Any Job Can Be A Stepping Stone To The Next
“There are no small parts, only small actors.”
This is one of the oldest theater quotes around, speaking to the idea that not only is everyone important and integral to the process but that we must take pride in the role no matter its size or scope. This is very true for someone just starting out and getting their feet wet in the world of acting. Taking what comes, gaining experience and building the resume. But it is even more true for the seasoned actor who is taking a role that requires less in stage time or may even be transitioning to a new phase of their career.
I have been at both points when it comes performing, from one show where I was the lead, starring role to the next where I was in the back line just trying to keep up with the choreography. I’ve also gone from leading man roles and love interests to young dads and conflicted husbands. I may still feel like that recent graduate in my twenties, but I’ve got to realize that is not who shows up in the audition rooms anymore. But that’s not all gloom and doom. Those roles I looked up to in college are now actual possibilities. Those songs I sang now come with knowledge and experience I didn't’ have before.
But when deciding what shows and roles to audition for, there is often much more at play for me than just looking at the size of the role or the pay. There is the creative team and who I’ll be working with. Do they do other projects I’m right for? There’s also the theater location to think about, like choosing between Minnesota or Florida for a show in January. Then, there’s the practical reality of earning more work weeks to qualify for health insurance through my union, Actor’s Equity Association. Eleven weeks of work in a year’s time earns 6 months of insurance, while 19 weeks would get me a whole year of coverage. It’s often race against that clock to qualify every 12 months.
So all of these decisions factor into the future opportunities that could come my way. Like working with that director again or adding new depth and dimension to my resume. Or just having health insurance.
The trajectory of most actors isn’t gonna be on the A-list. It’s often a lonely day-to-day grind of constant rejections, a handful of callbacks, and even fewer actual contracts. Such is the life. But whether it’s the theater or corporate ladder, careers are not often straight lines upward. There are stepping stones and wandering paths, a compilation of dead-ends and opportunities. It’s up to us, though, to figure out which is which.