Aaron J. Albano (Cats) shares his view on the age-old question of actors after closing their show: "What next?"
In my career, I have closed five shows on Broadway (and one off-Broadway) and I can confidently say that while each show had its own unique energy and feeling to it, closing those shows had a similar, surreal feeling to them, and that feeling is never easy. Sure, as actors, our job coming to an end is a common thing, much more common than the 9-to-5er Muggle types, and therefore we should be “used to it.” But, at least in my experience, every job I’ve had required an investment of time, energy, passion, focus, etc. that consumed a large portion of my state of being; when that comes to an end, it can be very jarring and sometimes overwhelming. Whether you have six months notice or six days, the sentiment is the same: this show, which has been a huge part of your life, is coming to an end.
Luckily at Cats, we were of the former; we were fortunate enough to find out our closing date in June of 2017, a little over six months prior. It allowed us to slowly process the idea that our show was coming to an end, and by the time we reached our final bow (or in our case, final oven exit) any bitterness or fear or general negativity had fallen away and replaced with joy and celebration. The company felt happy and at peace with the close, and while we’ll miss the closeness and camaraderie every night, we were proud of ourselves and each other for a job well done.
And then the age-old question...WHAT NEXT?
Some have jobs to walk right into. Some start pounding that pavement right away to hopefully snag that next show. Some take a long-deserved vacation to their hometown or elsewhere (I went on a Disney cruise), to rest and rejuvenate before they inevitably have to pound said pavement when they get back to New York.
Probably the hardest part of “What next” is the self-doubt that starts to creep in in its various forms: Was that it? Am I done? Will I work again? I’ve seen it in all of us; from the young to the not-so-young, from the Broadway Debut to the Gypsy Robe Winner, from the bright-eyed Ensemblist to the jaded Tony-award-winning Principal, I’ve seen insecurity rule us all. We fall into the trap of “We are only as good as our next job” and if we don’t have one, then what are we? Do we even deserve to call ourselves actors? We realize that we had begun to define ourselves by our work, and we catch ourselves suddenly and subsequently defining ourselves by our LACK of work. And as time moves on, and the auditions keep coming, and the unemployment dries up, that devastating lie we’ve come to believe becomes paralyzing.
Now, of course I’m not there yet (hell, Cats closed five minutes ago), but I wish I could say I had the tried-and-true grand formula that protects me against this state of mind. I don’t. And I wish I could say that after all the work I’ve done I’ve grown immune to that lie. I can’t. And I can’t even echo what friends tell me, that I’ll of course work again because that’s always how it’s been (always accompanied by a smirk and an eye roll), because there is always a very real possibility that I may not work again.
Here is what I can do: keep going. Combat the lie, because that is just what it is, a LIE. I am an artist, an actor, a performer, and that is truth. I know this because it is who I was designed to be. And I am still those things whether I nail or fail an audition. The fact that I create, I dance, I express, I love cannot and should not be taken away, because those are what define who I am. Our actions, not someone else’s opinion, define who we are. If/when I can achieve that, then I trust. I have faith that God/the universe/a higher power will move me in the direction I am meant to be in. I try to stay open to the path laid in front of me, and face it head-on (full-out, no marking). Hopefully it’s to a joyful, fulfilling opportunity in this business, where I can dive in and invest myself like I always have. But if it’s not, and it branches off to an unknown path away from this business that I’ve known and loved, then I will deal with that as it comes, knowing that I’ll approach it with a wholly healthy and secure heart.
That’s what I’ll try to do anyway. Ask me again in six months.