About a month ago, I was on a Facebook page for people involved in theatre in my area. An actor I had worked with a few years ago had posted on it that there was an online magazine or blog or something, that was requesting an article about whether acting was a hobby or a profession for those involved in theatre here. I cannot speak for the others, but every since I read that post, I’ve been reevaluating what acting really means to me. Was it just a hobby?
So, I go back and scrounge through every theatre memory I have had since childhood. I saw a live performance of Sound of Music in Madras, India when I was 8 or 10 or something like that. That memory doesn’t matter to this story. Next! I must say the next memory is somewhat significant to helping me understand my relationship to theatre.
I was 16 in a junior college. There was a sign posted for auditions. Snow White! Oh how I wanted to audition, but I couldn’t and I didn’t. Reason number 1: My dad would kill me. Not literally. Let’s just say he would have blown a fuse, or had a cow or you get the gist. Reason number 2: I do not kiss on stage and if I got cast as Snow White, there is no way I could pull off that last scene. Don’t ask me why as a brown girl with no theatre experience, I thought for some strange reason I could even dream of getting cast as Snow White. And that was that. I never gave those auditions a second thought, until this blog, 26 years later! While I was in the junior college, I got to watch a Midsummer Nights Dream. I don’t recall how I convinced my dad that I wanted to go watch a play. Must have involved “required” course homework or extra credit for one of my classes. But that’s how it went. My father would not have let me go otherwise!
Fast forward another 15 years. I had finished college. I was a professional in a respectable job. I had a life, so to say. And through a tennis friend, I got invited to watch The Cemetery Club. I guess, you could say that this was the first time I connected with theatre. I was an adult and understood my interests and had come a long way from the child who followed whatever her dad had said (for the most part). My friend was performing in this show and I was very moved by it. It was a very small theatre, almost like a black box. My friend and the other actors had turned in a phenomenal performance. I struggled with the concept that a “regular” person could be in a show. I mean, my friend wasn’t famous or a celebrity. She was someone I played tennis with. And that’s when I thought, “hmmm. Why can’t I act? If she can do it, why can’t I?”
I talked to my friend about it and told her that I was interested. I don’t really recall what she said to me. I think she said that it took a lot of work and that it’s not as easy as it looks or something like that. I think she told me to go to a website and audition to look for parts and the next thing I knew, a few months later, she called me. She said she was in another play and the director was looking for someone like me. She gave me the director’s phone number. When I called, the director just gave me the time and date to show up for the reading. I did not know I was cast. When the director said, “Next week we will block the play.” I thought, “Block? What the heck is that? Are we playing with blocks? How is that pertinent to the play?” and as I wondered my friend came up to me and said, “Blocking is just when they tell you where to go and when. I’ll show you next time.” And that’s when I realized I probably was cast! I can’t recall much else. I think my cast thought I did a great job with my role. And so started my love for an art that I could not express until then.
I have been cast in several productions since. And a few years ago, I even got cast with a professional theatre company. I got paid $50 for that stint. I would have done it for free. I met my second husband through theatre and I have even started directing. I have directed 4 ten minute plays until date and God willing I will direct my first full length play next year. The funny thing about acting as a hobby or a profession, is that I know the answer. It’s a hobby. I do not make a living from it. I have a very good living through my profession and theatre gives me the outlet to express a part of myself I wouldn’t otherwise. I feel I may have an advantage over the “professional” actors. I truly love theatre and I have nothing to lose. I’m not in it for money or fame. I think if I were to act professionally, I may not like it as much. I may feel it takes away from my sense of freedom or expressing when I want to express, rather than forcing a model on me.
There is one part of acting that deeply hurts me. The part that I can never connect with my father through it. I know he hates it. He doesn’t even want to hear me talk about it. It’s this form of expression in me that I feel he refuses to accept or understand. It’s like it doesn’t exist to him. He chooses to turn blind to my choice and that’s hard. A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to my dad about other things and I mentioned, “You know, I’m directing this play and…” He cut me off. “I don’t want to hear about that. You don’t know what you are doing.” At 42, my father feels like I don’t know what I’m doing. C’est la vie! I guess acting means, breaking legs and hearts.
That’s it on this topic, for now. Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Will try to write more soon.