Sunday, March 29, 2015

I agreed to this

'What do you do?'
'I dance I act and I sing, and I work a bunch of random jobs on the side'

My usual response. Because it's accurate. There's nothing worse than someone who answers 'I'm an actress' because then they get asked 'oh what are you in right now?' And if the answer is nothing,'s awkward for both parties.
Not that we shouldn't be proud to be following dreams and living for artistic fulfillment but in terms of accuracy...if someone spends most of their time teaching children biology in a school but also did the flowers for 25 weddings last year are they a florist or a teacher? If they say florist but then explain their teaching job people are confused.
I'm an actress dancer and singer as well as a babysitter, a PA, a GA and a waitress. I'm proud of all that - lucky for me I am really good at all those things too so I can take pride in every aspect of my life.
There is also the element of practicality to  consider, however. If I was paid consistently and well enough to live on only for dancing singing and acting, would I do all the other things? No, of course not. I like them they're good jobs but they are still 'survival' jobs.
The thing is, I signed up for that.
By moving to NYC and pursuing theatre I signed an invisible contract that states
I the undersigned understand that I am agreeing to a life that is notoriously unstable, inconsistent, unpredictable and poorly compensated.
It's true. I was well aware of that going in. It is not a big secret that people trying to break into acting are faced with fierce competition and frequently no pay. The word stipend starts to look like it actually says $1 million, after a while.

I'm saying all this because I just saw a headline about 'NYC to bring affordable housing for artists and musicians'
Ok...I feel weird about this. And what I'm about to say will make me some kind of traitor to my kin and kind so I'm ready to fall on my own sword.

When there are teachers, nurses, loan paying medical interns, environmental scientists and other professionals who are in fields that directly impact the safety and wellbeing of all people, why are the artists the ones being given affordable housing?
Art is important. It's my salvation. It's my raison d'etre. But I also recognise that if, heaven forbid, I were to be in a car crash, I would want qualified medical professionals on the scene not slam poets. Nurses and teachers are trusted with other people's loved ones every day and yet are notoriously overworked and underpaid.  *stats*
I must reiterate that I in no way denounce the benefits of art theatre music and all things creative...I'm just saying...if you wanted a stable life with consistent enough income to be in control of your housing situation, maybe you should have looked into plumbing or accounting.
Artists are not paid as much because while essential, they are not essential in the same way as those protecting our education, physical health and world. Like, literally people who you could die without.
To me there's a clear difference.
I signed up for: pursuing creative projects, acting, singing and dancing and understanding that if those didn't immediately leave me rolling in cash, I would need to find other ways to get by. Which I have.
And I'm still going to play Beatrice in a Shakespeare's Birthday performance of Much Ado About Nothing.
I don't need the city to dole out affordable housing especially for me because I chose to do this and got here on my own two feet. Just like I chose to work a 14 hour day last weekend. Noone made me do it.
I signed up. I felt the grind. And I reaped the rewards. (Fourteen hours STRAIGHT, on my feet but for 5 minutes to eat and 15 minutes subwaying from job 1 to job 2...I'm pretty much a vampire slayer by this point that's how tough I am)
Guess what? It's New York City.
EVERYONE could use affordable housing.
Controversial I know but also highly pragmatic, non?

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