Tuesday, November 08, 2011

"Ain't this glamorous!?"

Acting is usually billed as a glamorous profession. Red carpets, Dior gowns, cool drinks and personal assistants. And while that is part of the life for the 2% of the world’s actors who can demand six figures for every project, the majority of the time, acting is probably the LEAST glamorous job in the world.

Here’s what acting actually is:

Acting is wearing a spandex full-body suit for two hours while scales are being painted onto it. And then not moving while it dries.

It is putting on a wig-cap (which makes everyone look like a transvestite, regardless of their sexual/gender identity), then having bobby pins lodged deep into your skull for several hours.

It is wearing a gown made of three layers of upholstery fabric under 50 brightly focused lights.

It is saying the same words hundreds of times, and trying to make them sound new every time.

It is changing your clothes (and occasionally your entire identity) in less than 45 seconds, either in a darkened corner with three pairs of hands gropingly assisting you, or else while running through the restaurant below the theatre.

It is spending 20 – 30 hours per week (that’s a part-time job, people) for two months in order to receive 30 seconds of applause.

It is standing outside in the dead of winter in a light coat and being told not to shiver.

It is being told to stop what you’re doing every two minutes or less, for five to six hours a night, for one long long long week.

It is a non-lubricated condom pulled over a mic-pack worn around your waist under your costume, with a mic thread pulled through your hair and taped onto your face with medical tape.

It is having a rib popped out of place by someone falling on you, and going on with the show anyways.

It is cleaning blood out of the inside of your character shoes.

It is being told, sometimes even by those that love you, either directly or indirectly, that your contributions to the world are not worthwhile and do not matter, regardless of how life-changing your experiences in that theatre have been.

It is bruised elbows, hyper-extended knees, ripped off fingernails, dislocated toes, and pulled muscles.

It is not getting home until midnight for weeks.

It is finding Ben Nye makeup (which I’m pretty sure is a combination of pottery clay and Crisco) in your eyebrows a week after a show has closed. (And fighting the zits from that makeup for months after the show has closed.)

It is having your hair wrapped in plastic wrap, straws stuck up your nose, a garbage bag put over your shoulders, and strips of plaster laid over your face. (And again, being told to not move while it dries.)

It is singing and dancing for six hours straight, six nights a week, in 103-degree weather.

It is looking into the eyes of one person some night, and knowing that you made some difference in their life. Maybe they learned something, maybe they felt something…something in their face tells you that you did something meaningful.

I’ve been in somewhere around 30 productions now. I’ve done tech for another 10 or so. (Tech is two hours of boredom interspersed with five minutes of sheer panic.) Every one of those things I mentioned up there I’ve personally experienced. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I don’t mean for this to sound like bragging or anything, I’m just trying to share what I love.

I guess all I really have to say is that those who stick with acting DON’T do it for the glamour.


amberly said...

dear liz,
remember me? we went to new york together. sometimes i read your blog and i really enjoy it. i love this post. also i love you.
love, amberly

Kolby said...

The Oedipus sound tech was three hours of sheer panic for me... Can we trade next time? I'd love the boredom! On a serious note though, these are all great stories. Touching that one person makes it all worth it.

Melanie said...

amen Liz! I also love this post. It's funny how unglamorous it all is yet we just can't get enough.

Jules said...

Seve's going to be heartbroken if there is no Dior gown in his future.

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Beckah said...

I am so glad I can contribute to your collage as the transvestite. Go me.

I'm auditioning on Monday for next term! AH! And I'm taking a class called "Special Studies-Acting" with a woman from the Festival. Just because I can.

Word verification: "cettes" - what snooty people call their seats in the theatre

Anonymous said...

Dear Beckah, I love your word verification!!!

Liz, I'm in dress rehearsal week for "The King and I", which we cut down to a 3 hour show (hopefully even less by the time we open Friday), and I have about 50 post-it notes in my score to write up and send to my orchestra, after sending about as many from Monday's rehearsal. Community theatre has its own drama, mostly revolving around the fact that most participants have full-time day jobs, but still find energy and time to devote to perfecting their theatrical experience. It's intense and crazy and disheartening and amazing and wonderful. Theatre is not only for the audience but for those create it. I love it! (I will love it even more when I get some sleep.)

Love you!


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A Red Haired Girl said...

Liz, this post was perfect... we open this week with the first production I've done as a high school teacher. I truly appreciated this post! Thanks for sharing!