© 2012 Timmy Tamisiea. All rights reserved. Success Bar

132/365 – The Theatre Success Curve

Just got back from performing improv for hundreds of kids at Eureka College in central Illinois.  Tons of fun.  Hadn’t had a performance since September.  Performing, especially comedy, is a rush like no other.  It exhilarating – chemically, emotionally and physically.  Sometimes, after a great comedy show, the next day my body is sore – like I had done a massive workout that night.  Those feeling are why most people enter this crazy business in the first place.

However, feelings like those don’t put food on the table and pay the rent.  Sometimes you need more than that that to be successful.  It’s funny how someone’s perception of your success is always much more inflated than your own.  The kids in the local improv group at Eureka treated us like rock stars, calling us real life professional improvisors.  Do we feel that way?  Not really.  But that’s the way it usually goes within the performance field.

Yes, sir, we'll be paying our first month rent in laughter!

I remember seeing The Capital Steps in Washington DC when I was a Junior in High School.  I thought these guys had made it.  I picked their brains for awhile after the show, asking their advice on how to become a successful actor.  In hindsight, they seem aloof – not in an “this kid is annoying me” kind of way.  More in a “we’re really not that successful” kind of way.  I didn’t realize it at the time – that these guys were probably overwhelmed with their own careers and trying to do find the next acting gig that would bring them closer to living off the trade.

Today, however, that’s how I feel when a kid asks me about becoming a performer.  They seems so wide eyed and eager to go out there and make the best of their aspirations.  And I would never ever violate that?  No.  They should have those feelings.  I hope it stays with them forever.  I just hope that they never have to go through the heaps of heartache I went through trying to tackle this business.

I was told this was my best resource for moving up in the entreatment world. I got on and nothing has happened. Hmmm . . .

Megan and I had discussed what would happen if we had a kid who would want be a theatre major.  My first reaction, sadly, was that I would encourage them to find another major and find their theatre education in auditioning and performing in plays as opposed to classes.  It was a sad revelation – I loved my education at Marquette.  However, there were times I felt that my real education all happened in the work – in the shows I did.  Sometimes, I wondered if majoring in theatre was really a smart idea.

Megan and I both majored in theatre (Marquette calls in Performing Arts – which makes it sound more important).  Was it a smart idea.  All that time I spent in my 20s slaving to get that next role, get equity status, be considered a professional.  The success curve of an actor is incredibly skewed when compared to that of some other professions.  Many of my friends are businessmen and their path through promotions and salary increases seemed relatively steady.  As long as they worked hard and did a good job, they became more and more successful.  An actor’s curve is low and long until it hits something special and careens up – no matter how hard you work.  It’s a fickle and mean beast and you have to be versed in the long con to tame her.  And while you’e in that slow, long haul – like a long runway leading to a ramp miles away – you feel like nothing is working.

This what the path of an actor looks like -- long and flat and slow. Weeeee!

Ever since I started film school, those justifications slowly seeped from my conscious.  I was getting to a point where even going to a play was difficult – the difference between film acting and theatre acting is so different as to be on other planes entirely.  Witnessing theatre acting was so difficult to get into.  Seeing a play has become like watching a movie in digital 3D.  It takes me 20-25 minutes to get used to it and buy what’s going on.

And then there's watching Keanu Reeves - which is a combination of both.

I used to be able to justify how a theatre degree prepared me for any job I would eventually have – theatre or not.  I remember my first semester at Marquette.  It was finals week, I was having lunch with my RA and another student and his RA and I had my Acting I final in about an hour and was pretty nervous.  The other student – who I didn’t know – asked me what my major was to which he replied, “Ha.  Good luck with that.”  That pissed me off.  It was a unifomred and, quite frankly, a vicious statement.  So, knowing the value of my degree, I asked him what his major was.  “Psychology.”  I wanted to say to say, “Good luck with making that work without a medical degree.”   I didn’t.  I was a wimp.

To be fair - this was the other student.

So, have I abandoned theatre?  Well, an old teacher from Marquette sent this link out to a bunch of her old students.  I think this brought back some of that old flair that teatre had given me.  Maybe it can help non-artists understand the value in a theatre education — that it’s not always the classes that give us our life skills but the work ethics and tactics that prepare us for post college life – whether you follow your major or not.  Here’s the link.  Ten Ways Being A Theatre Major Has Prepared Me For Success.  Enjoy.

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