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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.

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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  • Lori12309

    August 29, 2007 at 1:57 pm

    Very sage advice indeed, Amy..
    At my age, I have found that I regret much more the things I haven’t done than the things I have.
    “To be or not to be,” go find a copy of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” and take it to heart, honey.
    And then go break a damn leg!

  • Dear AL

    August 29, 2007 at 6:43 pm

    Amy, you blow Dear Abby away! Wonder if I should add you to my arch nemesis list.
    Rosemund, break a leg! If you boyfriend truly loves you, he’ll give you space.

  • Léonie

    August 30, 2007 at 5:58 am

    Just wanted to say that, as a fellow “creative type” (except in London) I know how appealing a normal life can be. It must be a really hard decision.
    I agree with Amy, though. I say do the play for the sake of the part of you that would always have leapt at the chance, disruption or no, and then at least you’ll know one way or the other.
    Good luck!

  • Léonie

    August 30, 2007 at 5:59 am

    I didn’t mean I’m creative except when I’m in London. That would be rubbish, seeing as I live there.

  • nancy

    August 30, 2007 at 11:21 am

    I disagree. I think Rosamunde needs to start with a pro/con list that includes basics like a schedule for sleeping, eating, exercising and possibly even studying. Coming from a sad, sad place full over over committed creative types, I think that sometimes you can work through this type of thing and it will be great, and sometimes you start to sacrifice your own physical and mental health when trying to be everything for everyone. Doing a show because you are afraid of burning bridges in a career you have decided is not for you? Maybe not the best choice. Are there are ways to be supportive of your previous decision, by spending some time helping with blocking and scene reading while they recast?

  • SarahJ

    August 30, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    I’m going to have to disagree on this one.
    First, if it’s a professional show, you’re going to be paid for it. End of story. Professional=Money Amature=”good experience”.
    This is why there is Actors Equity. So that people can’t be screwed around like this. Arg.
    From the post, she sounded like she was listing all the reasons why someone should tell her why it’s a better idea, this time around, to just skip it. Being in the same profession, I have to say that doing a show like under all the other “real life” pressures involved is possibly the WORST time to decide if you want to stay in the Biz.
    If the director is a so-called Friend, he wouldn’t put you in the position to put your life on hold for a hellish schedule and zero compensation. If you can work out something manageable with him, then great. Break a Leg and all of that. But it sounded like, to me, that you really want someone to give you permission to find a way out of this. Granted. Permission is yours.

  • Dear AL

    August 30, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    SarahJ, did you ment to write that you agree with Amy, or do you disagree with Nancy?
    Nancy has a point about the stress, but maybe that’s why Rosemund’s friend decided to cast her in that role, because she’ll know how that character feels.
    Rosemund, do the show, or this will bother you later on in life not knowing how this would have turned out if you performed.

  • SarahJ

    August 30, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    AL-with Amy. Sorry. Totally wasn’t clear. 🙂
    You need to be able to seperate work from home. An actors JOB is to be able to play a character and leave it at the door. Sure, being stressed in real life will help her pull some life experience into it, but everyone already knows what it’s like to be stressed out. You shouldn’t be living your part at home. *staying* stressed out is a sure fire way to get completely burnt out and bitter.

  • SarahJ

    August 30, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    wow. still wasn’t clear. I disagree with Amy saying “go for it”. I say, it really sounds like you shouldn’t. For all the reasons above. 🙂

  • Gullebarn

    August 31, 2007 at 10:51 am

    Do the play. Take time off from school if you need to. School will always be there. If the boyfriend truly cares about you he will adapt to your schedule. If he doesn’t, well then you can do better. Forget about the birthday stress. Bring cupcakes to the rehearsal that day and offer them to your castmates in celebration of your birthday. Do these things while you are young and don’t have a family whose needs come first. Once you have kids, it is all about them and you will never have a chance to do these kind of things without the mommy guilt creeping in.
    When I was 21 I took off and moved to LA, played in bands and had a general blast. I am so glad I did. I went back to school at 23 and never regretted taking the time off for a minute. I hear all the time from so many people how they are unfulfilled because they never pursued their dream and now they have no chance.
    You are only going to be young once. You’ll look back on this when you are 40 and smile.