To be a performing artist today looks a little different now than it did eight months ago. Like many of you during this time, I was left with the question, “now what?” With theaters, cabaret venues, and concert halls dark, it has everyone wondering what’s next for our industry and our place in it. The beauty of pausing is the inevitability to self-reflect. This is where we get a little unconventional with our routine and make new discoveries.
1. Actors, write your own material
In this industry, we tend to compartmentalize ourselves, our talents, to a singular avenue. Actor. Writer. Singer. I’m a firm believer in occupying many lanes in the arts and throughout the years I’ve found a deep love for playwriting, screenwriting, producing, and directing. To be a well-rounded artist has its advantages that open up opportunities and experiences, especially in the entertainment business. You can take this time to explore what that means to you and try out different roles!
Creating your own material is thrilling! Maybe start with a monologue. Build up to writing ten-minute plays. Submit to festivals. Venture into screenwriting. Write the roles you’ve always wanted to play. Get a sense of what it’s like as a writer, director, and/or producer. It gives you a perspective of the journey and skills that will aid you in the future of creating your own work. The key is to help yourself and those around you.
Start an intimate writers’ group with friends to hear your work out loud and get helpful feedback about your writing. During the summer my good friend reached out to me about joining a writers’ workshop her friend was starting. We now meet, virtually, once a week to read each other’s scripts. It’s great exercise as an actor to flex the cold reading skills as well. From this, we’ve given one another opportunities to act in other projects outside of the group. Create opportunities for yourself and your peers.
2. Let your “hidden” talents shine
We all have talents outside of the theater that we don’t always acknowledge due to our intense discipline to the craft itself. It’s time to tap into them! Explore your skills and talents that could potentially become side hustles while things are on pause. Making a website and/or Instagram page is a great way to professionally present yourself and attract potential clients.
At my previous job, someone had noticed my handwriting and took a great liking to it. From this, I would personally address envelopes to donors and hand write hundreds of place cards for their gala. My co-workers encouraged me to create a side business, but I wasn’t sure how to begin or if it was even worth pursuing.
With all the down time this year, I decided to go for it and start a handwriting service – Signature Tea! To give it more credibility, I added a tab to my already made website as a performing artist and dedicated a page to the service. I also created an Instagram account for my peers and potential clients to discover. At first, there was hesitation to start the business since there are thousands of calligraphy services out there. I had to remind myself that everyone has their own style and someone may love my handwriting for what it is and that’s worth putting out there. I encourage you to do the same with your talents.
A big turnout doesn’t happen overnight, so be patient and just begin. And have fun!
3. Learn from your community
One of the many beauties of theater is the community itself. Everyone here has something to learn and something to teach. If you’re looking to hone different skills involved in the arts, there are workshops and master classes you can take taught by professionals in the field. The app Today (Tomorrow) Tix has been offering online classes on producing, a behind the scenes on how a production gets on its feet, photography, songwriting, as well as advocacy and activism.
Research organizations that bring light and justice to the community. Broadway for Radical Justice is a great nonprofit organization that “fights for radical justice and equity by providing immediate resources, assistance, and amplification for BIPOC in the Broadway and Theatrical community…” Continuing to educate ourselves on the injustices is important and necessary work to be an active ally within the community. Having in depth conversations and creating space for storytelling and experiences for all is one of the many ways we can take care of each other in our personal lives and in the industry.