I define it as my current career status. I’ve come to a point where I’m starting to wonder if my lack of acting work is due to life constantly getting in the way (why hello there, monthly doctor visits) or if this stagnant state is indeed becoming a choice; a choice to work only on quality, paying projects. One way to be cast in these "quality, paying projects" is to be Meryl Streep’s daughter. But on the off chance that you’re not lucky enough to be Mamie Gummer, you can always do what the rest of us non-Equity actors do: sit and wait to be seen at EPAs (that’s Equity Principal Auditions, for all you non-theater folks).
Since a job offer has yet to materialize from said auditions every time I’m confronted with the inevitable question “So what have you been doing lately?” all I can muster is a meek- “Um, life?” Because when it comes to cocktail conversation no one’s really interested in the long-winded, behind-the-scenes answer: “Oh, I’ve been doing tons! Updating my website, mailing out new postcards, tuning audition monologues, attending agent workshops, stalking…ahem…I mean following directors on Twitter, submitting my resume to every single breakdown that even remotely matches my type, researching acting classes…” Blah, blah, blah, the list can go on for hours but when encountering people who don’t “talk shop” you better make it snappy before their eyes glaze over and they give you that dreaded just-another-unemployed-actor look. We live in an instant gratification society and Results is the name of the game so go talk someone else’s ear off, kid.
I was recently watching You’ve Got Mail for the thirty thousand billionth time (90’s rom-coms are my thing, don’t judge me!) when I recognized the nasty-tempered cashier girl with the stereotypically-thick Hispanic accent as none other than Sara Ramirez. Again for the non-actyschmacty folks, she plays Dr. Callie Torres on Grey’s Anatomy. A TV star who I had pegged as an overnight success and here she was in a smaller than small role way back in 1998! That’s quite a long time! I got to thinking, it takes years of dedicated work to become an overnight success but that’s the part no one tells you about. It has little to do with talent (Sara’s got it in spades) but everything to do with perseverance. For while the hare saw the race, the tortoise saw the marathon. And this turtle often needs reminding of her bigger picture.
Something I strive for in my chanting is the ability to release. Generally as a human being and specifically as an actor, Letting Go is one of those big letter words that we all wish to achieve and few actually attain. It’s right up there with Self-Awareness and a Quiet Mind. Buddhism has taught me more about the craft of acting than any class on the subject: being present in the here and now, accepting people and circumstances as they are and not as I wish them to be and letting go of all that is superfluous and detrimental. To talk of Buddhism is to talk about life is to talk about acting. A rose by any other name… But before I go all Deepak Chopra on you I'll plainly state my point: I find that life is much kinder when you master the ability to release. When like the Taoist river you don't push against the rock in the middle but rather flow around it. I find that rather than stare at my phone willing it to ring I am happier doing other things like picking up shells at Coney Island, barbecuing with friends at Prospect Park, celebrating birthdays on Brooklyn rooftops, silently singing along in a Broadway theatre, having “Sex and the City” marathon weekends or enjoying a book or three on my commute. These moments keep me grounded in what’s really important. And just when you least expect it you’ll finally get a voicemail from the cosmos asking you to put yourself on tape with the sides from that earlier audition and would you please be so kind to email it before the end of the week to email@example.com.
Whenever I catch myself moping about something I failed to cross off my eternal to do list, or as I like to call it The Master Plan To Having It All, I simply remember how my time would be much better spent on a date with my "hubby"…New York! Because the beauty of dating a city like Gotham is that even when you feel stuck, everything else is moving. The trick is knowing whether it's an oncoming cab about to run you over. Things may not move at the pace you wish but they're surely moving at the pace it’s intended. You are not stuck. You are not "unchanged". You are choosing to remain still.
So for all you dreamers and schemers who will one day pay the bills with your art I leave you with this blessing: May you know enough struggle to keep you honest and enough success to keep you running.