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To Be Or Not To Be

By Amalah

Hi Amy,
I could really use your sage advice. I’m trying to decide whether to honor this commitment I made or back out quick, like a bunny. I’m an actor/singer/creative type living in a major metropolitan city. I’ve been cast in a great play, a professional (but unpaid) production. I am also working an office job about 30 hours a week and in college part-time. The show’s rehearsals begin in about 6 weeks, and once they begin I will be saying goodbye to my life (also my boyfriend) (also my sanity). I will be rehearsing 5 days a week to start, and 7 days a week near the opening of the show. I will be at rehearsal until 11:00pm most nights, and reporting for work the next morning at 7:00 am, going straight from work to school and straight from school back to rehearsal.
The part itself is killer. My character has basically had her life destroyed. She has huge emotional breakdowns twice in the script, which I will be responsible for reinacting every night.
Also, my birthday falls a week before the show opens, when we’re rehearsing 7 days a week. There will be no time off for birthday celebrations, I already asked. Instead, there will be a very long rehearsal on my birthday.
All of those things – the crazy hours, missing my birthday, the emotional exhaustion- would be okay if it weren’t for the fact that my heart just isn’t in theatre anymore. I feel like I’m finally ready to admit that I’m not going to be a professional actor, and I just want to finish school as fast as possible and get on with my life. The play cuts into my work schedule (and therefore my money) and also my school time (I’m taking far fewer classes than I’d like to this semester, and I have no concept of how I’m going to fit in study time.)
Part of me really, really wants out of this. I know I’m going to be a wreck. I’d like to see my boyfriend sometime between now and Christmas. And yet, I made this commitment a long time ago, and if I back out of this show now it will leave the director (who is a friend of mine) scrambling to recast. It will cause a LOT of bad blood and it will burn most of my theatrical bridges.
This is the best role I’ve been given since I moved to this city. I hate to miss the opportunity, and I hate the idea of seeing another actress in the role. I am so torn! Please help!
P.S. Sorry to be so long winded.

Well! This is a new one.
I think you should do the play. And it took me a long time to settle on that answer, because I keep re-reading all your reasons for NOT doing the play and they are good ones. You will be stressed and tired and overextended, there is no doubt about that. But my gut reaction is that you should do the play, and I’m sticking with my gut on this one.
Because here’s the worst-case scenario for doing the play: You figure out once and for all that the theater is not for you.
That’s really it. You spend a few months in scheduling hell. You miss your birthday.You set your education and finances back a little bit and you spend a lot of time on the phone with your boyfriend. Yes, all of these things will suck, especially if you eventually decide that in the end, you made all these sacrifices for something that ultimately doesn’t end up being your life’s calling.
But personally, I’d rather go with THAT worst-case scenario than the other one, which is NEVER EVER KNOWING. What if you love doing the play? What if the sacrifices melt away into an inevitable and ultimately worthwhile time of paying your dues? There’s only one way to find out, and that’s to honor your commitment, take the part and kick ass every night on stage.
There will be other birthdays and other semesters. There will definitely be other office jobs.There might not be other parts like this and other chances to see if acting is really what you want to do. Look at this play as your last chance, your last hurrah, your last time to indulge in the acting bug before life gets all serious and long-term.
If I may borrow a quote from Arthur Miller (and Mir’s banner image)…”Maybe all we can hope to do is end up with the right regrets.”
That sounds about right.

Published August 29, 2007. Last updated August 29, 2007.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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