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Acting Reflections: L'chaim (To Life!)

Well, friends... This is it. Year six of my professional acting career has begun, and it already looks promising. Two virtual shows with some amazing international organizations, numerous self-tapes for EPAs, shows, and open calls with theatre companies across the country, getting my headshots updated in NYC for the first time ever in April, and I'm making my in-person NYC performance debut in May. I'd never thought I could make it to year six in one piece, let alone have so many opportunities to perform under my belt in a short period of time thanks to a pandemic. It's crazy how life works, right? Well, if I'm now in year six, it could only mean one thing. This officially marks the end of my year-long acting reflections of five incredible years in my acting career. Wait. You mean, there will be no more reflections on your acting career? Of course not! There will be plenty of reflections on this crazy career of mine, but given how busy things are liable to be for a while, it won't be as frequent as I'd like it to be. Besides, there's going to be new memories and lessons to glean from the next upcoming five years that I want to share with you. Because at the end of the day, no matter how many years you've been in a career of sorts, there's ALWAYS something to learn from it. Especially after five years. They say the first five years of your career are the hardest ones to get through because it is a test of whether your determination, ambition, passion, and courage are enough to make it through. More often than not, it builds up strength, character, and maturity that can come in handy in the best and worst of times. And the next five years are definitely going to have plenty of educational experiences for yours truly. Who'd of believed that when I started out on this career path, my resume (and name, to boot) would go from this...

To this...

To even this?

And this transformation of resumes and addition of credits was all because of yours truly keeping at it... Along with learning, growing, and especially thriving in this career for the past five years, especially during the tough times. This career is not for the faint of heart. Had I have known how truly difficult this career is, with all of the hustling to auditions, perfecting the acting technique, updating headshots, creating websites, and not to mention putting all of you out to casting directs, directors, producers, and more on a regular basis with little to no consistent results in the first five years... I would'e given up years ago. But by some miracle, I didn't. It took a lot of self-care (crying, long walks, venting to friends within and outside the theatre community, eating ice cream & fast food), building up armor & then taking it off again, eating crow when I needed to eat it, private lessons, and just going out every chance I get to put my vulnerable self out there for the world to see to show I have a chance (however small that may be). It took getting through the rejections to keep going to one more audition or self-tape to get to a yes, whether that's a callback or a casting offer. It even took transforming my thinking and putting myself out there constantly to know my worth in this business, even on the days when I don't feel like what I gave in the auditions or self-tapes was my 100% best (that's still considered your best, even between 20-50%!). And here's the kicker: I still have to keep on doing this for the rest of my career, however long it may last! But here's something to remember about the first five years of your career, no matter what your field is: 1. Follow your interest

  • This is very important because if you don’t follow your interest then make sure that you will not be productive in the long run.

  • And the main thing is, wait for the opportunities in your domain. Don’t give priority to the first placement if it is not your area of interest.

  • It is very much negotiable to wait for two to three month after graduation to get a job in your domain.

  • Sometime it may happen that people are not clear with their area of interest. After working a few months they realize that their area of interest is different from the current role.

  • As a result, they start jumping from one company to another in search of a good job. In this, they waste their crucial time which was to be utilized to form a base for the long-term goal.


2. Finding your skills

  • The first thing about career planning is finding out your skills. Skill is a thing that we learned how to do.

  • Identifying our skills help to find us our ideal job. After getting a job in your area of interest, now its time to work on skill development.

  • Skill development is a continuous process. Hence you should start focusing on skill which will help you in achieving the long-term goal.

  • Skill development includes finding out what is important in your job and what kind of decision maker you are.

3. Do specialization

  • Everyone knows that graduation has a very broad aspect. But in corporate we have to focus on a specific domain.

  • So along with doing job, you can also opt for specialization in your domain. This will boost your career.

  • You can also think of doing further education. Some companies too offer to their employees.

  • You should also attain seminars and network at conferences with other leaders and innovators.

  • Doing specialization will explore more opportunities in your career. It will make your foundation strong on which you can build a strong career.

4. Connecting Dots

  • Keep on top what is happening in your professional and personal life that would impact your career, your goal and development plans.

  • It is very important that your short-term goals should align with the long-term goal. Otherwise, your output will change at the end.

  • It is very much possible that you have to change your planning. So to avoid sudden change you have to keep a track of each and every activity.

  • Make sure that you keep coming back to your plans and update it with consideration for progress and the growth of your career.

  • You need to be very flexible but stay focused on your output. Continuously check and realign your career objectives with your definition of career success.

5. Stay motivated

  • When you have a focus on long-term, the most important thing is you need to stay focused and motivated.

  • You should keep one mentor for yourself who can keep you aligned with your goal.

  • Freshers should understand the importance of having a mentor. A mentor is the one who will share their experience and help you to avoid the same mistakes that most of the beginners make.

