Sunday, January 13, 2008

Recovering

I'm back — kind of.

In looking back over my previous ramblings, I'm struck by a number of recurring themes. One of them was attrition. I suspect it was largely my own fear of becoming "just another casualty" that probably had me ruminating on it time and again. And now I find myself standing at the precipice.

I can't say that I've lost my love of acting. Far from it. I've just had a certain amount of Life (and/or the pain that comes with it) during the past couple of years that has me thinking — perhaps for the first time ever — that I want some things more than an acting career.

What's really peculiar is that the "career" I had at the time I left off with my last blog entry hasn't diminished substantially in the intervening time. Check that: actually it has diminished substantially — everyone's has (the market in Chicago sucks right now). But I can't say it's diminished any more than it would have had the events of the last couple of years not happened. I'm still exclusively represented by the same agents, I still land as many union jobs per year as I guess most of my peers do, I finally qualified for a pension from the Screen Actors Guild when I retire, and I'm not on bad terms with any of my old friends and acquaintances. So it's not like it's a matter of not being able to "cut it". Strangely, my thoughts have very little to do with disappointment or anger or whatever over my level of accomplishment.

But I'm literally overwhelmed at the moment with describing what it's been like to have moved, during the past two years, so far afield from the focus my life used to have.

I know already this is going to be the suckiest blog entry I've ever made, but hey, it beats silence (if ever so slightly).

I forget at the moment whether I've mentioned this before, but I remember my first fairly long theatre contract following graduate school. It was a repertory situation, and each show ran for 6-7 weeks. I remember thinking during graduate school that I couldn't conceive why people asked any of our "visiting artists" — Broadway actors, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Mabou Mines, etc. — the recurring question "How do you keep a show fresh when you've been doing it for months/years/as long as you have?" (I mean, it's the most exciting, rewarding thing in the world to do with your time, right? So why waste time asking questions about keeping it fresh?) Well, after doing rep for a year, I began to understand.

I'd never before experienced weariness at the end of a run. I'd never before experienced a show growing stale, or doing a role by rote. I hadn't ever experienced a lot of things I discovered that year. And it just royally pissed me off to discover I wasn't so exceptional that I wasn't prone to the same dynamics as everyone else. Not only that, so full of impatient hubris was I back at the Conservatory that I hadn't been listening to our many visiting professionals, so I actually found myself wondering at times how I was ever going to keep this show I was in fresh.

So now I find myself dealing with a dynamic I've never experienced before, and I guess I am, once again, just royally pissed. I never thought this would happen to me. Ever.

More later.

4 comments:

Story said...

Evan - it really IS good to have you back. And your post is not just better than silence...it's important!

While I STILL have not even approached the level that you've been working at for most of your career - I did work at acting throughout college as if it were a job. I was on "speech team" at the time - and acting was literally paying for my college. Before that, it was the same thing in High School - speech team in high school and college made acting into pure, repetitious competition.

So at the end of college, I met my wife, got a job that payed real money, bought a house and found myself just plain tired of acting. So I quit. And never thought about picking it up again for fifteen straight years. The only time I felt uncomfortable with my choice was in the darkness, after a really good film - but even then the urge didn't resurface.

Until three years ago. After a few years of examining the working world and finding it lacking (even at a non-profit) I realized that our time here is too limited to sit by and allow that to exist in my life. So I literally walked out the door of my office, looked on the ground (I work at a university) and saw a flyer to audition for a student film. I auditioned, got the part, and started up again.

In a rehearsal for the first real non-student acting part I had, our director asked each of us to describe what we were bringing to the audition. Out of my mouth came the word, "joy." And I realized, with surprise, that it was true. I'd found something that I had been missing for decades - a joy in a craft.

Now - three years later, when I'm off to an audition and my stomach is filled with butterflies because I know it's an "important" one, I repeat to myself: remember - you do this because it brings you joy. And it does - but it takes remembering that sometimes.

So I'm not sure what all these words mean - but I can say this - you may be weary now - but it won't be that way forever. And I suspect you do this thing for the same reason I do - for the joy. But sometimes it is hard to remember that.

devonellington said...

Creative evolution is really hard. Part of being in the arts is growing, changing and reassessing.

If anyone told me ten years ago, I'd ever leave full-time theatre work, I would have told them they were crazy. Yet, three years ago, I got tired of handling two full-time careers and began the transition out of technical work in theatre, television, and film to full-time writing, which I recently completed.

I still go back occasionally to Broadway, or do a couple of days on a TV job -- it's too addictive.

The financial picture's a little scarier, but I'm much happier working on my own schedule, on my own projects, and enjoying other aspects of life.

I was starting to resent the 8 show/week schedule, never having nights or holidays off (hey, 20 years'll do it to you). I felt like my world was narrowing by staying there.

And now, I feel like I can do anything.

You're having growing pains. And they hurt. But you'll be better for it when you come out the other side.

Good luck.

Devon
Ink in My Coffee

devonellington said...

Thanks for visiting.

I want to switch everything over to Mac. The dumbest thing I ever did was go PC in the first place. I just have to sort out the financials. But I'd rather pay more up front for something that will WORK.

I'll visit again soon.

Devon
Ink in My Coffee

PS I lived in Chicago when I was really, really little. I think my mom wishes we'd never left.

PSS I used to work on WICKED until about 2 months ago (I was their go-to swing dresser for 3 1/2 years), so I probably know some of the people in the Chicago company!

william.smillie said...

About f'ing time you got back to this...