Thursday, April 23, 2009

JOB HUNT

What do I know about job hunting?

What I know I will never forget. It's hellish. Heavy-duty depressing. It's hauling yourself around, dressed ultra carefully, braced for answering questions, and presenting yourself in shaft of sunlight. It may be a dark day, but you bring the sunshine with you.

Hold on ... when did Em the dancer ever apply for a job?

I did, three times. First, an open chorus call. Awful, awful -- changing clothes in small backstage area crowded with a few hundred girls, wedging myself into one of the lines, getting onto the stage where an assistant is demonstrating what appears to be an impossibly tricky sequence of steps. Being eliminated, by someone saying "you, you, you ... thankyouuu.

Second audition, we girls changed into our nifty tight outfits, and were told to walk in a circle -- a huge circle on stage, so one waited with one's smile till your part of the circle was downstage, and then smiled a scintillating smile.

That was enough for me. I told myself NEVER again. I earned a small but almost breakeven living, from teaching (GI's, kiddies and fat ladies) what I myself was learning each day in the two classes a day that I took.

Three years later, when I was one-half of a dance team who'd been written up in the Herald Tribune and NY Times, I went to an audition wearing a double set of falsies and performed a ten second solo I'd worked on -- sang the lyrics -- "A GOOD GIRL, A NEVER WOULD GIRL, THATS WHAT FELLAS THINK OF ME..." doing my split kicks, jumps, and turns with sexy wiggles.

And left. Did not wait for thankyouuu. All I remember is those horrible falsies, yanking them out in the dark hall before I opened the backstage door and exited.

A few years later, I was able to collect unemployment insurance, because I was on my own payroll, correctly honestly receiving a salary from my corporation, having paid into the unemployment fund. Standing in that line isn't fun. But my knowledge of how it makes an artist feel, is from my guys, the two actors in my family, JC and JD.

JC, when a show closes, always gets a glum feeling that he will never work again. I know the look -- I call it Actoritis. I know the symptoms -- sleepiness, doing errands, grounding an electrical connection, caulking a loose tile, looking for household things to repair, even though in a minute the phone will ring, and JC will be working on another show.

His father's Actoritis infected JD. He's been an actor or more than 15 years, in New York, and L.A., in theater, films, TV, and voice-overs, doing countless auditions, taking classes in auditioning. His Actoritis never really goes away. JD's a realist. Even at the party on opening night, he's quietly aware that the blossoming love he's feeling for other members of the cast will bring him pain, have him mourning in a few months .

You have to have been in a show to understand. You fully totally, belong to the family that the cast becomes. You're married to them and the lines in the play, the blocking, the routines that the show requires.

Then ... like a guillotine ... the show closes. You're unemployed. Alone. Fixing leaky faucets.

You, out in the world of regular ordinary salaried jobs -- you know how hard it is to hunt for a job, get a right job, a job with a future, a way to grow, rise, earn more and expand.

Actors are always temps. Even in a hit show, you're a temp. The star is a temp. Even if you get TV series -- the series comes to an end. And you have to start again, with the hunt, the outfits, resumes, the smile, the selling of yourself in the sunshine that you manufacture

All this is to say, the actor temp would still be my choice if I had to choose again. It's my life, I own me.

It's the actor's life, an actor OWNS himself.

No permanent job is freedom. Working in the arts is freedom. Job hunting goes with being an artist. That's why so many try it for awhile. Why we, JC, JD and I, will never give it up.

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