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Student Blog: In the Real World

Being an Artist for a Living

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash
Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

I did in fact make it through finals while traveling back home to work on another show. Time flies when you're stuck on a train and frantically memorizing lines in a dialect that you're not used to. One weekend of that show is done and I'm waiting to hear about casting for another. Regardless, I'll be busy with my day job this summer.

The artist's life is non-stop, it seems, and I'm unsure if I like that or not. There's a freedom in knowing that you operate outside of the normal nine-to-five day, and yet there's a good chance that you have a normal nine-to-five day and then rehearsals or auditions. Falling into the structure of a "standard" job while also seeking out work as an artist is a balancing act that all creatives have to master. At times, it seems absolutely overwhelming, and I'm lucky enough to have a boss and coworkers who understand my schedule and are willing to help me change things around when I need it. But this isn't the job I'll have for the rest of my life.

Very soon, I'll be living in the city, and I'll have to find a job similar to the one I have, or the stereotypical waitressing job where I'm paid in the tips I get and little more. My friends tell me I'll be the best barista in New York.

But how am I to survive on that? How are artists supposed to survive on that? Though we aren't doing it for the money-especially when we start out-we must find a sustainable way to pay for our food, living, and transportation. The waiting game is fine to play in between auditions. If you don't get it, you don't get it. You learned something, you met more people and maybe they'll keep you in mind for another role, and you move on. But while you play the waiting game with auditions, you're probably playing the paying game with your other job.

You can wait for your paycheck, but if you're not making much at your non-acting or non-theatrical job, what are you going to do then? There has to be a sustainable way to live on the income you can depend on, not the income you might make if you maybe get a role or behind-the-scenes job. No one really talks about this, either, and that's the scary part. I'm going to be a senior. This will be the last summer in between school years for me, and I'm spending it in my childhood home. Will I be here next summer, getting paid four hundred dollars a week at the same job I have now while I work with my local theatre company? Or will I be at a job that pays me who knows how much while I look for acting jobs that might not pay me much at all?

I want to do what I love and get paid for it, enough that I don't have to worry about another job. Is that mildly unrealistic? Probably. But in the meantime, how am I going to manage having a job while also finding acting gigs? And how am I going to find a job that pays reasonably well, enough so that I don't need to depend on anyone else for money? It seems like common sense, but I don't think it is. This is the scary part, not just in being an adult, but being an adult who wants to be an artist for a living. I'll find a way.

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From This Author - Student Blogger: Rachael Schuster