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Curly’s Advice

April 16, 2013

I’m sure I’m not the first person to be inspired by and blog about Curly’s famous advice. But as another Ukrainian-Pennsylvanian-descendent of coal miners, I have always felt a secret bond to the awesome Jack Palance (we know him as Volodymyr Palahniuk.) And it may be a bit embarrassingly cliché to use a movie clip as inspiration to change my life, but hey, City Slickers is a darn good film. As you’ll see in a moment.

But first…

When I started blogging at The Green Room I was producing and performing in a big non-profit theatre project, taking improv to rural schools. It was a great experience. Since then I got some grants to do more children’s theatre. It was a great experience. Then I started writing radio drama, got a couple of plays produced and applied for a grant to do a community radio project (I didn’t get the grant, but it was all a great experience.) I also starred in a short film which won a bunch of awards. It was a great experience. I also did several web series and short play festivals. They were great experiences…At this point you might be getting the drift. I’ve had a lot of great experiences, which in themselves, truly are each very meaningful. But sadly, a collection of meaningful but VASTLY DIFFERENT experiences makes it difficult to sustain forward career momentum. And frankly, I’ve reached a point where I want a big leap.

So, last weekend, when I found myself stuck in traffic, late for a workshop audition in which I would be playing my trombone, speaking Portuguese and performing physical theatre, I had a bit of a breakdown. Sobbing on the New Jersey turnpike, in stopped traffic, I kept saying over and over to myself, “I’m so tired. I’m so tired.” I think you might know what I mean. As actors in big cities, we juggle our “bill-paying jobs” with our auditions and bookings and networking and personal lives. And sometimes it can just become too much. Now throw into the mix the burning desire to create, well, just about anything on stage or film, and we end up scattering our energy around many different projects. But then, sitting there in traffic, knowing I was going to miss the workshop, it occurred to me: I didn’t really even want to go. Yes, the idea of working with a Brazilian physical theatre group and playing my trombone on stage sounded totally fun and fascinating. But at this point in my life, I didn’t like the thought of spending hundreds of hours on an experience that, although interesting, wouldn’t necessarily mean a huge return on the career that I want. (Of course, if I wanted to excel in a career in physical theatre, it would be perfect.) But that’s not where I personally want to have my big leap.

I eventually got out of the traffic jam, but it was too late for the audition. I sent profuse and sincere apologies to the director and producer for missing it, then sat for a while and stewed. Later, still bleary-eyed from sobbing, I met a friend who, after hearing about my day said, “Why don’t you just take Curly’s advice.” And I knew just what he meant.

So here it is for you:

It’s so simple to hear, yet hard to do. But I’m going to give it a try. For the next 3 months, I’m going to focus on just one area of my career and try to sustain some forward momentum. I’m going to work in film. That means: no theatre auditions; no grant writing to get my own projects off the ground (for now); no auditions with my trombone (unless it’s for a film.) I must admit, even writing this statement makes me nervous and anxious that I’m going to miss out on some interesting experience… but I’m telling myself it’s just for three months… I want to see what happens when I pick Just One Thing. And I’ll make sure to update you here at The Green Room Blog with any thoughts or tips I have on the process.

And finally, I’d just like to end on a little more Jack Pal-awesomeness, in case you need a little boost to your day.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2013 3:01 pm

    You know what? I started doing this about two years ago when I decided that, for the moment, regional and off-broadway theatre was where it’s at for me.

    It was hard for me to really believe that “I can’t do it all RIGHT NOW,” but it has totally elevated how successful I’ve been able to become. I think it’s helped my career tremendously.

    Looking forward to seeing where this new philosophy takes you 🙂

    • April 17, 2013 11:03 am

      Well seeing all the focused success you’ve had I feel inspired that I’m on the right track! Thank you. I especially like the idea that you are self-producing the type of show you want to work in. I think that’s very smart.

      • April 17, 2013 11:41 am

        Thank you! I hope that my self-producing helps people “see” me in the light I want to be seen, that’s a big part of the goal.

        Great post! You really got everyone thinking!

  2. The College Theatre Dork permalink
    April 16, 2013 8:03 pm

    I think I need to read this post as much as you needed to write it. I love that my degree lets me do everything that I want but I end up doing EVERYTHING. I’ve dabbled in all these different things and maybe I’m young enough that just the experience is exactly what I need but the keyword “focus” keeps hitting me a lot lately. Maybe a focus is what I should want right now.

    I really appreciate that you wrote this today. I might even write my own post taking Curly’s advice tomorrow – it was much needed advice!

    • April 17, 2013 11:08 am

      Thank you and I’m so glad it resonated. I think a big part of it, especially when you are young, is also self-esteem … in the past I’ve just been jumping around because I was interested in so many different facets of the industry, but also shocked that anyone wanted to give me a job! But now I’m getting to the part where I believe I’m good enough to work, so that’s not a shock. I hope you can find a focus. At the same time, it is good to experiment a bit in many forms to see what really grabs you the most. But for strong forward momentum, I’m believing it’s good to focus for a while in one area. Then, as Reflective Artist points out below, it will strengthen you in other areas too

  3. The Reflective Artist permalink
    April 17, 2013 9:44 am

    I love this post. It reminds me of a little adage my yoga teacher tells us all the time: “You can only do one thing at a time well.” If you try to do everything at once, the integrity of the whole suffers. But when you make a point of taking a conscious step to build one thing at a time, you create a foundation for yourself that supports all of your further action. I think this is great, and YES I echo what the Redheaded Actress said, it’s hard to accept that you can’t do it all right now (a truth I have been struggling with myself for the past few years). But I think it may be the only way to actually get solid footing in this industry. I am looking forward to hearing about how it goes for you!

    • April 17, 2013 11:11 am

      That is such a brilliant way of looking at yoga too.Thank you! I am so glad this post is making sense to others. Your reply even further strengthened my resolve, when you mention that it will create a foundation that will support my further actions. YES!

  4. California Triple-Threat permalink
    April 22, 2013 9:34 pm

    You put into words what I did all last year– and it was an incredible year for me. I’ve lost a bit of that focus.Thanks for reminding me that I don’t need to do it all!
    P.S. my next blog is about some of that commuter frustration- Stay tuned. 🙂

  5. The Growing Artist permalink
    April 25, 2013 10:35 pm

    This is definitely something I need to work on! Your post is very inspirational, and it has given me the push I need to begin focusing on my “one thing”. I can’t wait to read more about your progress. Thank you!


  1. Doubting Thomases. | Some Such Sense
  2. Things I KNOW I’ve Been Told in Theatre School | The Green Room
  3. A Month of Curly’s Advice | The Green Room

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