As actors, our job is to tell the story on the page. Whether we’re gracing the stages of the Barrymore or performing in a cramped black box in the East Village, we are always in service to something larger than ourselves.
Still, it’s normal to wrestle with a little self-doubt from time to time about whether our contributions, however earnest, are as important to the story as we’d like to think.
But what I’ve discovered in roles as varied as “boy in the headband,” to playing the lead in some of the country’s most reputable regional theaters is regardless of how brightly the spotlight showcases your talent, each role is vital in some unique way.
I’ve also learned that whether you’re fresh out of drama school or a Broadway vet, we have more power over shaping our careers than we’ve been led to believe.
Here are just a few ways fellow ensemblists can create their own opportunities while pursuing a professional career on Broadway.
1. Pick up a pen
Don’t think you’re a writer? Think again. Roughly 18 billion texts are sent around the globe each day, while we write nearly 15 times that in the form of email.
And though it’s unlikely the prose of your Tweets, Posts, and IM’s will impress a literary agent, the fact remains you’re always communicating through writing.
So, what if you took that same need to connect with others and used it as a way to share your unique voice?
Today there are countless ways to be heard. You can start a blog, pitch an article, or write an eBook. And the good news is most platforms are not only user-friendly but also free.
The truth is, no matter where you are in your career, someone somewhere can benefit from the lessons you’ve picked up on your journey. You have insights that can inspire and even shorten the learning curve of someone trekking a similar path.
2. Become Friends with “Big Mo”
Two years ago, I finally decided to stop complaining about the lack of meaty roles coming my way and do something about it. So one afternoon, I plopped myself square in a chair and wrote what would become my first short film.
To say I wouldn’t be thanking the academy any time soon would be a gross understatement, but the point is I ended up making that little movie.
This summer I’ll be shooting my first feature film.
Where am I going with this?
Momentum begets momentum.
Beginning a project and actually seeing it through fosters the confidence that’ll propel you to the next bigger and bolder endeavor. Writing that play or composing a musical number no longer feels unreachable because you now have proof the ability to create something original lies in your hands.
3. Build a Tribe
Invariably, when you tell someone you’re an actor or an artist you’re met with the reply, “That’s a tough career.” But what most people don’t understand is what makes this path so challenging is the solitude of the pursuit. Let’s face it, we spend a lot of time alone.
And it’s that very isolation that builds self-doubt and causes us to lose our drive. We are after all wired for connection.
So what can we do about it?
Form a group of like-minded artists who you can bounce ideas off of and will raise your game. You want to surround yourself with folks that will hold you accountable to finishing what you start and lend a supportive ear when the going gets tough.
Creating a modern day campfire can be an invaluable resource for the actor or artist who needs to be reminded the work she’s doing matters.
Finally, remember to pace yourself. Hamilton wasn’t written in a day. Focus first on falling madly in love with your craft rather than seeking validation. Try not getting too caught up on the number of Likes, Tweet, or Posts. In order for your work to resonate with others it must ultimately ring true with you.
So make haste. The world is waiting.