Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Create Your Own Platform

As I was graduating from college one of my graduate student friends told me "if you want to be a director direct whatever you can. Direct in a box. Direct in a closet. Direct often and you'll find your way."

Easier said than done, right?

The art of "making it" in the theatre is all about self-promotion. Actors have to land the audition, designers have to have a great portfolio, and directors have to network like mad. And in the end, it all comes down to who you know. The luck of being at the right place at the right time goes a lot farther than talent in a lot of situations.

This is something that is not taught in most academic settings; the business of theatre. Sure they will have the occasional audition class, but do they really sit down and go through the nuts and bolts of what you should be looking for in a head shot photographer or how to avoid being screwed by a theatre's contract? Once you are out there working, you learn a lot and you learn a lot quickly. But sometimes there are things which you cannot even be prepared for.

A dear, dear stage manager friend of mine showed up at the theatre one day to find the doors chained shut and notice posted that theatre had been closed. There had been rumours in the press that this was coming but the theatre management had denied it. Think of the thousands of little things that suddenly affects. Will I be paid for last week's work? What do I do for income for the next four weeks? Do I get unemployment? It's hard enough to find a paying job in theatre, but to have to worry about loosing it like that is more than many of us plan for.

Things are even more precarious now with the recession. NPR did a nice article a couple weeks ago on the new uncertainty of the scene. But to any working artist, this is old news and the tame version of what many of us are going through.

So why do we do all this? I like to believe there is a higher purpose involved. Something that benefits and reaches forces larger than myself. Even if the work is only being performed in a closet there are forces at work that affect more than our little plays.

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