Tuesday, November 1, 2011

I would I had bestowed that time in the tongues that I have in fencing, dancing and bear-baiting. O! had I but followed the arts!

My original life plan—at 15—was to go to NYC after high school and become the toast of Broadway. At 17, when I graduated from high school, it was to work for 2 years, save up as much money as I could and THEN go to NYC and become the toast of Broadway.

Yeah,…um,…well,..here I am. 58 and trudging through the work week to barely keep my head above water.

Yes, I have continued to make my form of art on various stages in the Philly area, but I often wonder what would have happened if I had gone to New York. Would I have made it to the point of actually being a working actor? Or would I have struggled mightily and wound up coming back home, my tail between my legs? Who knows. There’s a strong possibility it would have been the latter—I wasn’t strong enough back then; it’s taken life kicking me around a lot to toughen me up.

You see, a life in the arts in the United States is not easy. We are probably the only country on the planet that does not really support its artists (of all genres). And that’s sad—our art is what defines us as humans. Think how empty life would be without music, film, books, graphic design, theatre….

As the Philly theatre scene burgeoned over the past 30 years, I often wondered why I didn’t jump into the fray. Raising two kids and having to work part-time to keep things going was a factor—theatre work is very erratic at best. Most of the actors and directors I know have teaching jobs to supplement their income. Which is another thing—budgets for arts education are getting decimated. So these folks are finding it harder and harder. And kids are missing out on a vital piece of their development—it’s been proven that arts education helps students in other subjects. And a country that doesn’t foster creativity will suffer—where will the thinkers who can come up with new approaches to issues come from?

My brother and his husband work in the commercial/Broadway world; I have no idea how they keep it all going—they are on unemployment almost as much as they are working. I don’t think I could hack that. A lot of the time, one or both of them is out on the road because nothing was available in Manhattan. That’s a difficult life too.

Of course, when I became my only means of support, it really became crucial to have that steady income. My one foray into working in the arts (on the administrative side) didn’t go so well. I’m still trying to dig myself out of the financial hole that created.

Another thing I can’t help wondering about is whether success in the commercial Broadway world of theatre would have spoiled my love for the art form. Theatre is still an avocation for me. The root of the word “amateur” is “for the love of.”

And I do love it. I love making people laugh; I love making them think; I love touching their hearts.


  1. Art and it's support is a bitter pill for me! I see it disappearing from out schools. Along with music and gym...even recess!!!!!! All the fond memories I have partaking in these subjects....so sad! Kids today will not experience that. And how will they learn to express themselves?? And I firmly believe artists are born...what is to become of those with these gifts!!??
    As you can see...it upsets me to no end!
    Keep on creating sweetie...!!!!

  2. you are so right. the peolpe in this country have no appreciation for the arts and forget support. can't make a living in the arts? get a real job! see, that's their attitude. get a 'real' job. art is the first thing that is cut out of any budget...personal, school, government. the republitards zeroed in first thing on the NEA. cut, slash and burn. no wonder this country spends all it's time and money on war.