A friend and I were talking this morning about the insane things we had access to while we were in school. A visual artist, she spoke longingly of a massive 8 peddled loom and a free for all 3D printer.
For me it about the space of undergrad and the constant immersion in Theatre. We had 24 hour access to beautiful rehearsal studios, stage combat weapons, boxes and chairs to build sets to our hearts content. Some days I would be in class from 9am until 9pm, movement, combat, voice, scene study…it was an incredible time in my life. But it left me ill prepared for what waited out the doors.
My Survey of Film teacher, a gentleman named Stu Levin, put it bluntly to us on the first day of his class.
“When you walk out these doors in a few years, fifty percent of you will not ever touch a script again. I guarantee it. Five years after that the number will be halved again. In ten years I would be surprised if two of you are still pursuing acting in any way.” I’m no mind reader, but if my thoughts mirrored the others sitting in that room listening to Stu say ninety five percent of us wouldn’t make it as an actor then the zeitgeist was “not fucking me.”
Five years down the road I have to give Stu his due. My social media is filled with friends who kicked around Los Angeles or New York for a few years before settling into something entirely different. And more power to them for doing so. This is a beautiful but tough fucking life. Suddenly the old artists adage that “If you have anything else you think you might enjoy doing as a career, do it” doesn’t seem so crazy.
This is my life now. We had a new bartender quit on us last week which means I worked 8 shifts in a row. I got to work at 5:15 everyday. I poured beer, made coffee, talked to regulars, listened to stories, and at midnight with no break, I started cleaning every machine, every surface of our little bar. At 12:30 I went downstairs to count tips, par out the drawer, and put aside the nightly cash deposit. This usually takes 45 minutes which leaves time between when my responsibilities finish at 1:15 and the dishwasher finishes moping at 2:00 to go over a script, read a book, do some journaling, and surf Facebook.
For anyone not keeping score at home, thats’s about 60 hours worth of my 8 days. In exchange for occasional weeks like this, where I am expected to step up and bear the extra weight of a missing staff member, I get the following: Every Tuesday and Friday off to take class. The money to pay for those classes and my rent and netflix binges with over priced delivery food. Time off when I book a show or a shoot, sometimes with incredibly short notice. A survival job where when (for the most part) I walk away it starts behind rather than leaking through the rest of my day.
This is the reality of being an actor. Theatre school was great, but you know what prepared me even more to step out the doors and into the life of a struggling artist? Having to balance my Junior and Senior years of school with a job in a coffee shop.
I’ve studied with Cay for almost 2 and a half years now. This is longer than I’ve ever held a single job, longer than I’ve ever lived in a single apartment as an adult, longer than most of my relationships. Comparing an acting class to a relationship may seem like a stretch, but truthfully the only way I can describe my experience is through the lens of love. I’ve fallen in love with the work.
I’ve taken classes in how to get agents. How to please this casting director or that casting director. How to walk into a room an charm them as a person and then hit all of the right marks, make all the right choices. Right doesn’t serve the work. Right serves no one. Cay is training artists. Artists with the courage to take “right” and toss it out the window in favor of what serves them, the actor, to find their truth in the character, to leave their finger print on the role.
Recently Annie expressed that she was frustrated with the way she regressed when she left class to perform in a show. This was Cay’s reply:
The path you’re on is “I’m going to be in class when I can and I’m going to work when I can.” And that’s a tough path to be on. But I think it’s the better path to be on. Because you don’t have the time of grad school or a training program where you can only focus on acting. It gives you a more realistic understanding of what the real world is like. When you’re here you have to take the time to do it slow. Don’t obligate yourself to do it right here. Give yourself time.