Monday, 7 May 2012

Actually, I'm a lawyer. Fries with that?

The continuing joys of being asked what I do for a living. 
"I'm an actor."  "I'm a  theatre artist."  "I'm a playwright."

I'm finding it gets more embarrassing the longer I stay at my day job.  
I know, it's a day job.  Every actor has at some point had, or still do have jobs they go back to when they aren't working (acting).  I've been at my current day job not quite a year yet, and I've made work for myself this year so that I feel like a theatre artist, or at least feel like I can keep telling people that.  

(Warning: it gets pretty cynical from here on in.  it's the mood I'm in today.  And yes, I am at my day job right now, but it's a slow day.)

In what other vocation is this a thing?  

Sure, going through the education system future lawyers, doctors, business administrators, accountants, estheticians, scientists etc. work other jobs to support themselves until they become what they set out to become.  OK, this is barring any layoffs, firings, or job loss.  I just have yet to see someone in a career that society values as necessary to our way of life- enough to pay for it's existence- out there serving up cocktails and appetizers on a patio in the summer, or pouring coffee for all the folks with "real" jobs or, doing what I do outside of my "real" profession, answering phones as a receptionist as a way to supplement income not derived from the chosen profession.  As an actor, the supplemental part of my income is most of the pie, making it harder and harder to convince people  "no really, I'm an actor!" when the bank statements and the t-4s  show otherwise.

It will never stop being like that.  At this time in Canada, with all the funding cuts to the arts, the growing number and combination of artistic disciplines, and the continuous stream of emerging and established artists the pot of soup supposed to feed everyone (which is not big to begin with) now holds a thin broth enough to keep the arts alive but not enough to nourish.  

Imagine if this wasn't the case.  Imagine if one could just be an actor or a theatre artist and live.  ahhhh.

In Winnipeg this is not an option.  Unless you have some sort of supernatural hold on a character type that will continuously get you work, or if you make your own work.  As you probably have noted, I make my own work and this is one way by which I can still call myself an actor (that and telling people I have an audition coming up).

One might ask "If you make your own work, you can always be working.  It is up to you."  I hate that.  Why?  because of funding of course.  Even if I am an expert grant writer (not that I am, but I've written alot of them) it depends on a jury of one's peers to decide what one's fate will be.  Yes I can always be working on something, but on my own time and I will still have to work at a job that I did not go to school to learn how to do.  I certainly didn't go to school to cultivate a hobby.  I have no interest in theatre as a hobby.  I would never suggest that of anyone's profession, that they should do it as a hobby, on the side.  How insulting. 

Since we don't value the arts as much as we should given that if there were not an arts and cultural industry unemployment would be through the roof and the economy would tank, (wait, in our current economical climate and state of arts funding, does one thing have something to do with the other?  Hmm?) I don't think we'll be seeing the day that my day job is in my chosen field any day soon.

Ok, I've had my rant.  Back to work.


  1. We should have married rich!

    I think about this often. Feeling undervalued by society. And its one of the reasons the union doesn't work either, by the way.

    I wish I had a more upbeat response, but the only thing I can really say is I feel your pain.

  2. I do think it's just a matter of time before the next generation of creative people (yourself and Alix come to mind) start running things in Winnipeg. I'm not trying to get the knives out for the current people in charge (Lord love 'em), but a passing of the torch must always come. Especially to people who create a calibre of work that I've seen one Charlene Van B make.

    Not the best answer ("just wait") and doesn't address a lot of your very valid points, but I hope it helps. I feel your pain too.