Others Before Self

I’ve struggled to write this blog this week (which is why it’s late), because I never want this to be a place where I complain or vent. I always want my blog to be a place that is inspiring and positive. That’s not to say that I don’t experience disappointment, or that I want to present a false impression of my experiences; I just always want to be able to find a way to share my experiences (even the negative ones) in a way that is productive.

On Tuesday, I went to yet another EPA. These auditions are… kind of brutal. Every theater that offers Equity contracts is required to hold periodical Equity Principal Auditions, wherein any Equity actor is able to audition for their season, or a particular show (depending on the audition). The way these work is that before the EPA, Equity actors are able to sign up for an audition appointment online. Then, on the day of the EPA, beginning an hour before the EPA is scheduled to begin, Equity actors can sign up for remaining audition slots, or for the Alternate List, and Equity Membership Candidates are able to sign up on the EMC list. As the EPA goes on, if people fail to show up for their appointments, the monitor will call names from the Alternate List, and when that list has been exhausted, he or she will call names from the EMC list. People start lining up WAY early for these sign-ups. I arrived at the building at about 6:50 AM, and there was already one person waiting. Once I was able to sign up on the EMC list, I was #2! This is really exciting! The chance that I’ll actually get seen is really high!

But as the morning went on, more and more Equity actors walked in and got on the Alternate List, growing the number from about 15 Alternates when the audition day began to about 50 total alternates before lunch. The monitor was really nice, and tried to get as many alternates in as she could in each group, and even made some “mini groups” of 3 actors. So there were several times when there were maybe 2 names left on the alternate list, and I got really excited to hear my name called. But then, another 7 or 8 Equity actors would come in and get to be on the alternate list.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I get it. As Equity actors, you have obviously made the choice to make Acting your real career. No side hustle, no “day job.” Just acting. So it’s your job to get into as many auditions as you can, so that you can book work, and get a paycheck. I get it. If and when I eventually earn my Equity card, I will probably do the same thing. But here’s where I get frustrated: Twice, I witnessed Equity actors who had appointments later in the afternooon put their names on the alternate list, get called in, and cancel their later appointments.

I had another commitment later that day, and would not be able to return after the lunch break. So I needed to be called in before 1:10, which was the last group before the lunch break. I did not get called in before the break. Therefore, I was very angry and offended that these Equity actors, who already had appointments, were able to be seen before those of us who had been waiting since before 7 AM. I don’t think it’s fair, and I think it was really selfish of those actors to do that.

Thankfully, I was able to drop off my headshot and resume, and I had auditioned for this theatre the week before, so I know that I am at least on their radar. But I went home that afternoon really disappointed, and dismayed. I started to wonder if it’s all worth it. I had, yet again, gotten up before dawn to go all the way down to the audition building, waited for at least an hour outside, and another hour inside, to get to sign up at the top of the list, only to have to leave before I was able to be seen. Why did I continue to put myself through this?? But I had another commitment, so I couldn’t dwell too long.

My other commitment was to volunteer with a group from church at Father’s Heart Ministries. They run a weekly program where children and teens, and their parents, can come to have dinner, play games, and get sent home with enough food to make nine more meals. The families who come to this program are often living in temporary conditions, in shelters, and this weekly event gives them a sense of normalcy, of routine, that they may otherwise be missing. We had a brief orientation, hung out with the kids for an hour, then cleaned up and came home.

It was a great evening. We each had our assigments: some served food, some played board games, I was in charge of the Play-Doh station. But just that short time spent in service to these children and teens reminded me that there’s a bigger picture. Focusing on others, instead of on myself, re-centered me so that I was no longer worried about the audition I missed, and I was ready to take advantage of the next opportunity that presented itself – namely, a couple of seminars at Actors Connection, and some new classes.

It’s interesting… Finding the balance between selfishness and self-sacrifice. To choose acting as a career is to choose a really difficult career, with no clear “corporate ladder.” I know that the two actors I saw this week are not the first, nor will they be the last, to take advantage of an opportunity to be seen earlier in the day, if they can. You have to selfishly fight for roles and opportunities, and some people can get pretty ruthless. My hope is that I am never, at any moment, that actor. But I also don’t want to be the self-sacrificial actor, who trades a good night’s sleep for an audition that I may or may not be seen at.

So my job for the next few weeks or so, and it’s one I challenge you to, as well, is to figure out what is worth my time, and what’s not. And I won’t worry too much if I’m waiting for hours for an audition, if it’s a role I know I’m really right for. If it’s a role that I may not be right for, I’ll wait for a while, but eventually I’m going to leave, let somebody else have my spot in line, and go and do something that’s worth my time. Like volunteering with my friends.