  • The simple way to stay focused is to have a purpose in life. Your purpose will keep you motivated.

  • It is important to stay motivated to keep moving towards your career development

There seems to be a repetitiveness with certain words and phrases that make up the first five years of your career: Like understanding. Like motivated/motivation. Like finding your skills. Like being focused. Like following your interest/passion. Like having a long-term goal (with short-term goals that align with it). Like being flexible with how your interests and specializations change. Like keeping in touch with news and updates in your field of work. Like keep moving forward. No matter what your career is, these phrases and words are likely to stay with you during the first five years in your respective field. And it especially speaks true in the performing arts. Especially the need for focus, following your passion/interest, having short-term goals connect with the long-term goal, being flexible, keeping tabs on the news and updates in your field, and moving forward. But I would also like to add some phrases and words like self-care, experimenting new ideas, networking, persistence, character (not just onstage), having outside interests from the arts, being enough as you are, working on the weaker skills, and keep moving forward. See what I did there with the last phrase? Even if you feel stuck or frustrated, actor Trevor Berger insists that we keep moving forward in a direction, and it doesn't matter where we're going, just keep moving. If that's not enough to convince you to follow where your interests or passions lead you, I don't know what is. Even after accomplishing the first five years of your career, it's important to keep going. Sometimes when we do this, our goals and aspirations end up changing, or in my case, transforming. I never expected to be casted in so many straight plays - classics and new works - within the past few years when I was also quite capable of doing musicals. But now, I'm excited to continue to work on straight plays for the next few years as it has strengthened my performance technique (particularly Shakespeare) and opened my eyes to how many roles I can perform with the right creative team and timing playing an important part. I got to perform in virtual theatre for the vast majority of the fourth and fifth years and I surprisingly found the joy in making connections with individuals across the country and keeping theatre alive during a dark time. And it especially rekindled a love for live in-person performances again. I never expected to do two musicals outside of high school, and being surprisingly good at it, especially dancing! I got to work with professional companies and organizations, and even get paid for doing so! Not to mention, being part of an AEA guest contract and following Equity rehearsal and performance protocol was a nice part of the experience as well. I managed to do open calls with professional Equity theaters in the area, and learning the ins and outs of these auditions (including waking up at the ungodly hours of the morning in order to get there in time to be among the first to audition). The fact that my career transformed with each audition, self-tape submission, open call, willingness to try new things, and keep moving forward in a direction provided much opportunities and surprises I never saw coming. But each time was an education, an invitation, an inspiration, and a celebration of the artistry & creativity I got to share with others for the past five years. The thing is... After I've successfully completed the first five years, and not without plenty of battle scars, bumps, and bruises to prove it... What do I do now? What am I looking forward to for the next five years, and the many more to come? Well... I've got a few ideas.

