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Do What I Do, Don’t Do What I Do

August 13, 2012

Hello from the regions!

More specifically, hello from Louisville, Kentucky!

I know, I know, you wouldn’t think that Kentucky, or the Ohio River Valley, would be a hotbed of theatrical activity. And you would be right. It’s not. But it is the place where I live and work – quite regularly, thank you very much – at least, for now.

But I do have a dream. I dream of living in a bigger market. I dream of the day when going to an audition involves a 20-30 minute commute instead of a 200-300 mile commute. I dream of a bevy of theatrically-inclined folks with whom to celebrate and commiserate.

But for now, I live in Louisville, Kentucky. And I work in Louisville, Kentucky. And Cincinnati, Ohio. And Nashville, Tennessee. And Columbus, Ohio. And Charleston, West Virginia. And Lexington, Kentucky. And other southeasternly, midwesternish places.

I work as a commercial actor, I work as a host and actor for industrials, I work as a day-player, I work as a voiceover artist, I work as an essayist, I work as a playwright, and sometimes I even work as a stage actor. It’s challenging in a way that being a working actor in a major market is not, but there are also a lot of similarities because it is still the same business of show, whether you live in NYC or you live in the ‘Ville.

Regardless of the place you call home, to be a successful actor, you must become a hyphenate. In the past two years I have learned in order to be successful, I must become much more enterprising than I had been before, to branch out and start treating my career like a multi-pronged business. Because it is.

I landed in Louisville after doing time with the bus-and-truck-tour-thing and the itinerant-artist-teacher-thing. As the end of another contract approached, I went into NYC for an audition. I stayed with friends who had moved there right out of undergrad. They were in teeny, tiny apartments shared with 10 other people and worked temp jobs they hated, but couldn’t afford to take time off to audition — you know, the thing they’d moved to NYC to do. That was not the trap I wanted to fall into, so I decided not to move to NYC. An assortment of decisions led me, finally, to Louisville, Kentucky. In hindsight, that was absolutely the right decision – the city would have eaten me alive at that point in my life – but sometimes I have an amnesia-of-sorts and kick myself for not moving to NYC then and there.

Two years ago I was completing the run of a show with a theatre company I had been a member of for some years. I was the lead, it was a musical, I was having a blast. But I was so unfulfilled. I wasn’t being challenged, I wasn’t growing my resume in any significant way, and I wasn’t growing my network to help me grow my resume. I was stuck. So I decided it was time to move on. I told the theatre it had been a great run, I appreciated the work, would be happy to come back later, but I needed to go do other things and would not be auditioning for their next season. It was an exciting move, but a scary one. I was leaping and hoping the net would appear.

The past two years have forced me to finely tune what my idea of success in this career means. Certainly, paying my bills through acting-singing-writing and adjacent tasks (e.g. teaching acting-singing-writing) is the primary indicator of success, for me. Do I still dream of Broadway? Yes. Do I still practice my acceptance speech during the Tonys broadcast? Yes. And the Oscars, too. I also dream of seeing my name in print on the familiar Sam French script cover. But I know that to get there from here will involve a whole lot more than just the right agent, just the right audition, and just the right intangible something that propels an actor-singer-writer into that arena. It will involve a lot of work, and because I live in the regions, I have to get creative about how to do that work.

Not everyone is cut out to live in NYC or LA. Not everyone wants to deal with the lake effect weather in Chicago. At least, not all the time. There is work to be had outside of the major markets of our profession, but you have to be a little more enterprising to find it and land it.

What about you? Do you live outside the major markets? I’d love to hear why you chose that course! Or maybe you do live in NYC, LA, or Chicago – what questions do you have about work in the regions?

P.S. If you are in Louisville for the Humana Festival, tweet me or message me – here or on Facebook – and let’s get together for coffee, wine, or guacamole! I love guacamole!

8 Comments leave one →
  1. The Reflective Artist permalink
    August 13, 2012 7:39 am

    Great introductory post! I love what you say about needing to become “a hyphenate.” While I do live in a major market, I am ashamed that I don’t utilize what’s immediately available to me more<–my goal for the rest of the year. I'm so excited to hear your stories about being a working actor in an area of the country that is so interspersed in terms of where work is found. Welcome!

    • August 13, 2012 12:58 pm

      Thanks! I think we all have that challenge, of utilizing better what is at our disposal. Sometimes it’s just easier to point to something out of our control and crawl back into bed. And them some days we get brave and put our big girl britches on; I’m striving for more of those.

  2. August 13, 2012 2:12 pm

    I’m also very much looking forward to hearing about your journey in the Southeasty-Midwesterny region! Love that you’ve already inspired some guacamole discussion on twitter! 🙂

    • The Enterprising Actor permalink
      August 14, 2012 11:36 pm

      I know – that was a little random. But, hey, whatever gets the job done!

  3. Jill permalink
    August 14, 2012 9:47 am

    You may not be in NYC or LA, but you’re right near the Actors Theatre of Louisville! I’d kill for that.

    • The Enterprising Actor permalink
      August 14, 2012 11:56 pm

      I wondered how long it would be before that issue cropped up. I plan on addressing the issue of LORT theatres’ casting habits in a future post, but I want to do so deliberately rather than sounding like a whiner. Let’s just say that I’m working my contacts to get a somber, deliberate post composed about it, because it is one of the most frequent issues we region-ers deal with.

      What I will say, for now, is that ATL is an asset to the theatre community, but when they cast local talent, most often they cast non-union. Some of this is due to the fact that they have an apprentice company from which to draw, a group of people who pay the theatre to work for free for an entire season, albeit they gain incredible networking and experience. Some of it appears to be due to institutional prejudice against regional talent; I reiterate this is not isolated to ATL – at Equity Liaison meetings it is the most heard refrain, “My local LORT won’t cast any of us who share the same area code!”

      Thanks for your response, looks like it’s time to step up my work on the future post about not being a prophet in your own country.

      • August 15, 2012 9:50 am

        So looking forward to reading this post! I always think it’s funny that I moved all the way to NYC to audition for Florida regional theaters 40 minutes from my hometown!


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