I am an actor.
There, I said it. No lightning struck me down. No giant neon “LIAR” sign started flashing over my head, making that undeniable buzzing sound that only neon signs make (you know the one).
When I started auditioning for shows again about two and a half years ago, I had terrible imposter syndrome and felt like I was somehow an affront to working actors if I put myself in the same category. I thought there must be some checklist of accomplishments I needed to complete before allowing myself that title. With three kids in tow, no one ever questioned when I said I was a mom, but an actor?
How long have you been acting?
Did you study theater in college?
What show are you in now?
Are you in any movies?
Do you do shows at the Marriott? (I get this one A LOT. It is a big regional theater in the Chicagoland area for those of you reading who are not local)
Do you make money doing that?
What is your end goal?
I started to justify my actor title with a laundry list of explanations and excuses: I spent ten years having babies, so just getting myself out there again; There are a lot of talented people out there; I’m not a dancer; Even if I do get cast in big shows, I likely will never make a lot of money doing this.
The goal question really threw me for a loop. Shit. Goals are good. We should always have goals. I never really thought about what my end goal was in theater and suddenly felt like I needed to have one. My end goal? The Marriott? Steppenwolf? A national tour when my kids have all left for school and adult life? Broadway? A Tony? Meet Stephanie J. Block and sob and snot all over her like a child? Oh, wait…did that. Nice…goal met. My head was spinning. Here is what I decided (excuse my language): Fuck that shit. I do not need an END goal in my theater life – goals, yes, but not an end goal. I am not trying to cross a finish line (my goal for my half marathon is literally to cross the finish line and not die). So, here are some of my theater goals for those of you itching to know (come on…you know you are at least a little curious):
- Get in front of as many people as possible
- Trust that I will end up exactly where I am supposed to (all goes back to: Trust the Path.)
- Work on improving my craft everyday (classes, voice, reading plays,…)
- Submit to agents in the city…and then submit again…and again…
- Present my best self…my whole self…with authenticity and integrity
- MAKE GOOD ART
- TELL STORIES THAT MATTER…that make people feel something
Hmm…those feel like pretty good goals to me.
In hindsight, those people probably did not doubt that I was an actor. Maybe they were just curious. Or maybe they did think I was full of shit. Either way, I was the one who doubted it. I was the one who did not feel worthy of making such a claim. I had remarkably talented friends working in professional theaters downtown who inspired me to pursue my acting career. Who was I to say I was an actor?
Now, two and half years later, I have worked my ass off to confidently say that I am an actor without a “comma but”. I am not always in a show. I have not been cast at the Marriott or the Steppenwolf (yet). I am not making very much money for
my work. Movies? Nope. You know what I am doing? Every day I work on my craft – I study with fabulously talented teachers for both voice and acting. I show up for auditions, get to perform for those few minutes, and then do my best to leave them behind me without being too attached to the outcome. I network and meet the most interesting people. I started taking dance lessons and on-camera class to learn new skills that will add more tools to my tool belt.
Along the way, I have been fortunate to be cast in shows and my resume has grown to reflect that. I have had the honor of playing challenging, funny, brilliant, bizarre, and beautiful roles….each at exactly the time I needed them. I have kept a piece of each role with me as I continue to learn and grow from each of the women I have portrayed (and some animals…I think children’s theater is one of the most
important forms of theater). Ironically, my current role is a smart, complicated woman who owns a store front theater and is sorting through many of these same questions about the definition of success, fear, entitlement, and self-worth. As I said, the roles seem to come exactly when I need to know these people. I cannot wait to bring her to life off the page and to see what she will teach me in return.
I am grateful everyday that I can pursue what I love. I am grateful for the people I have met along the way who have taught me, encouraged me, supported me, and challenged me to be my best self. I am grateful to those who continue to remind me that I am enough when I feel less than.
I am an actor. I tried to think of what my neon sign says now, but honestly, the buzzing would make me crazy, so I think I’m better off without a neon sign always glowing above my head. There are many better ways for me to affirm that I’m pretty great. Maybe just a regular sign and it would say: I am who I choose to be (which is a lot of words for a neon sign anyway).