by Marja Harmon
When an actor finds themselves in that rare position of being in a long running show, certain questions can start to manifest. Such as, when is the right time to leave? and how to sometimes maintain a positive attitude once the shine of your new job wears off.
Your timeline within a show definitely depends on your personal goals or what your body and heart are intuitively telling you. Before I booked The Book of Mormon in January of 2014 I had been in an almost three year work drought. At that point in my career I had played Aida on the North American Tour, made my Broadway debut in A Cat on A Hot Tin Roof directed by Debbie Allen, and then landed Nala in the National Tour of The Lion King. I was sure that my momentum would keep going once I returned ro NYC, but it took a respite. For years I did temp work and took catering and event gigs. I was starting to panic that maybe I wouldn’t work again , and then I got a call from my agent to audition for Mormon. When I found out that I would be joining the Broadway company a weight was lifted. Not only would I be making my Broadway Musical debut, but in one of the best shows in theater history.
Mormon became my family, my home. It was the fastest I had ever learned a show (two weeks). The most fun I’ve ever had on stage with some of the most incredible and hilarious people you have ever met. I was performing eight shows a week on Broadway, I was financially stable again, and enjoying myself immensely. I was still auditioning and doing more TV work, which was exciting.
Of course after a couple of years I wondered when I would leave, what other opportunities there might be for me, and I was yearning to be stimulated again creatively and do something new. At the same time I also enjoyed my job and knew what a privilege it was to walk through a stage door on and perform on Broadway in a hit show where you aren’t worried you’ll get a closing notice at any moment.
Some actors are very fortunate to move from show to show maybe after a year’s time. Others it may take some time to find a new project. Some may love the company they are in so much that they’ll take advantage of the opportunity to explore other endeavors besides performing, make financial investments, have families and stay for years.
As we grow as humans and performers our perspective and goals continue to change. For me, it was a joy to go to work everyday. And after a period of time where I really struggled without work I wasn’t about to leave an incredible show without another opportunity. And not just any opportunity, but one that would feed me artistically and luckily I was in a position to wait.
Early this fall I was asked to audition for Hamilton, the one show I’d been coveting since I saw the original cast on Broadway. It was my fourth time going in. I found out two days after my final audition that I gotten the Principal Standby for all three Schulyer Sisters on the new “And Peggy...” tour that would be going to Puerto Rico and then San Francisco.
I put my notice in with Mormon with a heavy heart. I’ve been lucky that I’ve gotten to be a part of three game changing musicals in my career: The Lion King, The Book of Mormon, and now Hamilton. I say “lucky” because this business is not always merit based and so much of it is intangible.
I had someone tell me once “How lucky are you to be able to perform on Broadway!? Someone other than your family thought you were talented and are paying you for it. What’s better than that?!” I honestly couldn't agree more.
I got to leave a dream job to go to another dream job. There’s not a second that I take it for granted. Whether you stay in a show for one year or 20 years, it’s your business and all reasons are real and valid. Just never forget how fortunate you are to have had the opportunity so many dream about.