I remember once taking a friend of my wife's to see one of my friends productions in the city. It was the first time I had really met her and I'm sitting there with her and my wife talking about what I do. The funny thing about this particular friend is that she was born and raised in Russia before coming over to the U.S. several years ago. And while she's fluent in English, some of the nuances don't always come across and she can appear blunt - blunter than she ever means to be.
So I'm sitting there telling her about how I work a day job and then run around like crazy at night going to meeting and rehearsals. She asks about pay and I tell her that at this point in my career I'm doing it more for the fulfillment rather than employment and that most of the actors in the show we are seeing tonight are operating under the same circumstances. This is when she said something that just floored me.
"Oh. This sounds like a very nice hobby."
A hobby!?! I thought to myself, this is not a hobby - this is what I do. This is how the theater scene works and maybe someday I will be paid for it. But the more and more I thought about it, her choice of the word hobby is very accurate. It's something I do in my spare time that provides enjoyment rather than income.
Thinking about most semi-professional - if not professional - theater in these terms really can make you question why we allow ourselves to do this and if we are dwelling in an illusion. The Guardian has an interesting discussion of this very topic in their blog this morning. Take a look over there and think about what it is we do as theater artists.