Why Aren’t You Working?

Why Aren’t You Working?

Stephen Purdy

Years ago I ran into an actor friend that I like and admire on the Upper West Side in New York City and I asked him the perennial question we theatre people tend to slip in after the pleasantries: “Are you working?” His reply resonates today as much as then: “I’m always working” he said. “I’m just not always getting paid for it.”

This time of year can be frustrating and confusing for an actor if you didn’t book a summer gig. So you’re not “working?” You should still be “working.”

True, you may have spent three months auditioning your tail off, getting so close and then not getting the call. Your may feel crushed at the outcome. You might even be questioning whether this is the life you want. But you can’t take a vacation from your craft.

Coaches will offer soft, encouraging phrases like “Don’t worry. Your number will come up.” But I, as a coach, don’t believe that can be a truthful universal response. I’d love it if all my students would eventually book, but I know that not all will. Whether or not they will book a show is more often than not predicated on how hard they’ve worked to “deliver the goods” in the audition room.

I have a student who I love and adore who didn’t book a show this summer. I believe that by and large it’s the voice that is holding this student back. The student has heaps of talent and wide appeal but the voice simply isn’t strong enough to be competitive yet. The student vowed weekly summer lessons in May. It’s mid July and I haven’t heard a peep. Other students come to their lessons the way others attend church: every week nearly without fail. It’s about priorities.

You always have to be “working”. You can’t wait to begin fixing the holes in your technique when audition season is up and running or near-approaching. It’s the reason baseball players have spring training well before the season starts. If you begin working to fix your technique issues, up-ing your vocal game, going to dance classes and getting your book and audition presentations rock solid once auditions begin it’s too late. And there will be another actor standing beside you in the line who has already done the work. And that’s the person that I place odds on.

Invest in yourself. The returns can be astounding.

So what are you doing this summer?

Stephen Purdy is the author of Musical Theatre Song: A Comprehensive Course published by Bloomsbury and a vocal teacher and coach in New York City at Marymout Manhattan College and privately. Visit stephenpurdy.com and follow on Twitter: @purdyvocalcoach and Facebook: Stephen Purdy Vocal Coach and Author