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TBA Online: News & Features: February 2019

The Business Of Show Biz: Romance vs. My Career

Wednesday, February 6, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Rotimi Agbabiaka
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by Velina Brown

Q: Maybe this isn’t actually a business question but it sort of is as it relates to having both a satisfying work life and personal life. Sometimes I feel like I have to choose between having a long term romantic relationship and my acting career. Since most people tend to work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, my erratic schedule of various teaching artist and catering gigs that fit around my Tuesday to Sunday evenings and weekends performance schedule makes it a real challenge to get together on a regular basis with a non-theatre person. For most folks, Monday is not a date night. A couple times I had a relationship that was manageable when I was in a lull between shows. But once my career was popping again the relationships fell apart. “You’re always busy!” or “Why can’t you call in sick just this once for my birthday party?” are the sort of complaints I’ve heard. It’s frustrating. Me and most of my actress friends are in our 20s, single, and not interested in a series of blind dates and booty calls. Is it possible to make the committed relationship/theatre career combination work? And if so, how? Asking for a friend. ; )

Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.

 

A: As a person who has been married to an actor/director/writer for 26 years I can tell you: yes, the committed relationship/theatre career combination can work. You don’t have to choose between your work and having a partner. You do though have to choose the right partner.
I know some folks think it’s a bad idea to date folks in the biz, particularly actors dating each other. I guess they’re imagining two giant egos not being able to fit in the same room or something. But not every actor is like that. And there is real value in partnering with someone who understands what you do.

It’s highly unlikely that an actor would ask you to call in sick and miss a show for a party. They would know better!  My husband and I know we’re going to be gone a lot during tech week or that some special occasions, birthdays, and date nights will be celebrated on Mondays. I’m not trying to sugarcoat it. It’s a challenge fitting all the different aspects of what we do together. But because we value each other and generally understand each other’s priorities and choices we are willing to make the adjustments and provide the support needed to do what we do.
The first time I ever really thought about the remarkable demands of being in a relationship with a busy theatre artist was when my then-boyfriend, now-husband was preparing to go on tour with a show for twelve weeks and a friend from high school said, “He’s gonna be gone for twelve weeks? I couldn’t do that.” I said, truly confused, “What do you mean you couldn’t do that?” I was thinking: if your partner is the one on tour what’s there for you to do? She said, “I couldn’t DO that. If he’s not here what good is he? I’m not waiting around for TWELVE WEEKS.” I was shocked. It actually had never occurred to me that someone would break up a relationship because their partner had a great opportunity that would take them out of town for a while. I had spent a summer working in Ashland, Oregon the previous year with no threat of a break up. Of course I was going to keep the home fires burning while my partner had this great chance to tour. It was a bit lonely sometimes but we talked on the phone everyday and kept each other up to date. It was exciting for me to hear about his adventures and it was comforting for him to hear about home. But obviously it’s not like that for everyone.
In my family, with a registered nurse mom and career army officer dad, adjusting to the requirements of someone’s work was simply what a family did. It was part of the definition of family to do that. So to say “I can’t DO that”, is the equivalent of saying, “I don’t love you. You’re not worth waiting for.”
Resilience and adaptability are necessary qualities in a partner for folks in many lines of work, not just actors. You are not alone in the struggle.
Honestly, I can’t tell you how, when, or where you’ll find your partner. But I can tell you that resilient, adaptable, artist-loving people do exist. And I can suggest that you and “your friend” consciously make the most of this phase in which you don’t need to coordinate your work/play priorities with anyone else. Then when the time comes, let the adapting begin!

Velina Brown is an actor and career consultant. Send her your questions at velina@businessofshowbiz.com