It’s inevitable, in an industry reliant upon and mostly inhabited by the self-employed, that work comes and goes – even the best actors, directors, set designers (and so on) will have had to contend with ‘quiet periods’ – there’s a reason the phrase ‘resting actor’ has become part of the theatrical vocabulary – but that doesn’t make it any easier to endure.
Why am I musing on this? Well, I’m going to break the unspoken rule – I’m going to admit that I’m currently having trouble finding work. When’s the last time you heard a person in this industry honestly admit that? I’ve grown tired of using the phrases ‘I have plenty of things in the pipeline’ and ‘I have lots going on’ because, to be quite frank, I don’t. Yes, there are things I am working on, and yes, there are one or two projects that may go forward, but it’s not the rosy picture we all like to paint with each other – who wants to truly admit they’re having trouble?
I will also stand up and truthfully say that it is, at least partially if not wholly, my fault. I’ve found it difficult recently to put myself forward for projects, to apply for the opportunities I may be right for – when one or two didn’t go my way, I started to worry, and yes, it’s taken over a little bit. Once that fear hits you – that horrible feeling that this may not be the way forward, that it may all be a mountain of smoke and mirrors you’ve built up and you actually have very little to offer – it’s very hard to let it go.
There is, of course, also the financial aspect. It’s no secret that the vast majority of the theatre profession gets by on very little, or at least subsidises their income with office work, telesales or ‘temping’ – and I’m not even managing to do that! As a close friend remarked: ‘how bad does it have to be for you not to even be able to get a job talking on the phone?’ Has the fear become worse because of an inability to support myself, or has my creative angst also jeopardised my chance to maintain even the most basic of jobs? Or, even more worryingly, am I turning down opportunities because they won’t be enough to support me, when they were rarely quite enough in the first place?
Anyway, for all the doom and gloom, I think I am pulling myself out of my slump – I’m certainly seeing things a bit more positively. It is time to apply for those opportunities, time to put pen to paper and get those creative juices flowing again – I can’t deny that my creativity thrives on these highs and lows, after all! So… who needs a consistently highly reviewed director for a project? Who’s sitting on a script they’ve always wanted to do? Who wants to write some sketches? Let’s banish this depressing (and surprisingly cold) season!