For starters, after doing over two years of virtual theatre, I'm ready to go back to in-person performances again. Rehearsals and tech week included. And not just any performances and shows. I'm looking into doing more opportunities that are PAID. That's right. After hustling for five years to get myself known in the theatre community, I've got about five years worth of experience on my resume to show for how consistent I've been working, and I'm ready to up my game to go after the roles and shows that offer a reasonable amount of money to go along with the opportunities. No more doing shows for free or for low payment amounts, like anywhere between $25-$100. Unless, and I do mean UNLESS, there's a show out there that interests me or good friends and acquaintances encourage me to do the show. Then I may consider the chance to work on that particular project. This also means not doing shows with community theaters and organizations in the area, unless it's an opportunity that I've always wanted to do. Just because you've gotten through the first five years doesn't mean you should automatically shut out your community and tribe that helped you get to where you are now. Even if many of them do community theatre or non-profit arts organizations. It truly does take a village. Another thing I'm looking forward to along the lines of more paying opportunities? I hope to perform onstage with Equity affiliated theatre companies and organizations. And to tie it all together... I hope to officially submit my application to join Actors Equity Association at the end of this year. If you've read my previous blog on the union, my biggest hope for joining AEA is for more opportunities to be seen by casting directors, producers, and directors than I normally have a less than 10-20% chance as a non-union actor. And if you truly know me, I have a dream of going to Broadway, and you most definitely need to have to be a part of the union to be performing on 42nd Street and the rest of the theatre district, Off-Broadway included. People say I have what it takes to go all the way to Broadway. I have should at least have a shot of joining Equity, right? To truly up my game and have casting directors, producers, directors, even agents take me seriously, I got to get my headshots updated. And for the first time ever, I'm heading up to NYC to make this happen. Don't worry! I'm not blowing $1000 to get the most high tech, most pristine headshots. I'm lucky to get them done for a total of $650-$700 (makeup included), thanks to a coupon from one of the photographers who attended a virtual audition conference for actors and stage managers. And maybe the awesome shots I will get in April will hopefully lead to more opportunities, even meetings, with those higher up on the theatre company/organization chain in terms of auditions? Hopefully a blog about doing headshots in NYC is coming up soon? We'll see... Speaking of NYC... I hope to perform with companies and organizations outside of the DC-metro area. Like NYC. Or Philadelphia. Or upstate NY. Or Boston. Or New Hampshire. Or Chicago. Or London. Or anywhere the wind takes me (as long as housing and travel is included!). I'm not meant to stay rooted to one spot forever, and sometimes jobs take us away from our home and loved ones for an extended period of time. Why not get started in year six and beyond? But if there's anything I'm looking forward to in year six that ISN'T related to acting, but performance-related... I hope to learn to play the cello. Why the cello out of all instruments? Well, I've always been fond of the cello, and how peaceful and majestic it sounds. Besides, I wanted to do something different from the violin, clarinet, trumpet, or even tuba. What better instrument to learn from than the cello? Or even better... Working on strengthening my singing voice again so I can do musical theatre. Or better yet.. Learn how to do some dance steps so that this double threat can become a double-and-a-half threat! And apart from all of these performance related wishes and dreams? Maybe actually living on my own in my own apartment with roommates (or without)? Or without? Maybe continue having a flexible job that helps pays the bills and allows to continue pursuing this career? Maybe having a side job that isn't art related and can also help provide income? Maybe traveling more? Especially outside of the United States? Maybe reaching a point of being off of medication permanently? Maybe having a nice Queen bed? Maybe going on a nice, long road trip across the country? The possibilities are endless! (I'm looking forward to seeing where year six of my acting career will take me, but again, these are just MY reflections and observations. You are welcome to have different experiences and observations from mine, even disagree. But like I've said repeatedly, I won't tolerate and disrespectful or harmful language. These are tough times we're living in, and the last thing we should be doing is turning against each other through our words. Even if we've never met in person and you judge based on my pictures on my website and the words I write in the blogs. Words DO hurt, you know. If you can't find it in your heart to keep your snide comments to yourself, I will block you.)

No matter what your career is, it's definitely an accomplishment to mark five years and move forward into the sixth year. You've made it. Through the blood, sweat, tears, bumps, bruises, and scars, you kept at it. You learned. You grew. You're thriving. And the possibilities are yours to guide and take you wherever you want to go. But I want you to keep this in mind. Many of the things I'm looking forward to in year six all come from a place of HOPE. You didn't come this far to give up on your hopes and dreams of making a difference in some way in your field of choice. Why should you start now? And here's another thing to keep in mind: It's perfectly normal if things don't go according to your schedule or how you thought they should go. I've come to accept at this point that as much as I'm in control of putting forth the effort and time in the auditions, self-tapes, rehearsals, and performances, this career is clearly out of your control once you leave the audition room or hit "send" in an email to let self-tapes go where they need to go. It's times like these where you must remember to trust in a higher power, and understand that even in the darkest of times, it will be okay. And especially to never give up on your hopes and dreams. This is where being flexible and keep moving forward comes into play. You may not end up where you originally planned, and chances are, it's not going to be in a straight line. And that's okay! Maybe you wanted to strictly do musical theatre, and now have suddenly developed an appetite for film & TV. Or you originally wanted to be just an actor and now want to be a casting director or playwright. Or maybe you have a desire to do music through an instrument other than the voice. Or maybe you want to go back to school and find a different passion altogether. No matter what your path leads you, do what Trevor Berger said in the Actors Aesthetic podcast: Keep moving in a direction. Just keep moving. I can't promise you that any of the dreams and hopes will come true in year six. Or even by year 10. I can't even promise myself that what I hope will happen in the coming months or year will come true like I have it planned. But I can promise you this: You will be a sad and poor soul if you don't go after what you're passionate about, especially if you let fear get in the way of what truly makes you happy. It's hard, and there will be naysayers and toxic individuals who will bring you down. They want you to fail. Don't make their job any easier by giving into their poison. You have what it takes to learn, grow, and thrive in your career. I have faith in you. Now it's time to have faith in yourself. And now, I propose a toast, using some very famous lyrics from a beloved musical. Here's to the crazy, unpredictable, tumultuous, fulfilling, stressful, amazing, depressing, surprising, frustrating, but especially incredible thing called... L'chaim. Life. Here's to life. No matter where the paths lead you, may it be all that you've hoped for. And never give up on your hopes and dreams. Or even on what you have to offer. It truly does take a village. Thanks for being a part of my tribe. To life, to life, l'chaim. L'chaim, l'chaim, to life. Life has a way of confusing us, Blessing and bruising us. Drink, l'chaim, to life!

God would like us to be joyful, Even when our hearts lie panting on the floor. But how much more can we be joyful When there's really something to be joyful for? To life, to life, l'chaim.

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