Over the course of my acting career I’ve had varying degrees of dedication to my art. I think that’s par for the course for a lot of artists – some of us are one-hundred percent certain from the moment we enter this world of exactly what we’re supposed to do or be, but I’d say most of us struggle with this question for a long time, maybe even for our entire lives. For me, this has meant that there were periods in my life that I was lucky enough to be employed full time as an actor, other times where I had another part time pursuit to pay the bills, and still other times when I decided acting was just a hobby, something I did for fun, to make friends, and to express myself.
The times in my life where I wasn’t acting professionally, I was still almost always involved in acting in some way, typically in community theatre shows. Here in Atlanta, there’s quite a bit of quality community theatre, and professional actors frequently appear in these shows. Still, I’ve run across many people who do not understand or support the blending of those two worlds. Some think that being a professional is the surest path to becoming a literal starving artist. On the other side, some professional actors would never dream of “lowering” themselves to appear in a community theatre production. Even among those who are professional, you’ll find another subcategory – those who work a full or part time non-acting job, and those who are devoted to being an actor a hundred percent of the time. Sometimes, there is some argument among these actors, as to whether or not you’re truly dedicated to your art if you’re working an unrelated job.
My take on all of this is simple. STOP FIGHTING. There! Don’t we all feel better?
Alright, so it’s not that easy, but what I mean is that if you are an actor, of any sort, and you are making art, in any way (assuming it doesn’t harm anyone), you are making a needed contribution to the culture around you, whether your play is seen by 20 people, or your tv show is watched by millions. Why are we artists arguing amongst ourselves about the worthiness of one another’s art? Sure, we can and should always strive to improve and do our best, but arguing over the validity of the medium doesn’t serve us.
What this means is that we have to make the career choice that is best for us. Both the beauty and drawback of being an actor is that there is no set way to be one. No rules may mean no clear pathway, but it also means no restrictions. You can dedicate your entire life to it and win accolades others only dream of, or spend a few hours a week at the community center teaching kids how to open themselves up and perform. You can quit your job and throw yourself in full force, or you can find a way to work that “pay the bills job” and audition at the same time until you get cast in your dream project. You get to decide if it’s career or a hobby, and it can be whatever you want it to be.
I do think there is value in pushing yourself out of your artistic comfort zone, and that could mean opening yourself up to big dreams and goals. But on the way to those dreams and goals, we shouldn’t discount the “smaller” projects that get us there, or the efforts of our friends and colleagues who are perfectly happy contributing part time, or as a volunteer (that latter category is especially important, as they are often helping to usher in the next generation of artists and actors). They, in turn, can be thrilled for any larger plans you may have for your career.
The direction you want to go is up to you. It can also help to get input on the way, from coaches or from classes, something that we here at Marston Studios are pleased to offer. On Camera Audition, Strasberg Method, and our soon-to-be-added Kids’ Acting classes are great ways to get training that focuses on both practical and artistic aspects of acting. We’re happy to help you find your way, whatever your career ambitions may be. There will be enough naysayers in your pursuits (see our last blog for more on that idea) – having an artistic community around you can help you grow and thrive.
People may say “we have enough actors,” but I disagree. There is always room for those who want to make the world a better place with their art, however they decide to share it.