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The funny thing about life is that the more you live it, the more your philosophies and guiding principles seem to change. Well, maybe they don’t change. Maybe they just continue to grow as you gather more information. Isn’t that part of the journey? Experiencing the world and letting it shape you. Aren’t we all just the sum of our experiences?
I’ve always said that you can’t give another person perspective; they have to pay for it. And believe me, perspective is expensive. You pay for it in blood, sweat, tears, heartache, victories, hard work, hangovers, one-night stands, and the occasional happy accident. But I guess even in saying these things I am trying to give you MY perspective. You should probably just ignore me and pay attention to what your own life is teaching you.
I say all of this to say that recently I’ve had a change of heart about something. I’m allowed to do that! Brace yourself people. You might think you’re ready for this. You’re not.
…maybe they’re not so bad…
In case you aren’t familiar with vision boards, click here.
My fundamental objection to VBs comes from the mystical, religious, hocus pocus, mumbo jumbo way that people talk about them. “Oh I put a vision board on my door so I had to see it every time I left the house and within 4 months I was living my dream.” Give me a fucking break. Well, I’m just going to take this moment to acknowledge that this was my own perspective limiting my acceptance of what was working for someone else.
As I look back on years past and look forward to the future, I just might be seeing value in the IDEA of a VB. I’m a matter of fact person. I don’t believe in mysticism. I don’t believe in the power of positive thinking. I DO believe in living with a sense of intention and purpose. Maybe what others are getting from VB-ing is a sense of purpose and deliberate action. I get it. It’s about reminding yourself every day what your goal is and making a conscious CHOICE to move in that direction.
Life happens quickly. You blink and suddenly a month has gone by and you haven’t done a single thing that has gotten you any closer to your goal. Bills are paid, emergencies come up, survival jobs eat into your time, drinks are had, hangovers are recovered from, and suddenly another year has whizzed by.
Maybe, JUST MAYBE, vision boarding isn’t all that bad. Don’t get me wrong. I still can’t cope with people who talk about it with a mystical, nut-job tone and I certainly won’t be cutting up any magazines and busting out the glitter pens and magic markers. Let me just say that from now on I will be living every single day with a focus and intention that I have been lacking.
A little more vision. A little less board. I’ll let you know how this pans out.
A variation on a theme written by Sara Kleinsmith, my oldest friend, here.
One of the perks of speaking your truth unapologetically is that you very quickly find out who your friends are. I like to think of it as the Bridget Jones School of Friendship.
Mark Darcy: I like you, very much.
Bridget: Ah, apart from the smoking and the drinking, the vulgar mother and… ah, the verbal diarrhea.
Mark Darcy: No, I like you very much. Just as you are
Now while I do believe this to be a superior way of life, you also have to accept that this comes with some pretty serious repercussions.
I share all of this to say that the benefits you receive from living this way, even with a small group of people, far outweigh the negatives. And here is why…
“It’s not what you know, but WHO you know.”
While I fundamentally agree with this statement, I do not agree with its generally cynical interpretation. I don’t believe that the ideas, skills, and talents you bring with you don’t matter. THEY DO. I also refuse to believe that this adage should motivate you to force your networking efforts. Should you chase the person or people you think can get you where you want to be? Yes. But you should also know when it’s not working for you. Maybe those people just don’t like you. Maybe they do like you, but only the version of you that you choose to show them to get ahead. If I have learned anything in life, it’s that refusing to acknowledge who you are and how you innately operate will breed resentment that multiplies faster than those two bunnies your mom got you for Easter back in ’92.
This is where sharing your truth comes in. Everyone knows that people like to work with their friends. Just go grab that shoe box full of Playbills you’ve been saving ever since your first trip to NYC back in high school. Well shit…the same director/choreographer/casting director DOES keep hiring the same actors. You have two courses of action. You can find out what these people all have in common and try to infiltrate their ranks with forced common interests and outlooks, OR you can simply put yourself into their orbit, be yourself, and see if anyone cares. Maybe they will! Maybe they won’t. We can’t all be friends. It’s just not realistic.
