Wednesday, February 19, 2014

And, Now What?

This has been a frustrating and immensely fulfilling year. Six years into my five year goal of seriously pursuing my vocation(s) to see if it was possible to make a living in theater, I am seeing some results. I am getting steady, well-paying acting work from one of the "big houses," and starting to have other houses take interest as well. In 6 months, I will have done enough work to have qualified to join the Actor's Equity Union, and will have to make a decision on that sooner than I'd imagined.

On the design front, doing alterations for the Big Corporate Empire now pays most of my bills, leaving me a little freer to be a little choosy. I've recently had the time to take on an assistanceship with another designer in town, and had the opportunity to work on the ground floor of some major productions in a very small capacity.

On the negative side, one job that I'd had for several years suddenly evaporated when they hired another designer to take over. Admittedly, it was a good move in the end. It was a job I had less and less time for with a very long commute for the pay. I hear the new designer has managed to convince them that the job isn't possible as a part-time position. Also, this summer I finally said goodbye to the waitressing job I'd had for five summers. The money was excellent, but the work environment was very poor. On a day when equipment had broken down, and a busser was sent home afterwards, we were forced to run food up and down the hill from the lower kitchen. The boss came in and told me I was the worst server ever (not true - I'd outlasted every one of my co-workers), I finished the day, but called in and quit. Both jobs were a relief to let go, in the end. After a lifetime of happy employment at most places, it was strange to leave two jobs within weeks of each other.

The luxury of choice is a new one. Suddenly, after being geared for years to take any gig for any pay just for experience, I'm finding 2-3 shows per year to be plenty, without needing to pack in extra things during my down time. Admittedly, doing five month runs of shows instead twelve performances does make the evenings at home a nice change for a few weeks. This year I will have only 16 weeks off from doing 6-day-per-week runs. Design-wise, the houses are getting better and better. The pay has stayed in a similar spectrum for now, but the professionalism of the company is improving so much that it's suddenly a shock to go back into the places that are badly run and perpetually short on cash when contracts come due.

All of this isn't meant as a brag. Many people who begin working in this town at about the same time are experiencing similar upward motion. Actors that I've done the audition rounds with are having similar success in the same houses. Designers graduate upwards, leaving space for new faces in the medium places. I used to look longingly at the clique-y groups in the middle of the room at callbacks, wishing for a friendly face. Now there's very few places I go where there isn't someone I've worked with before. The theater community is a very small group.

The better pay coming regularly has left room for some musing over where I'd like to go, and what I'd like to do, now that I have the luxury of some breathing room instead of the constant flurry of production.

I've realized that I'd like to keep striving to work in my dream houses, but I've lost the need to be perpetually in show after show. The few weeks of breathing room to pursue some hobbies, enjoy the at-home night life, cooking, and seeing my spouse is very nice for a while. My design portfolio is now full on every page, forcing me to rip out pictures and glue over top for new additions. I keep trying to take on one new theater per season. This season, I already have three.

This leaves time for a personal life again. What a strange feeling. I'm trying to work out once a week again this year. I've started making a conscious effort to add healthier foods to my diet, especially in the gaps between eating-on-the-go. I've mostly removed pop from my diet, replacing it with juice at home for my sweet beverage. After some success designing my own line at an antique store (I sold enough things to feel it was a profitable experience), but discovering at the time that I needed a more secure way to make money, I've decided to try again on Etsy. Alan and I had time for church last week. (That sounds bad, but Sundays are work days for actors) I've starting making dates with friends from past shows to try and cultivate a teeny social life. I'm looking at taking tap dancing classes again.

There is much still to do, but I'm getting better about pacing myself. It's nice to have moments to breathe.