For any performer, one’s identity and sense of self worth sometimes depends a little too highly on their current production. We throw ourselves so hard into a role that other aspects of our lives suffer---from simple things (household chores) to big-deal stuff (relationships).
It can then be difficult to lose that lifeline to which we cling so dearly. Ten dizzying weeks of a show go by and suddenly we are like a plant without water or sunlight.
So to help find sustenance, here are nine ways to pass the time as you wait for your next big part. And who knows---you may find that you don’t need that show so badly after all.
1. Fine-tune other interests – All of us have many talents (and I’m not just talking about the ones found on the stage). Whether you like writing or running, fine-tuning other interests can easily lead you to valuable pursuits and self-gratification.
“I think breaks from shows are an excellent time to brush up on other skills," explains Joey Panek, a web personality known for HowBoutJoey.com and other original web series. Joey spent a number of years working in professional theater, but today most people know him for a variety of other creative endeavors that crept up on him during states of showlessness.
“Some skills will benefit your performing in obvious ways," Joey says. "For example, six years ago I wandered into a Dance Trance fitness class at the YMCA in an effort to improve my ability to pick up routines at auditions. And it helped immensely. What I didn't realize is that it would turn into a side career for me. I'm now an instructor of that class and a director of the regional program. It sparked a love for fitness as well that I didn't know I had.“Some of the other not-so-obvious endeavors that can help your performing are brushing up on your employable skills. As actors, we are all marketers. We market ourselves at auditions. We market our presence online. These days you can learn just about any tech skill through tutorials online. Learn to build your own website. Spend time updating your YouTube channel. Take an improv class. Even if you have no intention of doing improv theater, you have no idea how much it'll benefit your performing in a scripted role.”
2. Reconnect with friends – In this digital age, people have lost sight of their friends (in the physical sense at least). Solid relationships need more than the occasional Facebook message. Likewise, lasting memories should go beyond sharing eyelash glue in the dressing room and tagging friends in pictures from your most recent show. Pick up the phone and call your best friend from high school or that eyelash-glue girl and create a firm foundation together.
Should you have a significant other, recognize how many times they’ve come to see your shows and take an interest in what’s just as important to them.
3. Revel in your weekends – No matter how long I’ve been out of a production, I continue to recognize weekends as a truly wondrous gift---two whole days, one after the other, in which you can do whatever you want. You can go to the beach. Heck, you can go boating! You can go to the movies. You can go shopping. You can go out for drinks at a decent hour. You can go to that wedding. You can lie in bed and watch Star Trek reruns and never once get out of your pajamas.
4. Take time for your film career – Being showless can free you up for the world of film and TV. Do you have an agent? Tampa and Orlando are important hubs for Florida talent agencies. Most of them are impressed if you can do more than smile and look pretty. Some of the shows being cast out of this area include Burn Notice, The Glades, Army Wives and Revolution.
You should also consider getting informed about local and student films. The Ringling College of Art and Design’s digital filmmaking department is just down the road! Keep an ear open for auditions.Olli Haaskivi is an actor originally from Sarasota who now lives in New York City. He has appeared on the CBS series Unforgettable and his theater credits include productions, workshops and readings for Universal Pictures, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, the O'Neill Theatre Center and the Dorset Theatre Festival, among others.
Olli explains, “My theater training comes in handy very often while on set. The basic laws of good acting are the same everywhere but the specific considerations can be vastly different, and I think it's important not to force the rules of one world onto the other.
“Every time I'm on set, I notice that repetition from my theater background helps so much---shooting a scene 27 times doesn't faze me and I don't lose any steam because I'm used to doing many, many performances of a show on stage.
“The time commitment is largely what strikes me as different and it's something I've had to mentally adjust to. In film, the name of the game is being available---it can feel a little odd and a little boring when you're used to planning out a theater season months in advance ... But then you get a last-minute, out-of-the-blue call that shakes up your whole world.”
5. Focus on your day job – Yes, I know, most of us would like to think that all we do is theater. But money needs to pay for those moments when we are not onstage (and sometimes even when we are). Without late nights at the theater you can actually get in to work on time! Find a way to bring your creative passions to the workplace. You may find that with a little focus and initiative, work can be equally as fulfilling (well, almost).
6. Get your wisdom teeth pulled, change your oil, take charge of your finances, do yard work, clean your closet, organize your cupboards, paint your room, donate clothes to Goodwill, dust the top of your refrigerator, change your AC filters, add windshield washer fluid to your car. Do all those things you’ve been putting off. Seriously. Because you can now.7. Keep training – This is probably my favorite tip. Maybe you're not in a show right now because you auditioned and weren’t cast. What better way to be prepared for the next audition than to let your training fill you with confidence? Take voice lessons. Take dance classes. Take improv. Take acting lessons. Read a play. Watch amazing musical numbers on YouTube. Study those who came before you. Learn from experts. See a show. Learn to read music or even play an instrument!
8. Write your own material – Of course writing something new can be terrifying and we can be so critical of our own work. Still, challenge yourself to write your own 10-minute play or a song! Consider using your theatrical contacts to put together a cabaret. There are even opportunities for local playwrights to submit work and get it produced at The Players Theatre and Theatre Odyssey. The Sarasota Area Playwrights Society is a wonderful organization to help get you started.
Jeffery Kin is the Artistic Director of The Players Theatre and the author of Anna, Leona & the Lady Luck, Always a Part of Me and Pete’s Repair Shop.
“Creating your own work often allows a performer to express individual wants, needs and desires. It acts as a mode of personal expression that an artist rarely obtains when performing in a scripted show. I am a huge fan of writing and performing your own work … it's risky, exciting and often incredibly satisfying.”
9. If all else fails, set your sights on your next show – Become familiar with all the theater seasons and start working on your next audition now. Rehearse your material. Listen to the original cast recording. Get a copy of the script. Watch clips of it on Youtube.
And if you don’t get it (although after all your training and preparing for the audition, you darn well better!) be prepared to reread this blog.
Any other tips you'd like to add to help actors get past showlessness? Let me know in the comments!