I’m not saying that you are screwed if you don’t click with the movers and shakers of today. Not by a long shot. I’m just suggesting that maybe your greatness will be realized in a different community. Not even a different industry. Just perhaps in a different circle. Find people who like to hear your ideas, who challenge you without putting you down, who will call you out on your inevitable bullshit, and who pick you up when you decide that you’d like to lay in the middle of 8th Ave and wait for a cab to finish you off.
The wonder of life is that you don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I feel like I am just beginning to see my friends’ lives taking shape. I am bearing witness to their rise to greatness. And I don’t mean “kind of” greatness, I mean spectacular greatness. And you know who benefits from that? Me. Why? Because people like to work with their friends.
It really is WHO you know.
Recently the membership of AEA was called apathetic by its own president, Nick Wyman.
After posting this on my Facebook page I received an email pointing out how “…Nick Wyman is already setting up no change happening by making people feel bad about complaining…”
Isn’t the idea of being a part of a union that we are all UNITED? Lazy. Apathetic. Out of touch. If you say it to your brothers and sisters aren’t you also saying it to yourself?
If you know that your union is apathetic and you are its leader what are YOU doing to stir your constituency to action? It would seem that a few blogs, a handful of tweets, and a FB invite were really all it took.
Yes, we the proud members of Equity have been negligent and grossly uninformed for far too long. It is time that we begin educating ourselves. It is time to read and understand our contracts, riders, agreements, and handbooks. If you are in a show, it is not your deputy’s job to feed you the answers. It is your deputy’s job to voice your concerns and to mediate on your behalf. Take ownership. It is not your agent’s job to make sure that you have read your contract. You owe it to yourself. There is some great stuff in there. Free shipping? Housing standards? Travel regulations? Know what you are entitled to and do not hesitate to demand it. No one is advocating for you more than you should be. NO ONE.
Look, Executive Director Mary McColl agrees.
“As your Executive Director, I still think about ways the Union can advocate for you, but now I am also thinking about ways you can advocate for the Union. Creating a strong relationship that goes both ways will help you in your career, will help your brothers and sisters, and will strengthen the industry.
The association is only as strong as you, the members are. The staff can only succeed with your assistance…
…Looking forward, Equity needs you to stand up for yourself, stand up for your brothers and sisters across the country. Stand up for professional theatre.”
Now to continue on the subject of education…
I’m not saying that AEA is being run by the Illuminati and I’m certainly not saying that Blue Ivy is calling the shots. I’m not one for conspiracy theories (although I really did love those NATIONAL TREASURE movies) but a quick visit to Mary McColl’s LinkedIn page will tell you that she was once the Director of Labor Relations for the Broadway League. How does someone with a union busting past end up negotiating contracts on the other side of the table? It’s probably nothing, but again…EDUCATION.
It’s ok to be skeptical. It’s ok to ask questions. It’s ok to demand answers. Don’t let anyone shame you out of speaking up. Not even the Eastern Regional Vice President of Actors’ Equity, Melissa Robinette.
And maybe most importantly, it’s ok to share what you learn. Knowledge is a communicable disease. Pass it on.
As the theatre community is rumbling for change in the wake of NEWSIES and KINKY BOOTS tours being announced as going out on tiered production contracts, let’s not waste time pointing fingers. Truth is…every single person who makes a dollar in the theatre is a fraction of the problem. Presenters, producers, the union, and each and every one of us who are members of the union. I think now is a good time to shed a little light on the root of the problem here.
Our union’s fundamental guiding principle in negotiating with producers is no longer in line with how most of us feel.
“For saving the resulting 48 Equity jobs — more jobs than the average touring show and jobs paying far more than the average Equity job — the union received considerable grief – not so much from the cast as from other members — for having “allowed” the B.E. producers to reduce the actors’ salaries. The truth is that AEA doesn’t allow producers to reduce member salaries, AEA allows producers not to eliminate member jobs. Would you rather have 80 jobs at $2000 a week or 400 jobs at $1000 a week?”
