Once again, I have been nostalgic about NYC. I sat last night and discussed life in theater with a couple of concerned parents. Their daughter wants to get into theater as a career and the hubster and I were asked for our advice.
What to say?
I loved and hated the time I spent in theater. I wouldn't change a thing. I have no regrets. Well not many.
I got into theater in college. A late start compared to my peers; most had begun in elementary school or high school. But ever the late bloomer, I discovered theater in college, changed my major and dove in full force. I remember the thrill of learning, the excitement of watching people work together and magic happen. I still remember the first time I walked behind a set and was gobstopped that it wasn't real! It was all make believe. I remember laughing out loud at being tricked! I was incredibly niave.
Luckily for me, I was handy. My father had taught me about tools, and I could hammer and saw and wire things correctly. There were a lot more jobs for technicians than actresses in the 1980's. I hit NYC on the cusp of computer boards. I had a talent for programming the new fangled things and that talent took me far. That and the fact I was willing to work my butt off to be the best. (I still am somewhat of an overachiever, but I temper it a bit better now in middle age!)
I remember the first Broadway show I saw. I went to NYC from Glassboro NJ where I was doing summer stock with 2 friends and we saw Agnes of God with Geraldine Page, Elizabeth Ashley and Amanda Plummer. MY GAWD, I was enthralled!
My first musical was Dreamgirls which I saw I think with my friend Steven. We went to see the movie together as well...
In NYC I worked off off Broadway, Off Broadway, did some TV, worked a lot of Avant Garde theater at La Mama and The Brooklyn Academy of Music. I worked dance a lot. I got to see the big names up close. I got to meet Martha Graham. I worked at Spoleto in Charleston. I traveled to Russia and Japan with Peter Brook.
It all sounds very high falutin' and glamorous. At times it was. But it also was hard. The constant hustle for work. The travel that kept me away from my family, my loved ones. I missed so much. I missed my nieces and nephew growing up. I missed my mother's last years. I missed having a home.
I spent a lot of time crawling through ceilings, dragging miles of cable. I spent long hours riding the subway to and from work. I spent days putting up with jerks who didn't want a woman on their crew and made sure every minute of every hour I knew they thought I was less than them. I spent 11 years proving time after time that I was good enough to be on the crew, run the crew or hire the crew.
I got tired. Somewhere it stopped being fun. It wasn't art anymore. It was a job. The magic was gone. I dreaded going to the theater. I didn't want to work with those guys anymore. I couldn't laugh at their jokes any longer.
So I left.
Now, after almost 15 years away, I am asked, "Should we encourage our daughter to go into theater?"
So, what can I say? I followed my heart. I lived my dream. But somewhere my dream changed. And that was OK. I was lucky enough to realize when it did. I was lucky enough to try and find new things I was good at too.
I am glad I had a career in theater. I am glad I did it when I was young and resilient. I am glad I went to NYC. I am glad for the wonder and the woes. It made me strong. It made me humble. It made me grateful.
So, what I said to the parents was, let her follow her dream, just remind her, dreams can change.