The Business of Show Biz: Celebrate Success
Friday, March 4, 2016
Everyone, at some point, deserves to take a break. And this month, Velina Brown has definitely earned her break! For her readers, she sends along this previously published column (May 2010)—because the question of success, happiness and the relationship between the two is evergreen. -TBA
By Velina Brown
Q: My roommate and I are both actors. We’ve been friends since college. When we were in school we were both in shows all the time. Now that we are out of school my work has fallen off and my roommate has made a smooth transition into professional theatre. It is starting to strain our friendship. Yes, I’m jealous. But I’m also trying to figure out what happened. As far as I know we started out even. We’re the same age, we have the same training, we had the same amount of experience. Actually, I’m better at dialects and dance than she is, but recently that hasn’t mattered at all. This has been going on almost a year. I’m just worried that this is how it’s going to be now: my friend working all the time and me stalled. What do I do?
|Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.
A: First, what not to do: Don’t take your slump personally. Everyone, I mean everyone, has their ups and downs. Even if you typically work constantly, there will come a time when you will experience a lull. It does not mean you were good before and now you suddenly suck. It only means everyone has their ups and downs. It’s just the way things are. It’s like the saying, “This too shall pass.” Things just awful? This too shall pass. Things just great? This too shall pass.
Don’t bother comparing yourself to your friend. You are each on your own journey. I know this is tough because we are so trained to compare everything. Who’s better? Who’s winning? Who’s got more? And your friend is right there in the same house, so you have a ringside seat to her current good fortune. If you’re in a scarcity mindset, then it feels like more for her means less for you. But this isn’t the case; her situation has nothing to do with yours. Imagine that you’re both at a carnival and get on different rides at the same time. When you’re going up and she’s going down on your respective rides, it doesn’t mean that you’re better than she is any more than her going up while you’re going down means she’s better than you. You’re just having different experiences at the moment.
I do understand. Similar to you, soon after I’d gotten out of school I hit a slump. Meanwhile, my boyfriend (now husband), Michael, was on a roll. I had been on a roll. Up to this point, pretty much whenever I wanted to be in a play I was in a play. In fact, my acting jobs helped pay for grad school. (This was before it cost an arm and a leg to go to a state school, but still.) When I graduated I was in a hit show in a midsize theatre. Then another cool gig, and then my first LORT theatre gig. Woo-hoo! Then...nothing. But right when everything dropped off for me, Michael was suddenly in a hit show. A big hit. The show went on a three-month national tour. For me, nada. Then they played off-Broadway. For me, zilch. Then they took the show to the Middle East! For me...you get the picture. At that point, I’d never toured, never played New York, never worked abroad. I, like you now, wondered if this was how it was going to be henceforth. Michael was leading the most exciting life, and I was sitting at home alone. But since then, I’ve done all those things—just at different times. Things have ebbed and flowed for both of us. And fortunately, we didn’t let the natural ebb and flow blow up our relationship.
Don’t get bitter. Bitterness is extremely unattractive and will prevent you from being cast. Each time I’ve been in the casting seat at least one bitter actor has walked in spewing bitterness fumes. The bitterness is immediately noticeable. And once they speak, it’s confirmed. Yick. Don’t want to spend any time at all with this person, let alone a six-day-a-week rehearsal process.
So, What do you do?
Stay positive. (You knew I was going to say this, right?) You worked before, you will again. Enjoy your free time while you have it! In the meantime…
Keep in shape. Get thee to a class. Keep your chops up so that, when opportunity knocks, you’re ready.
Enjoy your friend’s success. You can’t attract success to yourself while begrudging the success of others. I agree with Bonnie Gillespie in her book Self-Management for Actors when she says, “Anytime I see someone succeed, I am happy, for it affirms my belief that I live in a world where success is possible.”
Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.