-Nick Wyman (AEA President)
As aspiring actors we arrived in NYC knowing full well the risk we were taking. There has never been a guarantee of employment, but there used to be a CHANCE of earning a living. As Equity continues to “save Equity jobs” by lowering salaries, fewer and fewer actors have that chance. It is a question of quantity or quality.
I, personally, support more aggressive negotiations that could result in fewer union jobs but with the union jobs that remain having appropriate salaries. Ask yourself if you feel the same way. This is the issue at the heart of the matter. Do you want more jobs that pay less or perhaps fewer jobs that pay more? Touring will never be what it was but what legacy do you wish to secure for the future?
As you mull this over, maybe think about the skills you offer as a union actor like a luxury item. Yes, you can go to Old Navy and get the square-shaped khakis with the crooked seams that will unravel in a few months but wouldn’t you rather have the slim-cut chinos from J. Crew that feel so fucking nice. I am not likening non-union actors to Old Navy khakis. CALM DOWN. But I am saying that with the union brand what you are paying for is a guarantee of quality. If we don’t believe that we are the best…why should producers?
*You can read the full letter by Nick Wyman here.
This morning I woke up and checked my FB in bed as I always do. Usually this involves dropping my phone on my face a few times before my fingers wake up or I drag myself to an upright position. The very first thing I read was a new blog from Annoying Actor Friend, which you can read here. It was like Christmas morning had come all over again.
People were heatedly and intelligently discussing what should be done in the wake of NEWSIES and KINKY BOOTS going out on tiered production contracts. People were asking what could/should be done. Asking if there is anything we CAN do. Saying words like PICKET, UNION, ORGANIZE.
This is how change happens. It’s not about having answers right now. It is about not being afraid to ask the QUESTIONS. It is about showing strength in numbers. It is about collectively arriving at a new understanding. It is about stepping out from behind our computers and looking each other squarely in the eye and demanding change. Change from each other, our union, and our industry.
People have brought up the idea of picketing auditions. Yes. Do it. Make a peaceful scene. Make the union and its membership accountable to their actions. People are always saying that there is always another actor in the wings waiting for your job. Yes. There is. But I challenge that actor to walk across a line of his/her peers who are standing up for what is right. It is time for us to be accountable to each other. To do something for the good of the community and not just the good of the individual. Sometimes you have to be willing to burn things to the ground in order to rebuild something better.
I am excited to be living in a time where actors are beginning to realize their power. We are valuable and it is high time that we begin acting that way. People only treat you as well as you demand to be treated. Demand more.
Whether you agree or not, please be a part of the discussion and make YOUR voice heard.
FRIDAY, JANUARY 10th at 2pm. Equity mtg 14th floor of equity bldg.
Today I got an idea for a website…
Welcome to PANHANDLER.COM!
Kickstarter. IndieGogo. GoFundMe. They all sound so cute and entrepreneurial. Here on PANHANDLER you’re just going to have to own up to your self-seeking humbuggery.
I keep coming across people using crowdfunding sites for their own personal gain. Vet bills, yoga teacher training, plane tickets to weddings, etc. I know that I am particularly curmudgeonly but am I really the only one who’s bothered by this? When did this become ok?
How about we just call it what it is? Good ol’ fashioned begging. Would these people who are trying to get their hands on your hard-earned dollars take their lazy, entitled asses to Penn Station and ask commuters for dollars? I mean face-to-face asking someone for money. The kind where people dismiss you, wave you off, and say “fuck you, you bum.” Quite frankly I would find that to be more acceptable and perhaps even admirable. It’s humbling to ask someone for help. It teaches you compassion. It gives you a real sense of humility and gratitude. It puts into perspective the relevance of your “need.” You don’t get that from sitting on your couch and setting up a donation page with a cute pic and witty copy.
