What’s wrong?

Why is it that there is such a gigantic chasm in American Theater between independent productions and legitimate productions? I understand that there is a choke-hold on the amount of money coming in to theater simply because the return on the investment is so low, you have one show going up in one theater and a certain number of seats a night so there is really a very limited amount of money you can make. That choke-hold means that the big shows take the big money and the scraps are available for everything else, and it’s really tough to make theater for no money at all…

But independent films are shot for less than it takes to produce an off-off run, they involve more people, more know-how, and they end up *beter* much of the time than these terrible runs going up all the time in New York.

The problem is that we have no self-respect. None. We assume that people don’t want to work with us, that people of any significant talent or noteriety want only to work with people who have significant money and fame. We don’t think we deserve to work, and we act like it.

We have no self-respect. We’re willing to do anything. Our mantras are horrible. Work begets work, your only job is to audition, be available for any angle, your job is self-promotion. It’s awful and it isn’t true. My whole life I’ve worked, and the level of work I’ve dragged myself through has only succeeded in providing me with more opportunities to drag myself through the same level of work. Being satisfied with showing up to an audition but *not* getting the job is setting the bar at “self-hatred” and barely jumping over it. Self-promotion is almost always desperate and dishonest.

And the truth is, I’m just not available for any angle.

Why do I spend an hour calling rehearsal spaces, only to have most of the phone numbers no longer in service? Why do people show up at interviews without reading any source material? Why do we involve ourselves in producing, which is essentially a combination of politics and book-keeping, when we are essentially all artists?

We have no self-respect. I have friends who are wonderful actors that know as much about getting their 501C3 status as they do about Meisner. And all of these guys who start out wanting to be directors that become stage managers or sound designers because they can make a tiny chunk of money are nothing compared to the comstume or lighting designers that become something else, something sexier, like “actors” or “directors”, because that tiny chunk of money isn’t worth the depression, and you are, basically, whatever you can sell that you are.

When you enter in to a meeting for a job you want, you bow and supplicate your way in, flirting and flattering these stone mountains of casting directors and choreographers, and then you find yourself on the other side of the table, smiling huge and desperate at name actors and major talents, hoping they will grace your piece with their presence. The pecking order is confused, the more an artist needs his community to rally around a specific voice or idea, the less likely everyone will be to follow suit.

Because we smell fear, we smell desperation. We smell it because we wake up covered in it after every sweat-bath night of pipe-dream dreams filled with the fruition of our indignations, the possible but impossible soaring we dream will happen if we just keep flapping our wingless arms, the delusional climax that *just might happen* after years of masturbating with sandpaper.

We just have no self-respect.

So, can we do this? Pay our cell-phone bills and refuse the sex-farce musical that isn’t funny. Don’t fake it ’till you make it, instead sit down and try making something. Throw out the bad scripts you write and don’t call yourself a writer until you’ve done it. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard of *work*, not success. And go to the audition, but prepare yourself to refuse the job if it asks more from you than it gives. If every actor refused to work for a piece they don’t believe in, maybe the passion for the *work* would return.

God, actors sit around and, if they have any measure of self-knowledge, can rant about the terrible theater they’ve done for *way* longer than they can talk about the work they’ve done that has changed them. Gideon’s work may not have changed every audience member, and I don’t expect every audience member to think that our theater is good theater. It is simply passionate theater that we love.

If I offer you a role, and you think the show is dumb, then turn it *down*. But if you like the *piece*, not what the piece may be to the rest of the world, you genuinely like the piece, then sign on. I promise you, when the money comes in, you’ll get it. And if it doesn’t, you can go hungry knowing you did the piece you actually *loved*.