Why isn't performing enough for me?

When I was a kid I was in a dance production company and I volunteered for everything...whether that was painting the sets, sewing the costumes, setting up the chairs, or running the projector.  I wanted to do it all, and my parents were the same.  My dad would be rolling sets on and off stage after building/painting them and my mom would be sewing costumes onto bodies backstage.  It was amazing. I think this wholehearted involvement has bled into how I choose to work now, as a professional artist.

I have had many contracts where I have auditioned and hired as an actor/performer.  I remember my first time asking the Producer, “Are you sure you don’t need any help? “ but I soon realized that everyone would prefer if we just stuck to our own roles.  The set designer designs a door, the builder builds it, the painter paints it, the producer organizes how it gets to the theatre, the stage manager sets it up, the director puts it into the right place, and finally the actor walks through it.  Basically the actor is encouraged to focus on making his/her performance the best it can be and not to worry about the details.  To some this is wonderful, and in many cases essential, but I often feel a lack of investment in the show.  Someone has my props lined up on a table for me, someone tells me when there is five minutes to show time, my costumes were provided, the set has arrived, and all I have to do is perform.   I don’t mean to make it sound like performers do nothing because that’s bullshit, but I think productions are better when the performers are involved in making the show happen.   Or are they?  Maybe they are just better for me.

I remember after one of my shows my Dad came up to me and said, “The skyline set looked awesome... but I’m sure glad I don’t have to paint anymore little windows,” and then he laughed.  He had sat in the audience and felt proud of his involvement, which also enhanced the performance for him. Who doesn’t love going to a show where you can sit in the audience and think, “I helped make this happen.”

The reason I have been thinking about this today is because Sam and I are in that amazing/exhausting first year of a theatre company where we are doing absolutely everything.   Eventually it will be wonderful to get some operating funding so that we don’t have to scramble as much, but I must say that I thrive in this environment.  I love that I know where every cent of our budget is being spent and I love that I am utterly and completely involved in not only this company but also the public presentations we are currently working towards.   We are all working hard, and I think it will show. 

- Jessica