Heal the Hustle: The Secrets to Balancing the Actor Lifestyle with Ease
If you've been reading my blogs this summer and fall, you've noticed I’ve got a thing for gypsy souls. I have found that when you sign up to become a professional actor, you inadvertently inherit a unique gypsy lifestyle. In the name of your art and your dreams, you travel cross-country and overseas, through history, culture, and even fairylands, collecting trinkets and treasures along the way.
When you are not off “gypsying,” you are most likely getting your hustle on back at your home base. Many actors call this hustle "the grind,” an artistic limbo where you are constantly auditioning your tail off, unsure of when you will work again. You are shining in the CEO spotlight, having to look at yourself both as an artist and business while you continue to train and market yourself, and, oh yeah, snag a side job for some income. It can feel like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together with some pieces that just don’t fit. "The struggle is real" indeed.
Then, when you DO book that next show in or out of town, it can feel like a vacation! You get a lot of valuable time and an audience to give and live in front of every night. This is what we like to call “living the dream." However, it's only a temporary fling and a lot of time can be spent fixating on the unknown future awaiting you post-gig. Or there can be a lot of binge-watching; I know that life too.
What this all boils down to is that the lifestyle you lead while auditioning is completely different than the lifestyle you live in performances and even rehearsals. Treating it the same can be a trap that can create a career without focus. So how does one transition from “the struggle is real” to “living the dream,” two polar opposites, both frequently and effortlessly? Well, here’s the method to the madness!
Break the separate lifestyles down into separate energies that you can shift between with the free-spirited nature of a gypsy soul. These energies include audition energy (aka creative chaos), rehearsal energy (aka creative play), and performance energy (aka creative consistency). Each energy comes with different needs that, when attained, will allow your gypsy spirit to float freely instead of being plagued with fear of the unknown. Suddenly that jigsaw puzzle comes together as each energy reveals how the pieces fit. Now let's explore a bit, shall we?
AUDITION ENERGY, AKA CREATIVE CHAOS
When I’m back in NY and auditioning, my life is different day-to-day, and one week never looks like another. In one day I’ll be singing disco pop in the morning, crooning like Rosemary Clooney in the afternoon, memorizing upcoming sides on the subway, and, in the evening, nannying a 5th grader who I’m pretty sure is smarter than me. This is creative chaos, and it requires a certain flexibility and centered being to navigate.
To rock a rhythm in audition energy, you need to be the eye in the center of the creative hurricane with specific career intentions, or else you will fall victim to stormy weather. You need some constants within the crazy so that it feels like a creative jungle-gym instead of pounding the pavement. This structure needs to be completely built from you. The four pillars to hold up this structure are:
1. Consistent Community: FIND YOUR FAMILIES. I know sometimes post-auditions or work I can become a hermit, but that can get lonely. So give yourself the space and time to connect, support and be supported by like-minded and loving individuals. You will then realize you are not so alone.
2. Financial Certainty: Find a rewarding survival job or freelance work that either acts as an extension of your creativity or has minimal (or mindless) responsibilities, especially after working hours. It takes some trial and error to find the winner, but know its something in your control and can suit your own desires and skills. So find a refreshing escape from the holding rooms and make that money!
3. Empty Space: LEAVE ROOM FOR THE UNEXPECTED. I cannot stress this one enough! When you jam-pack your schedule without any downtime, spontaneity and surprises are no longer welcome. So when that Broadway callback comes out of the blue, the excitement gets swept up by panic as you have to rearrange your life, cancel your commitments, and/or scrounge for time to prepare. To catch those curveballs, give yourself time frames with absolutely nothing planned to act as safety nets. That last minute big callback will thank you.
4. Study Halls: Even if you have an MFA in Acting or Musical Theatre, continue to strengthen your technique and keep expanding outside of your auditions. This is such a comfort in creative chaos as it is something in your control and can give you safe space to play with your craft and support your career goals. So find the teachers, coaches, and classes that resonate and challenge you to keep going and growing!
REHEARSAL ENERGY, AKA CREATIVE PLAY
I love the rehearsal process! I love being in the studio, in collaboration, finding my character(s), and watching the story in its most simplistic nature come to life. It is pure play in the form of creative recess, trying new things, falling down, listening, trusting instincts, and interacting as you get cozy with your character(s) and cast.
But rehearsals, no matter how fun, can be demanding and draining. There are long hours where a lot is coming at you, a lot is expected of you, and a lot is constantly changing. And along with embodying creative play, you need to come alert and open, leaving any unneeded baggage at the door.
So self-care becomes priority outside of the rehearsal room, whether it be in resting your voice, sleeping longer hours, nourishing your belly, meditating, physically warming up your body, taking long hot baths, or even getting a massage. Treat yo’ self. Relax and rejuvenate, unplug and really be off the clock. The hustle has no business here.
And to honor that hustle hiatus, I recommend saying “no” to anything else that steals you from your post-rehearsal detox or distracts and depletes you from showing up fully the next day. Say “no” so you can say “yes” in the room, and protect your playtime. Rehearsals are not the time for multi-tasking or being superheroes. It is time for you to transform as you stroll in someone else’s shoes, so come present!
PERFORMANCE ENERGY AKA CREATIVE CONSISTENCY
What actor doesn’t love a show schedule? It feels luxurious, complete with a salary, a show family, a story to tell, and a theatre to call home. LIVING THE DREAM! And once the show is yours after opening, you suddenly feel like you can see the light of day again. You have a renewed abundance of time!
Now, there can be a temptation to continuously coast, detach and disengage, but this is the best time to play big and take some risks off stage, adding a little variety to the mix. When we have structure so securely in place, our soul and creativity feel so safe to be seen. So let them roar!
Maybe you take up a new hobby, do something adventurous in your romantic life, invest in a neglected project, or create your own work. No matter what may be calling you, it is prime time to do that something just for you where you call the shots and enjoy the freedom. Taking advantage of this new abundance of time can lead to a new abundance of inspiration.
There you have it! Navigating and grounding the different energies of the actor lifestyle is what, at the end of the day, creates career stamina, sanity, and everlasting creativity. It can feel like a balancing act, but it is easily yours to master and make your own. Just like gypsies, we actors have to create a soul home inside of us that travels wherever we go. Gypsies know nothing lasts forever, except the journey their soul is on. So surrender to those energy shifts and that journey of yours will be forever extraordinary.
The post Heal the Hustle: The Secrets to Balancing the Actor Lifestyle with Ease appeared first on The NewMusicalTheatre.com Green Room.