Friday, July 30, 2010

The Domestic Life of Actors

Last night I had the great fortune to score free "media tickets" for the touring show of Wicked, seated in the same section as local celebs like Colleen Marshall and Jym Ghanahl (my first real "press perk"). I had written an article for (614) in which I interviewed one of the actors, Justin Brill who plays the Munchkin-turned-Tin-Man, Boq, so I was excited to place headshot with a live person. I'd spoken to him on the phone about a month ago, where he was at home in Manhattan.

Between scenes of the show at the Ohio, I started to wonder how Brill might be enjoying Columbus so far. Which got me to thinking about the lives of actors, or really, the unconventional life of the professional artist.

When I 23 I spent one year in up-state New York working as a literary apprentice at a regional theater. While I had grown up being involved in drama and earned a bachelor's degree in theater, this was my first exposure to people who made their living in the arts. Most of our actors had moved to New York City to pursue acting only to end up spending months and months out of the year at various cities in the Midwest. This because all of the regional theaters from all over the country (not to mention the various touring groups) all audition in NYC.

So these actors, some in their 20s but most in their 30s and 40s, took up residence in a block of apartments rented by the theater and did their best to maintain their version of "daily life" on the road. Because I was young, I was only able to see them through a veil of idealized envy. They were, after all, getting paid for things me and my friends were doing for free to fill the balance of the monotonous job-job. They were all so cool, haning out each night in the cabaret after shows, drinking wine, smoking, telling amusing stories about their minor celebrity encounters in the business. They had a worldy wisdom that was intoxicating.

What I began to realize was a sort of fast-track emotional existence. Relationships of all kinds seemed to come quickly and easily. And then they were gone and on to the next gig. In some ways, this seemed exciting, something I found it difficult to grasp as I collected addresses and intended sincere continuations of my connections.

What I didn't realize until many years later was the inherent complexity of their lives. Many were divorced, a few had children that required much coordinating to either see or have with them. For them, there was no coming home at the end of the day and settling into a couch with a loved one or putting children to bed.

In my Wicked phone interview with Brill, he mentioned having just gotten married. "How does that work?" I asked, perhaps a little too pessimistically. "We're lucky," he said. "My wife happens to be the dance captain of this particular tour. That almost never happens."

I've seen many people who make it work, who manage to work out the tedious details to manage the conventions that ground them while that urgently pursue the passions they need in order to function properly in the world. All without the promise that any of it will pay off in any sort of tangible way.

But I thank them. From the bottom of my music-loving, theatre-appreciating, film-obsessed heart.

No comments:

Post a Comment