The Evolution of the Young Theatre Artist

Because I’m early off in both my career and my adulthood, I have disproportionately restructured the scaffolding of my future far too many times in the last couple years. In terms of career goals and prospects and dreams, I’m ping-ponging from one area of focus to the next, each bounce trying to prove itself more assured than the last. Something that’s dawned on me recently (among many, many other things) is the validity of doing...everything. Why can’t I do everything? Why can’t I keep acting AND start a theatre company AND compose music AND think about grad school AND moving to another country? 

 

I know this sounds like punchdrunk potential from a wide-eyed ingenue, but hear me out:

 

There are few, one-tracked theatre that I’ve witnessed. The best theatre artists I know juggle teaching, performing, and original content creation, all at advanced levels of success. Where did I get the mindset of having to put all my eggs in the acting basket? Or production basket? Or composition/writing/education basket?

 

I used to believe that being able to sustain myself on just one of these focuses (mainly performing) would define “making it.” Once I can pay the rent by just doing shows, I can quit my side gigs and ride the luxury of just having one job to do to get paid. 

 

But when has doing nothing ever made me happy? 

 

I know myself, and i know I like to dream in excess. I know there was something right in describing my career as a “Theatre Artist and Musician,” versus anything more specific. All my wildest dreams, writing original music, studying abroad, performing, singing, producing theatre, educating through art (plus the laundry list of others), they can all happen in one lifetime. The gig-based lifestyle of professional art is not just the plight of the starving artist - multiple projects can feed and fuel and live off of each other, more effectively portraying the larger messages and stories that want to be told. 

 

And that’s something I’m proud to be devoting my life to.  

The Prevalence of Physical Health (and Self-Care) as a Performer

My body is my instrument. As cheesy as that sounds, it's true.

 

There's a feeling of panic I never want to experience ever again: I'm in the middle of a shift doing my theme park work where I have to talk and sing through multiple 13-minute shows, and I have a musical I have to sing in right after. I feel a sting in my throat when I swallow, and I feel the exhaustion in my neck. Shit.

This has happened to me several times (and too many to boot), and each time, the stress of not being able to perform my responsibilities overwhelmed me. Having your own human body as your instrument, your tool, and your vessel is overwhelming, ESPECIALLY if you perform as your occupation. As a theatre actor, you're encouraged to experiment with gesture and movement, on top of any dancing your body may go through. I've also been a vocalist for years now, and your duty/servitude to the health of your larynx is an intimate, weird relationship.  You want to take care of yourself because you value yourself of course, but also...you need to make money and attend appointments and demonstrate your skills and appease audiences and ohmygoddoesanyonehavehoneyloquatortylenolbecauseimdyingrightnowohmygodohmygod..., ad infinitum.

Taking care of yourself becomes not just a human necessity, but your job.

Additionally, any stress you may feel about this strange labor-pact you have with your health can compromise any scrap of mental wellbeing you have left.

Lately, to avoid this psychosomatic catastrophe, I've made my health a priority; I meal prep, I exercise a couple times a week, I keep a yoga mat and foam roller in my dressing room, and I stay hydrated like it's my job (which it kinda is if you think about it!) The image of myself has become the following: sensible shoes, trusty backpack with large reusable water bottle, hair out of face, nutritious lunch to go. I bet you can spot other performers sporting this ensemble.

Working as a performer outside of hobbyist schedules can be taxing, and has almost indebted me to taking care of myself. This is a weird way to think about it but, hey, at least it's keeping me healthy?