I remember being told once, if you do what you love you will never work a day in your life. Well that is true on the days when I am doing what I love, but not this day.
This day I am hoping that I can keep myself from leaving a job I tolerate for the money. Most of my co-workers are nice enough and work REALLY HARD so I can't really want to leave because of them. No, I want to leave due to the bile of failure creeping its way through my pores. 9 months of this year I made a living acting and now I have to suffer through the doldrums once again and get a *gulp* real job. So there I am, bartending my way through the survival job and hoping I get through the day without a total meltdown.
A man comes and we get to talking. He's nice. He wants to eat and have a drink and maybe get a pretty face to talk to him. I oblige. My acting comes up, I admit I lead the conversation a bit, and he asks the standard, "What have you been in that I would have seen you in?" Because the only way to know if I am a valid actor is to have been in something you may have seen. I know he doesn't know but why is that always the big question? I let it go.
"Lotta Theater," I smile.
"Oh really? You work at *insert theater*"
"No that's a community theater and I only do theater and film that pays."
"Then why are you here bartending?"
"I gotta eat too. I still haven't cracked the code to living on love, art, or the universe, but if I find out I will let you know,"
"Yeah my daughter wants to be an actress."
To pause, and kinda go off on a tangent, every single time someone tells me that I want to tell them the same thing. NO! STOP THEM! TELL THEM NOT TO WASTE THEIR LIFE! Unless you have billions, then she might actually make it. And if you have billions are you single? But I don't.
"Really? That's nice."
"Yeah, that or a lawyer." We laugh and then he drops the question of all questions.
"So what's your plan B?"
Before we get to my response I always wanted to be an actor. I had moments where I thought dentist or law might be nice, but then I realized I just don't like people that much. They kinda suck actually. Seriously, Lawyers and the people who drill on your teeth love you. Police, love people. Doctors, they think people are great. Actors, musicians, and artists...not so much. Don't get me wrong, 90% of the actors I know put on a great front but they only really care about you if you are trying to get them where they want to be...like everyone else in the world. The other 10% are the best actors ever, like Daniel Craig, Streep, and De Niro. I do find it funny the best actors are the most honest, or maybe it is an act.
We spend every hour of our life trying to avoid people. The reason I tend bar is I hate serving, I hate having to deal with the rudeness in people, and people come in with sour expressions as battle armor in a restaurant, I seriously think they come in expecting things to go badly sometimes. There is an invisible wall with the bartender, they are revered and feared for their knowledge of beers and wines (which is made up basically 99 % of the time) and their ability to harness the powers of vodka and tonic. The bar itself provides a buffer between me and people. And they really don't bother me.
Not saying I 'hate' all people mind you. Hate is a very strong word. What it comes down to is I am actually quite introverted and tolerate people to a degree and my BS meter fills really quickly. I tend to find a few people I can stand to be around and hold tightly to them; I believe these people are known as friends.
Now, when I refer to actors, musicians, and artists I tend to refer to purists. People who believe it is all about the work. Miles Teller is a purist. Daniel Day-Lewis, purist. I suffer from being a purist in a world of superficial ideals.I mean honestly, who cares if you are looking for a brunette and get a red head who can do a better job, dye her hair. Blue eyes preferred but get a great guy with green, hello colored contacts. The only time that things shouldn't change is if you are trying to cast anyone but a black individual as Othello or cast an all-white version of The Wiz that doesn't begin with Somewhere Over the Rainbow. If you are determined enough to put the work in and can do a great job, I am all for some good acting, who cares if they had to spend a few extra dollars to make your hair longer.
In general, purists want a buffer between themselves and people. Think about it. We seal ourselves from human interaction and fix ourselves in a safe environment with an invisible wall. We want fake relationships with people who are tantamount to strangers. We want to connect to humanity not by touch or contact or exchanging words, but by baring our emotions. Acting is basically the world's oldest profession but with emotions. You just want to make someone feel something for a few minutes, be that sensation good or bad. We love those weird parts of people on one else looks at. We thrive on the imperfections, the dirt, the squalor. We drink in the happiness, triumph, and beauty. we observe people and know them better than they know themselves and yet we don't dare personally connect to people because we don't want to. Maybe it would just be too hard. Maybe we'd just dislike them anyways.
Anyways, my Plan B. How many of you thought, well if this doesn't work out I will go back to school or go work for my dad? What is your plan B? What are you going to fall back on? It's important to have right? A career you can go to when the realities of acting come creeping in that you won't book that majority of auditions you have. And in the Southeast, if you are booking everything it's because you are the only talent around. I know a lot of people who have fallen tot he wayside to their Plan B. Some of them didn't even know about their Plan B. A good friend of mine became a firefighter. When I said, "I didn;t even know you wanted to do that," he responded, "Neither did I." Kids, family, other careers; all of this is Plan B. When you reach that point the dream is gone, what will you do? It's really an important thing to think on.
I honestly don't think we think on it enough. We just figure that something will come along. What if it doesn't? What if you can't eat even with your two serving gigs? Someday you might think, this just isn't worth it. I want to be able to travel. I want to see things. I want the money to live comfortably. What is your Plan B?
You ready for my answer?
"There is no Plan B. I become the actor with the career I want, or I die trying." Trust me, in 32 years I have had the time to think long and hard on this. There never really was a Plan B. Acting is like breathing. And when it comes time to quit this crazy bar job and go act, I will likely skip from behind the bar and run into the loving arms of making only $50 a week.
"But you can't go back to that job," you say.
I don't ever want to. Bartending isn't plan B. It's food on the table.
"But you can dialect coach and teach CPR."
Yes I can, and it will keep me fed for my one true career and goal in life.
"You can always teach acting."
At this point teaching acting as a career is failure, and failure is not optional.
There is no PLAN B. This is happening or it's not, but I am not putting something in my way to stop it.