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Many people’s jobs require them to account for their time in order to get paid. They write reports, they give presentations, they, they – well I have no idea what normal people do in normal jobs, but that’s what they do on TV and I’ll buy that. The person who ensures that they get paid demands reasonable proof that they’ve not been largely unconscious for the past week. However, the only person who knows if an actor has spent most of the past month watching Judge Judy and eating Nutella from the jar is the actor him or herself, and possibly the lady at the dole office who can smell the Nutella.

Although the accepted term is “actor”, this word actually only describes a tiny portion of what we do. It describes the best part, the part that we do it all for, but it is probably also the smallest part. So here is my report, detailing the main things that I have to do before I actually get to act.

First I spent a year at drama school. During this I spent a long time humming on my back, and covering scripts with meaningful gibberish such as “Remote with Adream outer. Direct/Bound. I squeeze you.” Then I spent weeks putting together and sending letters and emails to agents to introduce myself, with absolutely no response. Then I got a job at a pub so that I could pay my rent. As this allows me to look for acting work (and, conveniently, live), I count this as the work of an actor.

I spend 40 minutes each morning hauling my body into shapes it shouldn’t make, breathing in an obstreperous way, and doing lots more humming on my back. Then, if I’m not working, I’ll recite monologues into empty space. After that, I trawl casting websites for work, despair at humanity for a while, and then scan Twitter and Facebook for any other jobs or networking opportunities that they might be hiding. I’ll read a few articles so that I have the faintest idea what’s happening in the world and in theatre, and I’ll deal with my emails. Other things include doing the odd course or workshop; general networking (shudder); keeping all my professional media up to date, i.e. online profiles, CV, headshots, voicereels, etc; watching plays/films, concentrating on nothing but the acting and forgetting to listen to the story; doing sneaky detective work to find out which casting director is casting what, and sending them pointless speculative emails; attempting to practise the piano; staring at the phone.

For an audition I’ll spend some time analysing, learning and rehearsing a piece of text, then speaking it into thin air (see above). If I get the part, I’ll spend a good deal of time rehearsing the play and learning my lines, and also send out more emails and letters inviting industry professionals to come and see it, knowing not only that they almost certainly will not, but also that I probably won’t even hear back from them. But it’s got to be done. I have a friend who has given herself carpal tunnel syndrome simply from sending out hundreds of these emails. The show opens, and I squeeze in an extra warm-up between my shift at the pub and curtain-up.

Oh, then I get to do some acting for a couple of hours. And it’s bloody worth it.

Hope that’s ok, boss. When do I get my bonus?

Photo by Flickr user Fred_V under a Creative Commons licence.