I had a dread of reading this Guardian story, which a fellow APN member tweeted almost a week ago. I finally read it today. And I’ve just listened to this CBC Definitely Not the Opera podcast, which has left me seething.
In the wide world, I’m not much of anybody. So when I say “there is never enough money”, and a contributor to the Guardian says something similar, multiplied by a million, all I can think is I wanted to be wrong!
Mr Simkins says two things in his writeup that really strike me:
“People often ask me what the essential difference is between professional actors and amateurs. Their presumption is invariably that it’s to do with talent. But in fact the only defining difference is whether you have the stomach for the lifestyle – one in which rejection, disappointment and despair are part of your daily routine.”
Recently I’ve been trying to explain to people I know who aren’t involved in theatre at all what makes it so hard, and why I still insist on not giving up this whole writing plays thing when I still have to keep a day job. How do you explain that an actor who works regularly may be living at the poverty line? How does it make logical sense that a playwright can have a show produced, and then not have anything else done for years, and so has to keep working at something else entirely? If you’ve gotten there, haven’t you “made it”?
And here’s the second:
“The cruellest aspect of the acting business is not that it’s unfair, but that it’s merely indifferent. It gives everything to some and nothing to others; talent, ambition and virtue have little to do with it.”
Someone I know is an avid fan of reality TV, and one day was discussing, with genuine seriousness, how arrogant a particular contestant was. I burst out: “He’s on a reality show! Of course he’s arrogant!”
I am absolutely furious, I am stuffed to the gills with WTF, that although there seems to be widespread acknowledgement that the arts are cool and involve work, that this acknowledgement doesn’t translate to support for art. How, HOW is it that vain, brainless, arrogant people get to be on TV, while talented, hard-working people who wish to do something entertaining and important struggle to do so? Why is there a paying audience for vain, brainless, arrogant people on TV, at the expense of stories worth watching? WHY?
The DNTO podcast partly answered my question. There’s a section in it with an author named Jake Halpern, who’s written a book titled Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truths Behind America’s Favourite Addiction. Please, do listen, and fear. When people say they would rather be a celebrity’s bag handler than a lawmaker, it tells me this:
audiences watch people who would otherwise never be famous, because it means anyone in that audience could one day be on TV too, and have their brush with fame.
Perhaps it’s an offshoot of my recent identity crisis from playwright to prose-writer, but I really want to do some research and write out my own ideas on this, as…an essay, I guess? Does anyone do that anymore?
For now, I feel a little less alone in feeling alone. I mostly write–and re-write–with no company other than my cat. And when a show (which I have produced myself) ends, once the joy wears off, I feel empty. Along with anger at myself for feeling self-pity when the shows of friends didn’t do so well. PLUS resentment, on behalf of us all, at morons who steal focus from us by being morons.
I will attempt to explain tomorrow just why on earth I still do this.