I was in New York City desperately trying to hustle my way to the top. I was working full time while also auditioning, networking at events, seeing plays and taking classes. My mom would call me everyday and tell me, “Have you seen (fill in whatever TV show she was watching)?” Yeah mom, what about it? “You should be on that show!” She would say.
Yes, mom, I would LOVE to be on that show! But for all of us that know the hustle and business of acting, we know how impossible and disheartening a statement like that feels. Because that show was untouchable. At least for me, a brand new actor in NYC with no representation or contacts. I was leagues away from even auditioning on a Network TV show.
I was beyond frustrated at the huge wall that all actors have to climb to get noticed. Even my mom was frustrated! “You just need to GET ON STAGE,” she yelled.
And like most moms, she was right!
So that’s exactly what I did.
photo by Joshua Hanson on Unsplash
I decided I was going to star in a play.
Now, I didn’t know ANYTHING about producing. I didn’t even know I was doing it! I just knew that somehow, I had to put together the pieces of this play so we could perform it. I needed funding, I needed a writer, a director, I needed to cast the other roles, I needed a theatre, etc. etc. etc.
This is the moment i became a multi-hyphenate actor.
I was not only “just an actor” anymore. I was now a producer. And guess what? I was pretty good at it! I was able to hone in on my organization and leadership skills and tap into a part of me that wanted to break through.
I was working as an assistant at an Off-Broadway theatre. They had a program called The Mentor Project which takes young writers and pairs them with successful playwrights. I had met one of our mentees named Beau Willimon. Because I didn’t know any other writers, I asked him if he’d want to write a play for me. He said yes! And not only did he say yes, he wanted to experiment and have his four other Juilliard graduate friends write on it too. Those writers were Elizabeth Meriwether, Billy Eichner, Sam Forman and Annie Baker. They were hustling at the time, JUST LIKE ME, to be seen and to get their work out there. Fast forward 15 years, all of these writers are successful Executive Producers, Showrunners, Writers and Pulitzer Prize winning Playwrights.
I put this play together piece by piece. I produced it and then I performed in it. We donated all of our proceeds to charity. It was hysterical and successful!
And now, I had the bug. I could create work for myself!
I didn't have to wait around for someone else to cast me.
More importantly, I didn’t have to play prostitutes or strippers, which were so many of the roles that were available to me.
Not long after I produced this play, I moved to Los Angeles. I didn’t want to be a waitress so I started interning at production companies. I took many different jobs that added to the hyphens in my title. But also…
I Started Consistently creating my own work.
And it’s because of this that SO MANY of the opportunities in this business opened up for me.
I whole-heartedly believe that you cannot be just ONE thing anymore. And also, why the heck would you want to? Each one of us has many talents that can be utilized to push ourselves forward. So how about you? What are your different talents that make you a multi-hyphenate? Maybe you’re already honing them or maybe you’re not quite sure yet. Whatever they are, I’m cheering you on!