That would be me

That would be me

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Work is what you do for others, liebchen – Art is what you do for yourself

If this isn't "work" then why am I so tired afterwards?

I am an actor. I have been an actor for over 30 years. I work my butt off as an actor. Sometimes I even make a decent chunk of money as an actor. So why do so few people actually acknowledge acting as a real job?

I get that for a lot of people acting is a hobby. I get that. And I get that since it is "fun" work that some people are loathe to call it "real" work. But work is exactly what it is. For a show like Eleemosynary, I have to do script analysis, memorization, movement, carry around big heavy wings and run around the stage while flapping said wings and I have to climb a ladder. Sounds like work to me.

In recent days, I have (yet again) had my dedication as a parent and human being questioned all because of my chosen profession. I have been accused of being selfish, narcissistic, even sociopathic because I continue to pursue acting as a profession.

Sociopathic? Because of my ACTING??? Seriously?

I have a Bachelor's degree in Acting. I am one of the FEW people in my graduating class who still pursue the field they spent $50,000 to study. In NONE of my classes was I warned that parents are not allowed to do the job for which they trained because it makes them terrible parents. I would think if this were true, SOMEONE would have mentioned it.

I do not make much money as an actor. I am aware of this; I have seen my bank account numbers. Being poor and an actor is not terribly shocking. In fact, last time I checked the stats, fewer than 3% of all SAG (screen actors guild) actors made more than $5000 a year solely on acting. I would also warrant that a large percentage of SAG actors are also hobbyists. I just happen to not be a hobbyist. I am a lifer.

So what this makes me is poor – perhaps misguided from an economic standpoint – but it does NOT make me selfish.

This is why most actors supplement have to their income as temps, baristas or table jockeys. I supplement mine with teaching and coaching work (when I can). I charge about $35/hour for private coaching and a little less than that for classes. This rate allows me to work fewer hours to still bring in the amount of money I need to survive and to make the hours away from the kids pay for themselves.

When working full time on a show, I put in about 25-30 hours of work per week. That is a HIGH estimation. With my current show, last week I put in a whopping 10 hours of work outside of the home plus about 3 hours of at-home marketing work. 13 hours a WEEK. Wow, yeah. I spent FAR more time than that shuffling L back and forth to preschool.

I know a LOT of people who spend more time than that glued to a TV on top of 40 hour per week jobs AND they have kids.

I MUST be crazy not to see the problem here.

There are LOADS of professions that require a great deal more time from workers than I put in on the busiest of weeks. Doctors frequently have to put in 18 hour days (if not longer). Policemen often have long shifts and their lives are put in danger. Social workers have high amounts of job-related stress, low pay AND ridiculous hours. Ministers have one of the highest job-stress rates and one of the lowest PAY rates.

Are ministers and social workers sociopathic and narcissistic for doing what they feel is the job they are born to do? Or are they "okay" because no one else wants to do their jobs?

Is that the point I am missing? My job is enjoyable so therefore I am selfish for doing it. Good thing I didn't like sports. I would hate to think of what I would be accused of had I tried to pursue professional volleyball.

I am an actor. It is what I do. It is who I am. In NO way does this fact make me an unfit mother or human being. It just makes me more animated at storytime.

And less able to afford to buy tickets to one of the shows I am in.


  1. Okay, I'm not sure WHO is calling you selfish here, but if it's a lawyer, then s/he's sadly misguided. And if it's a layperson with a bias / axe to grind, he's an idiot. The end.

  2. I totally understand where you are coming from. I am often surprised when I realize other people's opinions of me and others who pursue performing. I read this article years ago that really put things in perspective for me and allowed me to not feel like I was just making up the non-selfish side of my passions as a singer/actress.

    I think in our heart of hearts, all actors/performers know that what attracts them to this isn't just the attention. That is just an unfortunate story a lot of our world attaches to us that we might get lost in from time to time, regardless of the fact that there are purely ego-driven actors around. Plus, at the end of the day....those people we all hear so darn much about are the teeniest tiniest percentage of performers "in the business" and definitely can't be representative of the soul of the actor! Not that there aren’t a few who ARE genuine.

    Great entertainment provides necessary distraction/relief/escape from any number of life's headaches and laughter truly is the best
    medicine. Who knows why people hold such a low opinion of those who choose this career. At least we know the dirty little secret that their world would be a lot more depressing without the arts that we provide.