My good friend got a ticket for walking through the service entrance on the subway. That was the last straw. She announced via Facebook that she was Done with New York and moving to Austin. She is 26.
I was surprised, but not shocked. She's had an enviable career in the four short years since she graduated. She's done three national tours, either playing or understudying the lead. She's stood by for the lead on Broadway in one of the hottest shows that particular season. She's worked consistently enough that she has yet to go on Obamacare. But she fell in love with Austin while doing a gig there, and since returning to New York, she's had a rough time.
All actors go through droughts. All artists have deep wells of insecurities into which we occasionally peer. Such is the life of an artist. To undertake a life in the arts means to weather the lows and savor the highs.
But there may come a day when you've had enough, and I'm here to tell you that's okay.
Anyone reading this blog would of course love to do shows all the time and get paid for it. But that's not the whole story, is it? There are auditions to attend and there is rent to pay. There are classes to take and relationships to maintain and headshots to choose. Plus food to eat and theatre to see and life to live. Sometimes this industry gets in the way.
But it's hard to leave. First of all, half your friends are In It. What would we bitch about if not for the fact that we can't get seen by Telsey? Don't worry. Your friends who are actually your friends will remain regardless of what you do or what you have in common. Everyone else is just distraction. (Sometimes there's nothing wrong with distraction, but you don't want it to rule your life.)
But once you've dealt with your friends, you have to deal with your inner demons. "Have I given up?" you ask yourself. "Am I a quitter?" America hates a quitter. Pinterest is loaded with inspirational quotes about sticking to a goal. They're less specific about what that goal should actually be.
Anyone who dips his or her toe into this industry and realizes it's batshit crazy is smarter and saner than the rest of us. This industry is loaded with bullshit.
I remember when I was new to the City I went to see Donna McKechnie's solo cabaret. In it, her, like, 60-year-old self not only did as much of the Cassie dance as she could on a ten-foot stage, but she told this story, which has resonated with me as the epitome of bat shit.
She saw a breakdown for a show that was looking for a "Donna McKechnie type." She called her agent to tell him she was interested. SHE COULDN'T GET SEEN.
So there it is. It doesn't matter if they're looking for Donna McKechnie, and you actually are Donna McKechnie. This industry is crazy. If you feel like getting out of it, or even just taking a break or pursuing it from a different city, you're smart and you're brave. Get out of New York before the City steals your sanity.
It's kind of like a really bad relationship. Have you ever been in a relationship that was terrible, and you knew while you were in it that you needed to get out of it? But you let it go on and on until it finally dies a slow and agonizing death, and everyone is literally les miserables. Then you meet someone new, and you realize just how fucked your last relationship actually was. You vow never to be such an idiot again.
That's New York. The rest of us left in the industry are still dating your crazy ex.
But know this: as soon as you are happy in a new relationship, your ex will call again. And so will Broadway. I have a friend who left New York, moved to North Carolina, got engaged, and opened his own food truck business. Where is he right this second? Rehearsing for The Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway. My talented friend who wants to move to Austin had better make her move quick. Because Broadway loves no one so much as a person who no longer gives a shit.