If you need dollars for your next step in life, think about picking up an extra shift. Hustle. Work harder. Work smarter. Tap in to the resources around you. Use your networks and see if you offer a service that someone needs. Solve your own problem. Don’t ask me to do it for you. Maybe I’m a fool but I think that the greatest part of the human experience is living through the bullshit. Solving your own problems. Changing your own situation. Working shitty hours at shitty jobs.
Instead of KICKSTARTING something with crowdfunding, why not JUMP START your life by living it for yourself?
“If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
I call bullshit. What is so great about being NICE? Did we learn nothing from the witch (as sung by Bernadette…not Vanessa or Victoria) in INTO THE WOODS.
“You’re so nice.
You’re not good,
You’re not bad,
You’re just nice.
I’m not good,
I’m not nice,
I’m just right.
I’m the Witch.
You’re the world.
I’m the hitch.
I’m what no one believes,
I’m the Witch.
You’re all liars and theives,
Like his father,
Like his son will be, too-
Oh, why bother?
You’ll just do what you do.”
Could Stephen Sondheim have gotten it more right? If your mind isn’t blown by that lyrical truth-telling, I’m worried for humanity. Being nice might ensure that you have lots of “friends” but being honest will ensure that you have the right friends.
Please, everyone. Tell your truth. Tell it freely. Encourage others to do so. When someone tells you to “hush” continue to tell your truth. Silencing opinions that are contrary to an agenda is a tired old maneuver. Politicians and parents have been using it for years.
Lest you think that I am promoting slander and hate-spewing, here are some things I think we should all be aware of when speaking our truth…
When did “positivity” became the most acceptable outlook? When did having a negative opinion of something become a negative thing? You can work within the current belief system or you can build your own and start to change the game. Having a different opinion is ok. Supporting that opinion with fact, experience, and passion is even better. Engage. Discuss. Learn.
I’d rather right than nice.
On this lovely Sunday morning in Berkeley, with the smell of fresh granola and patchouli wafting on the early winter breeze, I would like to take a moment to raise my piping hot chai and salute the casting directors, directors, choreographers, and musical directors who take time out of their busy schedules to grace EPAS, ECCs, open calls, and other off the beaten path talent scouting opportunities with their presence; those who are actively seeking new and exciting talent. I mean that sincerely. Not as the backhanded compliment it sounds like. Sometimes I struggle with sincerity.
All too often actors find themselves in the audition room with an intern or an assistant to an assistant. Gatekeepers. The audition process involves passing through a series of antechambers before you reach the sanctum sanctorum. The theatrical holy of holies. The creative team. I can understand that the people at the top of the food chain are busy but then I think to myself…so are the people at the bottom. Everyone is busy. It’s New York City. Even the homeless are busy. It’s about priorities.
If I could have one Thanksgiving wish it would be for the BIG FISH (rest in peace) to make it a priority to find the best of the little fish. To foster new talent. To be aware of the talent right in front of them. Wouldn’t everyone benefit from this? Is anyone out there guiding talent for the greater good? Is graduation from a BFA program where mentorship ends? Is everyone simply too busy?
You know that thing where everyone knows that a role is being cast (especially for replacements) and the process draws on and on while rumors circulate of how they just can’t find the right person? In almost every single one of these cases I believe that I could have cast the role in an afternoon simply by messaging someone on Facebook. Do you know why I feel that way? Because I’m in the room. Because I see every single, special actor. And most of all because there is no shortage of talent in New York City. There’s simply a shortage of vision.
On that note I’m stepping off my soapbox and resuming my Sunday morning activities. Perhaps I’ll play some show tunes on the Spotify and take the dog for a walk. But before I head out the door I want to say a very real and very sincere thank you to all of the people who are investing their time, energy, and resources in new talent.
I’m looking at you Tara Rubin. Thank you for this. Sometimes a newcomer can be every bit as exciting as a star.