second place, but to tap the powers I have when in a theatre would change everything. That, at the moment, is one of the goals I have. And one of the main things that makes me what I am, I dare say.

I have mentioned in the past the idea of starting my own non-profit theatre company, based on these same reasons. A company that ran on my own acting principles, and not someone elses. But that isn’t a career.

A job doesn’t have to make you happy. But one is more likely to be productive, and hence, content with one’s job if one is using one’s natural talents and engaging in one’s desires, right? That way at least work will not prevent one from being happy.

Any ideas on where I might use these superpowers to benefit my non-freelance career?

1 Comment

  1. Speaking as someone who has hired and trained thousands of sales reps, I would want to hire you in a heartbeat. A GREAT sales rep IS an informal actor / actress. They have the ability to change their demeanor, gestures, accent, dress, etc. based on who they are speaking with.

    Similar to acting being purposeful to you, I believe the only way you'd be successful in a sales role would be to “sell” something you believe in. I personally believe in education. Hence, I was a rock star in 'selling' education, and now have my own companies that do so.

    Figure out what you're 'passion' to sell is and go sell it! Here's an example (off the top of my head); NYU's Tisch school of Acting – maybe they need someone to work in one of their departments. Maybe there is a theatre near where you live that you can sell tickets for. I know in South Florida, we have 3 large theatres that shows come to yearly. And every year, I get “sold” to buy the season package by some guy on the phone who has my information from years past.

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