As for questions, I shared your Blog about being an actor in a pandemic with two friends of mine struggling right now too and they really appreciated it. It’s nice to hear from someone who’s lasted so long in this industry as all of us are wondering if our profession is “sustainable?”
Right now, let us be honest, our profession is not sustainable, but it will be back. If anything one should conjecture, let us say the vaccine is available in mass by early summer -then some shows will start to come back on broadway- one at a time- but this will be a slow go and I think we will be surprised at how it is done – lots of tickets at lower prices to groups etc – many shows will end up not coming back.
but some will-
The fall will be a hard time as everyone will have geared for the comeback without a thought about the fall out of can they really do it before tourists are back. The regionals will start back I think… with their Christmas shows a year from now – perhaps a single fall show or some sort of thing like that – then we hit the winter and we know what happens to the theater in the dead of winter….so I think that summer 2022 is when we will really see shows in summer theaters and jobs back for the young theater professionals trying to make their ways.
In the meantime – what are the options – teach? Try to get into movies, tv, and other video programming? Pursue other work while trying to keep an eye on the comeback and how it is going? My idea is that the young need to look at how to make themselves “sustainable.” By that I mean, “Where do you go?” Where can you sustain yourself in a fashion that lets you come back to NYC or stay here with the most money in your account to help you once things begin to open up? Because we need to know the open up will be with less money for salaries and smaller shows.
I wish I could say something more positive – but sustaining is the word – and to sustain we must plan forward with pragmatism and a cool head. in the meantime learn. Who are the major producers? What have they done? Who are the best directors – what have they done? Who are the writers doing the best work – where are they being produced? Learn everything about the part of theater you want to be a part of so you can watch it diligently when it is trying to come back- as if you know a lot about it you can judge how it is happening- who is making it happen and how to become a part of it.
I don’t have a question per se, but thinking a lot about setting boundaries and collaborating with others- do you have any advice from working with directors or setting expectations so that you can feel supported in a space?
Be brave! Remember you have every right to understand the place you are in and create- no one has the right to make you feel less than equal. The best way to set expectations is a clear conversation where you evaluate what you can and can not do. By realizing what is impossible you now open yourself up to the imagination which is the best place to go in the theater.
Let’s say, your director wants 100 costumes – and you can afford 20? First, explain accurately and clearly what you have the funds for. What are the most important aspects of the director’s vision? getting to that will clarify what your goals are. The conversation is your friend – ask for explanations – say what you are struggling with. I think we struggle most when ideas are not clear as then no one knows where we are headed. Sometimes a good old admission by everyone that you have no idea where you are going and you are just trying things goes a long way toward letting a group work together.
Ask your director what they think, but always remember that creation is a push and pull – but the safest place to be is a place with clarity and foundation. One very famous director I work with tells a cast immediately that he will change blocking every single day until opening – and that he does not come into the room with any blocking ideas – he, therefore, sets up the expectations in a see-through form from day one. Ask for clarity – if you are not getting it perhaps this is not the place for you…
How do you mentally prepare for collaborating with others who may have different sensibilities than you?
Everyone on earth has different sensibilities than you. The key is to recognize you will learn something from them – your process will be different with each person – and even with the same person at different times and in different situations. I try to look out for what I see happening to my directors and actors and my associates – are they enjoying the process – are they relaxed – do they appear to be making the progress they want toward understanding the piece? This allows me to be seeing it at least partially from their viewpoint.
I will say, “Can you explain to me what you are thinking here?” This is especially true for me in the fitting room with an actor. I don’t want you to wear something that really does not work for you – I know there are more answers available and that we can talk and get to a good point together. That is actually making a character together – Igo to rehearsal and watch my director and my actors together so I can see how they are communicating and then I can ask the questions I need to find out. My sensibility will always be mine – the actors will always be theirs – the directors will always be theirs – but when we can come together and be honest enough to share our ideas and mold and change together we make a strong whole. I can feel the heat rising when I think my idea is questioned or disregarded – in these instances I have learned to explain my idea and ask for help in how to make it better – the very act of asking that makes me more easily listen to other’s thoughts.
The Moscow Arts Theater, the National Theater in the UK, the Old Globe, the Roundabout, Hamilton, Sunday in the park, did not come together out of one sensibility but rather out of groups of people who allow themselves the gift of expressing their feelings and their aesthetics and combining them in a new mold.
The creative challenge here being how we operate in co-existence – we have to decide sometimes that afterward, it is not what we want to pursue again – perhaps we try to understand what made that environment, not to our aesthetic or emotional liking – perhaps that allows us to go forward in our own future to make better endeavors for ourselves and others. Even the worst of situations and diverging sensibilities can lead us on to better know our own desired work situations in the future and allow us to pursue them.