What. Is. Your. Next. Project.
Five little words defenseless enough on their own but string them together, slap on a question mark, and suddenly they have the power to send any actor into panic mode. I remember a well-meaning audience member (an actor himself) ask me that after watching the show. My next project? Am I supposed to have one? I was still trying to wrap my head around this play, this character. It was only opening weekend!
I’ve met a lot of actors who confess being terrified of not having another job lined up after their current one. Considering the economical instability of our career that’s no small fear. It’s also nothing short of outstanding that some can afford to make a living from their acting alone. But while I understand the reasoning behind the fear it seems to me that planning four steps ahead doesn’t allow much room to simply enjoy the moment. I am by no means a let-the-chips-fall-where-they-may kinda gal. Living with complete abandon is a trait I admire in others but fail miserably at and I’ve got the day planners to prove it. I even schedule my Walgreens runs for Pete’s sake! But this idea of one subsequent play after another, without breaks in between, sounded like automatons churning out performances. Maybe I’m too green to understand this is how the business works. Or maybe there’s something to be said about taking some “me” time.
I’m guilty of quoting my former teacher, Ms. Tracey Moore, way too much but she once said, “You’ve got to live! Go bungee jumping, fall in love, have experiences because that’s what you bring on stage. Otherwise you’re always drawing from the same bucket.” I doubt she remembers having even said it but it has stuck with me through the years. Artists need to feed their creative genius and actors especially need time to shed the character’s skin. As much as I loved Lucy and her tumultuous world I was looking forward to the tranquility of mine. I was craving that which I used to regard as dull and trivial: the minutiae of my vie quotidienne. I was ready to go back to my own life where an Ikea bag full of dirty laundry awaited me as well as an apartment that hadn’t been cleaned in well over a month. Having the time to do laundry is one of those luxuries I would never consider as such until amidst industry events, performances, and after-parties I couldn’t find the time to wash my own underwear! (Too much info? OK, dialing it back.)
In an effort to molt I got a long overdue haircut and a much anticipated mani/pedi. I spent my first free morning in bed with a latte and an issue of New York Magazine. I also had a lovely don’t-schedule-anything-after Sunday brunch with friends. I was being a lazy, balanced Libra and totally loving it. The lackadaisical feeling, however, didn’t last long. “Lucy’s” set hadn’t yet been cleared before I was out auditioning again. Of course. Once the rush wears off we’re out searching for the next hit. Actors are the worst kind of junkies. Sitting in the waiting room I felt very confident and I knew right away something was amiss. Where was the desperation/anxiety I usually felt in these waiting rooms? I reviewed my sides for the umpteenth time, gave the best audition four hours of sleep could manage, and left the room feeling content. I didn’t end up booking the job but somehow my happiness no longer depended on it. The time I took for myself was more important than I realized.
A few days later I came across a Backstage interview with actress Carrie Coon where she said that "A lot of opportunities will come and go. And you have to remember that if you don't get it, it was someone else's turn…" I wholeheartedly agree. Not only is this auditioning shtik not personal but it is also a matter of timing. From what I’ve gathered, during my short time in this career, is that there are phases of waxing and waning. And perhaps (knock on wood) I will be waning for a long time. After all, the statistic of currently unemployed actors is enough to make one give up. Heck, I should know, I’m one of them! But until my “next project” comes along I gotta say this down time is not too shabby. Until then I can indulge: attend Buddhist meetings, watch amazing theatre, go bungee jumping, and fall in love. You know, live a little.