So it’s been two months since you’ve had an audition. So long since you did any meaningful acting work that your facial muscles are beginning to seize up and your alas-poor-Yorrick arm doesn’t work any more. Every word that you diligently send out into the void detailing exactly why you’d be perfect for an unpaid production of Romeo and Juliet touring the country on a horse and cart, or Bollywood film, or corporate role-play about selling peanuts, is being utterly ignored and you have no idea why. And one day you wake up, go to do another day shift at the pub, accidentally drop a plate of nachos all over someone’s table, and something snaps.
You suddenly realise that not having any acting work has sneakily sucked all of the joy out of everything. You’ve got nothing to talk to people about except the fact you dropped nachos on someone today. You think if you have to tell one more person that you’ve got nothing going on ‘on the acting front’, when they good-naturedly ask you about it, you’ll brick yourself up behind a wall and live there until you get an email from Spotlight.
In fact, you feel like you’re living behind that wall already. You’re disconnected from everything because you can only think or care about how to get work and how long it’s been since you’ve had any. There’s a hot, squirming something gurgling away inside you somewhere, pushing up against your skin with nowhere to go. Going to the theatre is simultaneously relief and torture. You’re uninspired and uninspiring.
You badly want a hug, and for someone to say “that sucks for you, but it’ll be ok” over and over, but a) I wouldn’t even expect my mum to do that more than once a week, and b) you brought this on yourself anyway. Think of all the things you could be doing with your life, your opportunities, your intellect, if you weren’t doing this. You’re frankly a waste of a lengthy and expensive education, and no-one can be expected to feel sorry for you. You’re the skinny pigeon with one eye and a gammy leg in a crowd of pigeons all fighting for a Dorito that someone dropped in a puddle.
I mean, actors live with these thoughts pretty much all the time when they’re unemployed. It’s just that occasionally the weight of it inevitably comes crashing down onto you like the grand piano that Wile E. Coyote inexplicably ends up holding above his head with his skinny little arms. When that happens, there will always be a few days when all you want to do is make a cup of tea that you won’t drink, turn off all the lights and cry. And then, after this periodic, vital, inescapable catharsis, you’ll shove that piano back into the air because when all’s said and done, you’ve got to keep on being an actor haven’t you, and you can’t sit and cry forever. And you’ve got snot all over your duvet.
Nothing can be done to avoid bouts like this if you’re prone to them, but it’s important to recognise them for what they are when they come. It’s easy to attribute them to a different cause, to project blame for them onto other problems in your life, or worse, onto the people in it. They’re part of the package of crap that actors collect on their first day of drama school, and willingly carry around with them for the rest of their career. No-one’s making you carry it around with you, so it’s pretty bad manners to offload it onto someone else every time you can’t catch a break. Especially if they’re the one who’d help you out with that piano if you ask them nicely.