Friday, March 7, 2008

Working smarter, not just harder

In my "get this damn career thing together already" mode, various thoughts that have been whirling through my little diva brain, gathered here for some semblance of order and to have them in one place as a reminder:

Yes, I'm in more or less the same place I was ten years ago. Yes, that would probably not be the case if I had made some different choices along the way. Yes, that is frustrating as all hell. Own it and let it go. It does not help my mental health. It sure as hell does not help my work.

I totally grok the "biological clock" thing in a way I never thought I would. Only mine isn't ringing "Aaaagh! Must have kids now or it's not going to happen!" (That would also be nice, but it's not what the lizard brain is screaming about.) It's "Aaaagh! Must get career momentum now or it's not going to happen!" And yeah, there's some truth to it. But I'm no less likely a leading lady at 38 than I was at 25.

Which is to say, quite frankly, not all that likely. Most of the actresses I love and follow because they've created and inhabited characters that really spoke to me aren't the huge household names, largely because I tend to develop that attachment most strongly with TV series characters. That's a mode of storytelling and way of living with a character that I would dearly, dearly love the opportunity to experience, and one I'm most likely never going to. Even if I were in the right place -- if I had been born in Canada like most of my favorites, or if I had moved to L.A. a decade ago when I was sorely tempted and could probably have taken good advantage of some tenuous connections -- I am, as the song goes, not that girl.

My friends are probably sick to death of my glib "I'm a stage actor for a reason; cameras and I don't get along," and it's really only half true. I hate most still pictures of me -- always have, probably always will -- but have surprised myself by enjoying and generally being pleased with the little bit of film work I've done. But I'm still not someone people look at and think "leading lady material" the way they do with someone like Amanda Tapping or Christina Cox or Gina Holden. There's not really a way to change that, and I'm still evolving a strategy for finding the place where I'm what they want.

One of my other glibs is that I want to be Emma Thompson or Catherine Disher when I grow up. That's maybe a little closer to the mark. But I'm still working on the growing up. And it's a weird schizo thing, because with 40 not that far off on the horizon, people still look at me and see 26 or 27. And however much we wish differently, 26 or 27 is supposed to be gorgeous first and everything else second. And someone else is always going to come in with more gorgeous.

All of which leads me to conclude that, far from time running out, I am in fact not old enough yet for hotness to become a secondary consideration, and for what I do have to get people's attention.

I do not suck. Of this I am (usually) certain. That's not always an easy thing to hold onto, when it's impossible not to gauge your worth as an actor through others' eyes. A writer or painter or sculptor or even musician can do their work on their own, any time. Sharing it with others and having it appreciated is of course important, but they can do the actual work. Acting is entirely collaborative. There's an extent to which you can make your own opportunities, but when it all boils down, it cannot be done without someone, somewhere saying "Yes, you can do this work, and we will do it with you." And then when you get to do it, it must be done on the group's terms and according to their schedule.

That? Will make a person crazy right quick if they're not careful.

I've been very restless lately because I haven't been getting to really do the work. Horror Academy was fantastic -- oh, how I cherish that people not only believed when Lula died, but cared! -- but it closed four months ago. Auditions are fine as far as they go, but that's maybe five minutes of engaging with a character I've just met, and it just doesn't cut it. The roles I get in opera are necessarily limited by my vocal development -- cardinal irony of remaining an actor first and foremost!

Ergo, time to revisit the thought I had months ago about taking a proper acting class. It's been a long time, and right now it's my best option for really engaging with character work. Plus I think I've been stagnating a bit. I may even take a break from voice lessons for a while. I know it will slow down my development there, and my teacher will be frustrated, but she also knows singing is always going to be secondary for me. Training the last several years has been about all sorts of wonderful side areas -- singing, stage combat, and yeah, after Barnum I was giving serious thought to going back to the Actor's Gymnasium to do the regular aerial course -- but I haven't gotten back to basics in a long while. And with what I've been up to lately, back to basics with an on-camera emphasis is what I need.

It's also been waaay too long since I set foot in a dance class, and I want to get back into that habit. But that's a second priority. And since the Elgin Park District doesn't even have any ballet classes on the spring session schedule (WTF?), it may mean looking into private studios when the time comes. One thing at a time. Which needs to be the mantra, really -- trying to do everything at once is accomplishing nothing!

So. Plan of attack for this weekend:

1. Check out classes in Chicago (there are a couple I know a bit about), get registered, and get back in training.
2. Start getting mailings out to agents. Was going to wait until my new headshots and reel were ready, but both of those are taking longer than I'd hoped, and my current headshot and resume could be enough for now. I can get in the door now, and give them more and updated material soon.
3. Strategize the hunt for a day job that will keep me alive without eating my life.

Yay, plan!

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