I often (sarcastically) say I’m living the dream-but this time, I mean it. I have spent the last five weeks working on an absolute thrill of a project. Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People at Bristol Riverside Theatre brought together a play I've always wanted to do (I missed it by a year at my undergrad!), a part I love (serio-comic social climber who is goo-goo eyed over the beautiful blonde), a company I've been auditioning for for years (perseverance!) and a fantastic Philebrity cast (Kevin Bergen, Laura Giknis, Sabrina Profitt, Keith Baker)-I have been literally (none of this literally means figuratively garbage) living the dream.
Today I received an e-mail with the subject line "Your Online Pay Stub is Available" and reality smashed through the serene dream state I have been basking in with a cruel vengeance. Trust me, I know it is absolutely crazy to complain about anything when you’re being paid a living (for artist squalor) wage while pursuing your dreams and ambitions and fulfilling your artistic sensibilities. Normally I gleefully acknowledge impending digital currency. I overjoy that the bit coins will magically appear in my account just in time to pay my student loans (take that SallieMae!) but today is different-today an instant rush of terrible fear and self-doubt encompassed me.
Ending a project is always a tricky thing-but in most fields (or at least the ones I've worked in besides acting) the end of a project doesn't instantly mean unemployment but in this world, at least for this actor, there can be (are often) sizable gaps of time between gigs and those periods can feel killer and can bring in all the worst questions for an artist brain:
“Was this a fluke?”
"Will I ever get rehired here?"
"Do these people actually like me or are they just putting up with me till this contract ends?"
“Am I good enough?”
"WHAT IF THIS IS IT? WHAT IF THIS IS THE LAST TIME I WORK?”
I happen in this case (and this is rare) to know that I am spending the summer in Saranac Lake, NY with Pendragon Theater (doing another dream project, Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia #blessed) and yet somehow I still had a wave of fear and doubt today that I wouldn’t work again. “Sure I have summer work out of town-but what if I come back and don’t book anything?” This crash course in reality checks from the external world and internal voices made me realize something. There will always be another gig. If you have the passion and drive for this business there will always be another gig-maybe not at the scale I would like or the perfect combination of collaborators, venue & script but if I want this and keep working the law of averages is that someone will say yes (and hopefully talent, networking, experience and all those things help too)-but as excited as I am about this idea my inner pragmatist knows that one day there will be a last gig.
I mean everyone has a last time they work right? A final project before retirement, career change, death, or ya know anything else that prevents you from getting hired again. Maybe it’s better not to know.
What do you think? Would you want to know you were doing your final project so you could leave everything you have-heart and soul-in the performance (or presentation or surgery or whatever other people do for their jobs) or would that knowledge destroy your ability to do the job?