Sunday, December 28, 2008

Advice to a Young Actor-Musician

Dear Leenya,
My name is Andrew and after seeing a performance of Company last spring on PBS I immediately fell in love with it. After I saw Company I wanted to know more, so I looked it up on the internet and happened to stumble upon your website which then led me to your blog. The reason I'm telling you all this is because I have many questions as to how you've managed to become successful as both a musician and an actress. I myself am a trumpet player and I also enjoy acting, though was unaware that I could find a common ground. Please reply with any advice that you feel would help guide me in the right direction to having a career as enjoyable as yours.

Humbly yours, Andrew

Dear Andrew,
I'm so glad you loved Company!  It was one of the most rewarding artistic experiences of my life and am so glad that PBS aired it for all who missed it on Broadway! (I'm pictured here with Raul Esparza as Jenny experimenting with pot for the first time.  Check out excerpts on Youtube)
I'll offer some advice I often give that pertains to this blog.  Aspiring performers are told that persistence is the answer to success, but they are very rarely taught HOW to persist, how to stick it out during the dry spells that all artists who are trying to make a living at their art inevitably go through. 
There are so many paths to "success" in this business, not just doing-it-for-the-love-of-it amateurs (a noble and rewarding motivation, by the way!) or Madonna super-stardom.  For those of us who fall somewhere in between, ways to pay the bills vary.  
The key is to first find a "day job" or "survival job" that is flexible and doesn't suck the soul out of you (Mine have ranged anywhere from Sunday School Guitar Lady to Department Store Christmas Tree Decorator and Celtic Rock Fiddle Player) and then when you do finally book that fabulous Broadway gig (the actor-musician concept WILL be explored again, either by John Doyle or other daring directors.  I did tell Stephen Sondheim that he should write a musical with us crazy quadruple threats in mind.  Wouldn't that be cool?!), you must put half of your shiny new paycheck in the bank and continue to live cheaply (definitely a challenge in the most expensive city in the world!) so that when that wonderful show closes or you can't bear performing that show for one more day (It happens!  Sad...) you can live off those savings.  
The truth is, there is no "making it".  It's one in a million actor who escapes having to auditioning for that next job (eventually with the help of an agent or manager, which makes open calls unnecessary, thank God!) and you will always have times of unemployment, especially if you don't want to take work out of town or do shows that don't interest you artistically.  
But that's the downside.  The upside is that if you prioritize and find ways to live with a small overhead, you get to spend most of the hours of your day doing what you love.  
You're right.  I am having an enjoyable career!  Have a blast and embrace this crazy thing that you've chosen to do.  It's an adventure that not everyone has the guts to do.  And keep logging in to What Would Leenya Do for more tips on living stylishly and inexpensively at the same time.

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