Very recently, an old friend decided that our friendship needed to be terminated. The reasoning was a bit convoluted –something about me being content to have a day-job and do theatre at night, and how unfair it is that the real actors can’t afford even basic necessities while I attend expensive shows, and such, ultimately terminating the conversation with the phrase “enjoy your life of volunteering and telling everyone how unprofessional they are”.
Initially, I was a taken a-back! After all, who wouldn’t be upset that their cash outlays (lessons, personal costumes/makeup, gas, this website, etc.) and time efforts (3-4 hour rehearsal several times a week, time spent memorizing and developing characters, travel time, etc.) would be confused for patronization? But, it got me to re-question why I chose to be a “sell-out”; to question why I chose to be a volunteer actor instead of pursuing theatre professionally.
Let me lay this out there: I am an individual with a personal set of values, desires, and goals. Your values, desires, and goals may differ from mine and THAT IS OKAY! The following are reasons that I have chosen to take the path I am currently taken, and are not an indication for or against your chosen path. If you want to pursue theatre professionally, I will applaud your decision and root for you the entire way; if you want to pursue electrical engineering and perform as a hobby, I will also applaud your decision and root for you the entire way. That said…
One of my values is security and comfort; I like the security that comes from knowing where my next paycheck will come from. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the unemployment rate of professional actors hovers around 28.5%. The Screen Actors Guild and Actor’s Equity Association estimate that approximately 85-90% of their members are unemployed at any given time. Simply put, there is too much competition for too few parts that don’t pay enough for me to put myself in that position. Instead of fighting for parts just to survive and make-ends-meet, I can focus on fighting for parts that I find artistically interesting or enjoyable.
One of my desires is to play some of my dream roles; I like the ability to increase my odds of playing certain roles that would normally be pre-cast with a “big name” on Broadway or to be considered for more than the chorus line. I like that I have the ability to work on big-blockbuster shows, or small independent/experimental work, and everything in-between — an opportunity that is not impossible, but highly improbable in the professional-sphere.
One of my goals is to make theatre a professional option here in Tulsa; I like the possibility to make theatre an even-stronger component of our fine city. We have the opportunity to stand on the shoulder of the Tulsa-theatre artists before us that have given us a fantastic foundation from which to not only improve existing institutions (Theatre Tulsa’s transformation has been astounding), but to create new institutions as well (Tulsa Project Theatre has had some growing pains, but who would have guessed that we would have Equity opportunities here in Tulsa). New York, Chicago, LA… they are already over-saturated markets with a lot of existing institutions and a lot of existing actors.
All of these things make me excited to be here in Tulsa; they make my blood race through my veins and keep me up until the early hours writing blog posts and make me rush from show-to-show to try and catch as many as I can. They make my life something that I am proud to be living. And if that is how I chose to “make-it”, then I’m proud to be a “sell-out”.