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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Second (and Third and Fourth) Chances
February 10, 2013 - 2:40pm
When I was in my twenties and early thirties, I studied acting and singing here in New York. I got work in small productions and the occasional film, but I never made enough money to quit my day jobs. This may have been partly due to a lack of talent, but I'll never know, because the fact is that I didn't try very hard. I hated auditioning; hated the feeling of selling myself; and I jumped on every possible excuse to avoid them.
 
Fortunately, I loved my classes. I loved rehearsing with classmates, presenting a scene in class for the teacher to critique, and going back into rehearsal to improve the scene. I got to know some fine theater people that way, and through them some interesting parts landed in my lap. But I couldn't move to the next step without an agent, without belonging to a union—and that meant systematic campaigning and auditioning, which I balked at. 
 
Flash forward 20+ years, when I returned to this world. Same story, only with gray hair and facial lines. 
 
Three summers ago, my friend B, a professional actress and dancer, decided to take the matter in hand. She invited me to spend the night at her house, where she gave me an expert makeup job. Her husband, a professional photographer, took a series of head shots. Afterward, he and B selected the best ones, retouched them, and emailed them to me, along with instructions on where to send them and how to construct a theatrical résumé. I was tremendously grateful, and did nothing. For Christmas that year, B gave me a gift certificate to a photo reproduction company, to have the head shots duplicated. I thanked her profusely—and did nothing.
 
Last summer, after much loving nagging from B and other friends, I pulled the head shots out with a plan to finally get them duplicated and send them out. 
 
Over two years, they had become unusable. I had gained some weight; my face was fuller. My hair was different. They had looked like my best self at the time. Now they looked like someone else.
 
So, after procrastinating for a few weeks, I had them redone, and duplicated. Then I sat on them again until last week, when I had a particularly difficult, but important, improv class. The teacher pointed out that, repeatedly, I give up on my ideas in scenes and defer to my partner. "I just can't push myself out there," I heard myself say. And my teacher and classmates responded by pointing out how defeatist that position is: they have watched me change and grow in so many ways since we started studying together; assuming that this "inability" is innate and fixed is bizarre.
 
And so I have started initiating more in scenes. Nobody has died, and the scenes themselves tend to be as good as anyone else's. And I sent my head shot and resume to a couple of sites advertised in Backstage. As a result, I have an audition tomorrow (assuming we are not snowed under; as I write this, on Friday, the weather is pretty scary). I am not looking forward to it, but I am prepared for it. Who knows; I may even come to enjoy this process. Stranger things have happened. To me. Just recently.

 

 

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