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There’s always someone waiting in the wings – an actor’s cycle of fear

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There is always someone ‘waiting in the wings’ to take your role.

This is an expression that every performer has heard countless times, so much so that it becomes embedded into your personal belief system. To an extent, it’s true. Our industry is over-saturated with people wanting to make their living as a performer, with many more hopeful and younger models getting churned out of drama school every summer. Yes, there is stiff competition (and a lot of it).

As a performer, I find that my career choice can be quite isolating. Support is always available from friends, colleagues, my agents etc, but my career is so very individual and none of us can find ourselves following a prescribed form. Even with the feeling of camaraderie that we gain when working on a show, there is still a strong acknowledgement that we are individuals (especially when asked if we would like to sign on for another contract).

[pullquote]We are workers and, although we are driven by passion, this is our livelihood[/pullquote]

This feeling of isolation often creates a fear that is utterly pervasive; a fear that is further promoted with beliefs that someone else could so easily step into our place. After huge amounts of training, money and work to further our skills we can be left feeling empty and valueless. During this time we often forget that we are workers and that, although we are driven by passion, this is our livelihood.

Good producers and companies help you understand this; they make you feel wanted and safe in the knowledge that you are bringing something to the team. Too often, though, performers are exploited for these feelings and put into difficult situations regarding broken contracts, pay issues, bad working conditions, abusive management etc.

These situations can make it easy to forget that performing is a job… after all there is always someone waiting in the wings. This uneasiness is usually followed by anxiety and beliefs that if you speak up about bad treatment that you’ll “never work for the company again” or “it can give me a bad name/get me blacklisted.”

What would your advice be to a friend working in a bank/the government/as a teacher? Would you expect them to deal with these situations purely because of fear?

No, because their job is usually much more separated from their sense of self, no matter how much they love it. The real question should be, though, would you ever want to work for this company/individual and get treated this way again?

It’s time that we understand that we are workers and deserve suitable working conditions. I’m not trying to incite a revolution, by any means, but having found myself in one of these abusive situations for the first time in my career I have been left wondering how we have allowed ourselves to get to this state. Now is the time to break this cycle of fear.

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