After nearly 10 years running a theater company, I decided to do what I probably should have done from the beginning–focus on my own acting career. I found Boston frustrating, so I started to go to NYC, and I got cast immediately and did a series of independent films. I also did the pay-to-play workshops, showcases and agent-hunting we all do.
Of course, at 50, you’re up against ageism. And I’ve found this as I’ve gotten older anyhow–in addition to sexism, homophobia, and sexism and homophobia, and general othering, and did I mention sexism and homophobia? now there’s a new prejudice. And, as with every other prejudice, you first turn it on yourself (anti-aging creams, diets, working out, dyeing your hair, wardrobe, wardrobe, wardrope). UGH.
I identify as a pseudo granola, a-little-too-young-to-be-hippie… so, hippie-wannabe. As well as a queer feminist, pseudo-Buddhist political radical.
What the hell was I thinking? The f-ing film industry?
Of course, I taught young actors how to maximize the resources I found, and the good looking and trending and talented could do this successfully.
And we all love the art of acting. Really, really love it.
But I found myself in this existential crisis. Like, here is a list of things I can’t stand, period:
- Trying to make people like me.
- Dressing for success.
- Working on image.
- Ageism, sexism and homophobia.
- Sexual harassment.
- Trying to meeting someone else’s idea of what is good
- Fitting in
- Make up
- Did I mention trying to make people like me?
Recently, I spent 2 and half weeks in Hollywood and I pretty much hated the city, which is often gorgeous and stunningly warm. And no, I didn’t see the beautiful people walking down the street or performing at the Hollywood Fringe. (I actually loved the Fringe people, who were having their own struggles with work and the industry.) What I hated were the ads, every 20 feet, for tv shows and movies, with celebrity faces, with the worship of all the false gods that the industry represents. And the undercurrent of desperation in all of us, trying to make it, to be worth it, allowing ourselves to be defined by its recognition or lack thereof.
Now perhaps if I’d had the incredible success I dreamed of, entitled ONLY RICH AND FAMOUS WILL DO, I’d be in a completely different existential crisis. Though no doubt with the same focus on morality and integrity, because, well, I think in those terms. I worry I’d have made even more compromises than I have.
But as I’ve entered the world of film, as I’ve won contests, had more access, auditioned for better parts, had some small recognition, I experience internal pressure and conflict. Like, I don’t want to write the perfect 3 act screenplay. That’s a male conception of the world and I’m not male. I want to write MY conception of the world. I’m tired of industry professionals telling me anything but that structure isn’t saleable. I’m tired of the temptation to say, to ahead, make my work cheap and predictable you axxh*(# so I can, what…make it?
And acting! I really, really, really don’t want to play strong middle-aged women who for some reason or another have lost their humanity and are just. not. kind. I have a deep swath of kindness in me now, and I’d like to give it some expression.
Also, I kind of hate big auditions and the internal conflict I let them create in me. The high of doing great that has just a bit too much adrenaline. The shame of not showing up for yourself when that happens. The bragging about getting roles, and the hiding the shame. Ugh. I’m ambivalent, and why? Of course I’m ambivalent. I’m a friggin purist.
And if all that’s not enough, I hate the celebrity system and movies getting made on the strength of that system, which eliminates an ensemble focus (which I love, particularly in UK movies and TV). And means that often people are cast for roles someone else could do better (I have somehow managed not to scream out loud in theaters watching straight actors butcher lesbian and gay parts, but it’s a near thing).
Into all this conflict comes a solo show. Like fresh air. Like joy. I hate dealing with AEA in certain cities that seem to think that because I’ve produced I’m the enemy rather than the person they’re supposed to represent. I don’t enjoy marketing a lot of the time. But getting up and doing the exact work I love? Knowing there’s no schism? That I’m not serving any god but the one of freedom, joy and connection? It’s a bit of heaven.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever want to do anything else.
Enter an offer to do theater in Canada.
I feel my life turning on its axis.
I don’t know what’s coming.
I’m tempted to do absolutely nothing and see.
All I know is this:
I seem to be the one I’ve been waiting for.
All of me.