Hello beautiful people! If you’ve missed the past few days I’ve been sharing pieces of a conversation my friend Rachel Farr and I had over FaceTime at the beginning of this month. Today we dive into how it feels to take five (or more like a week off) and the importance of finding balance in this rollercoaster of a business. So grab a cup of tea and here we go!
There’s this taboo phrase that we hear every so often in our industry. “I’m gonna take a break,” someone says in reference to leaving the audition circuit for an extended amount of time. During our conversation, Rachel shared with me that after her current contract ends she plans on taking a break. She’s wanted to do it before but something has always come up, keeping her from taking the break she so desires. She plans on staying with her Grandpa for a while and then hopes to manage her friend’s salon, which is completely different from anything she’s ever done. She shared with me some of her excitement as well as her fears around temporarily leaving the business.
Rachel: For me, the scarier thing is to not audition and to not be performing…If you asked me when I was sixteen I was like, ‘I’m gonna move to the city, I’m gonna work on Broadway, these are my priorities.’ In college, same deal, a little different. I was like, ‘I’m gonna go to LA. I want to do musical theater, I want to do film. I wanna do some other things.’ But as I’ve gotten older one of the things that I have really struggled with is not having my people close to me. And I thought I was gonna move to New York City. I don’t wanna live in the same city as my family. I didn’t want to worry about where my friends were going, I just wanted to go and I’ve had to cancel every family vacation in the past five years. I haven’t hung out with my family in five years because of the nature of unemployment, of our work, when we do get a job, we feel that we can’t say no…And now I’m in this place, especially with my Grandpa where I’m like 'this is time I will never get back’ and if I could have a 9 to 5 and have some money and be able to normally take a weekend off and go do something fun with my family or keep plans, be able to keep any plans that I make, that just sounds amazing. I just wanna do that for a while…and if it doesn’t make me happy, LA is right there…but it’s been hard cause there’s a lot of, what’s the word, ego in it. ‘What are all the people I went to college gonna think?’ I actually think about that. Which is stupid.
Sometimes I find myself having the same fears when I choose to take a vacation. I love to travel and so taking vacations, taking the time to leave the city and travel is very important to my happiness. But there’s also something scary about being bold enough to say “I’m not gonna be in the city this week which means I’m not gonna be able to audition this week.”
Becky: Funny little story…when I auditioned for Tuacahn…the New York auditions were right before the Super Bowl and that was the year that the Super Bowl was in Texas and Jon and I had made plans to go to Texas for Super Bowl weekend and have a Super Bowl party with his family…And the Tuacahn auditions were on Friday…it was a dance call, and they ran out of time and so they were like ‘can you come back later to sing for us’ but I was getting on a flight, I wasn’t gonna be there. And I was like ‘I can’t, I’ve got these plans, I’m going to Austin, Texas for the weekend’…I was really bummed about it because I knew Jeffry Denman already and it was a theater I had wanted to work at for years and I felt like this was my opportunity to actually work there because I knew someone that was involved with making decisions. And I was like ‘fuck, that’s it, that’s it.’ But trying to maintain a mindset of ‘if it’s meant to be it’s meant to be.’ We go to Texas, I sort of forget about it and we come back and at 2 AM sitting, waiting for the NJ Transit to get back into the city I look at my e-mail and I have a callback e-mail from them.
Rachel: And it was mean to be.
I think it’s very common for actors to feel like we have to try really hard, so much so that we loose sight of having our own lives outside of the business. What I learned from my Tuacahn audition experience is truly whatever’s meant to be will be. So much of this crap is totally out of our control. Now, we can either deal with that by trying really hard to control as much of it as we can (by skipping family vacations so we can attend auditions) or by trusting that the universe is working with us to give us the most balanced, joyous, fulfilling life that we want.
“I have such a hard time letting go of the guilt of not accepting a contract or taking time off.” -Rachel
What do you do when you feel like so much of your identity has been built around theater? That’s something else that Rachel brought up and something that I think many of us, especially those of us who grew up around theater can relate to.
Rachel: I’m good and easy and fun to work with and I’m a really hard worker. Those are the things that I really pride myself on…And I’m such a team player and that’s what I want people to say and think about me so when you’re like ‘I’m gonna take off for vacation' and stuff like that somehow it develops into this really deep identity crisis where I’m like ‘but if I take vacation then they’ll think I’m lazy and they’ll never wanna work with me again and I wont get a job’… it descends into madness over something so small!
Taking a step back to remember that time off is built into every other field definitely helps put things into perspective for me. At the end of the day what we do is a business and as the bosses of our own businesses we get to decide when our time off is going to be.
“People in other countries take way more time off than we do. You know, they’ve done studies that people in France work so much less and they’re so much happier because of it,” I said.
One of my lessons since coming back to the city in January has been all about finding the balance, learning when to take time off to go on vacation, or simply being mindful enough to skip one of those required ECCs to catch up on some much needed sleep. “It definitely doesn’t come naturally to me…I have to make a conscious effort to tell myself 'this is okay.’”
Thoughts? Comments? I want to know your side of the story! How do you find balance or is it something you struggle with too? As I’ve been saying please share with me and keep the conversation going because that’s what this is all about. Subscribe, become a member, and check back Sunday for a short post that I hope to be quite thought provoking. Until then!