I could introduce myself, give you a list of credentials, sum up my bio and validate my reasoning for writing this blog or I could be honest and say that I just dropped a peanut down my shirt and went digging for it furiously amid my bra cups while chewing my snack wildly in anxious anticipation of getting you to like me and getting you to like what I say.
Because isn’t that what actors do? Get you to like us? Get you to cast us? Get you to believe we’re talented enough and beautiful enough and funny enough so you will pay $50 to sit in a dark room and watch us on stage? Yes – we do all of that.
So, of course, I would crave that – desire that affirmation from you. My friend and fellow-actor, Mallory Hammond, says actors are actors because they severely lack attention in essential areas of their lives. They lack it on the small scale and, therefore, demand it on the big scale.
…So do you like me yet?
Okay – enough about me. I won’t have you believing the egotistical narcissist stereotype – although we actors do have our moments.
Yes, I’m an actor and I’m not apologizing for it. My parents told me to be whatever I wanted to be and – like most of my fellow American generation – I took them up on that.
I was given everything as a child. Not in a spoiled I-demanded-everything way. Just in the sense that if my parents went without something in their childhood, they made sure I had it in mine. I had things I didn’t know I needed because I didn’t have a chance to lack them.
This grew in me and my fellow late 80s babes a sense of entitlement, a sense of: I’ll have that – not because I need or want or deserve it, but because I’ve always had everything whether I asked for it or not.
Then technology expanded and everything instantaneous was literally in the palms of our hands: online shopping, g-chat and texting, instagram, face time and Skype. Now we were not only entitled to everything – we had everything at our screen-touching finger tips and in instant 3G access, too!
There is an app for that – apps we didn’t know we needed were give to us for free whether we asked for them or not: brilliant!
So when we graduated in 2010 and weren’t CEOs and Broadway stars, and, well, Batman or something – we were confused. We were told we could be whatever we wanted to be – so why were we getting coffee, making copies and talking out the trash? Why did the economy suck and why weren’t there any jobs – for anyone?
How do you be whatever you want to be when for the first time in a long time the answer you hear is: No. …?
Yes, I’m an actor and I’m not going to apologize for it.
I’ve run more errands, made more coffee, and babysat more kids than I’d care to admit. I’ve worked more “day jobs” at one time that anyone should ever have to. And I’ve also had more experiences, met more people, and been more inspired than I ever could have been if I’d just been told “yes” and handed a Broadway role.
This is the response to my generation’s “no.” This is my generation finding its voice. This is me for my generation choosing to express myself in more than 140 characters and starting to speak the truth on stage and off – face to face and voice to voice – not screen to screen.
As an actor, a writer, an entrepreneur, a traveller, an adventurer and part of the new generation, it’s my job to tell the truth. That’s what you’ll find here.
If you want to be an actor:
- Be a doctor instead (joke)
- Invest in good headshots (email me for specific recommendations)
- Keep an excel spreadsheet of who you’ve met or auditioned for. List the person’s name, the theater they’re with, the play/part you auditioned for, what you wore, the monologue or side you did, the date you did it, the location of the audition, if you were called back, and any other notes on the actual experience.
- Create a personal website. It can be as fancy as you like, but it can also be simple, basic, and clear and still get the point across. Take a look at mine at: www.janastambaugh.wordpress.
- Train – take classes. I’m talking acting and business classes. As an actor, you have your own start up business on your hands and need some business savvy.
- Go to auditions: even when it’s early and you don’t feel like it. If you’re good for the role, get out of bed, shower, promise yourself a latte and go.
- Create your own theater. Some of the most rewarding work I’ve done came out of a project I was extremely passionate about and created with friends and artists from scratch – you invest your whole self in it and it’s worth it.
Things to avoid:
- Dating other actors
- Unpaid work you aren’t passionate about
- Times Square and its tourists
- Sittingo n your couch in your bra and underwear eating a pint of ice-cream
Mistakes I’ve made:
- Getting caught in a scam – I auditioned for an improv troupe early on in NYC and was cast and allowed one performance with the company – if I sold a certain number of tickets or ate the cost. I ate the cost and then after the performance, I was asked to pay to continue working with the company. I declined and was no longer a part of the ensemble. You should never have to pay to perform.
- Getting caught in another scam – I was cast in a show and then promptly asked how many people I could guarantee in the audience. After giving a certain number of people, I was handed a token role in the play. The role was not age appropriate and it had been re-cast three times before it was given to me. It turned out this was a play that was performed over and over again, but using different casts and, therefore, bringing in new crowds of people to make the box office money. You should never take a role solely to make other people money.
- Assuming graduating from Syracuse and moving to NYC meant I should have it all together and be successful from the starting gate. Not only did I not have it all together, but trying to convince myself that I did turned out to be more detrimental to my development as an artist than openly admitting I didn’t have it together and might never have it all together would ever be. It’s okay to be an amateur when that’s what you are.
- Letting the day job take over. Because I was worried about finances in moving to NYC, I was afraid to call out of my day job and go on auditions, but that’s what a day job is for: a flexible schedule. Call out, go on the audition, and pick up an extra shift later. There will always be an extra shift.
- Forgetting this is my life. My career is not my life and while I want to enjoy what I do and find success, it doesn’t define me. It’s easy to become a workaholic when you haven’t “made it big yet.” Give yourself a day off and go and sit in the park at least once a week.
S**T Actors Say:
- When I’m 30, I’ll be perfect for my type.
- I can’t sing today – I have a cold.
- I’m so tired.
- I need coffee.
- I can’t eat that – I’m cleansing.
- When I’m 40, I’ll be perfect for my type.
- I can’t sing – I strained my throat.
- Do you think I should be Hermia or Juliet today?
- When I’m 50, I’ll be perfect for my type.
- I’m only consuming juices.
- Juliet, definitely Juliet.
- I can’t sing – I’m – uhh – have you lost weight?
- I’m on a diet – I’m only drinking water.
- You are so Juliet today!
- When I’m 80, I’ll be better than Betty White. When I’m 80, I’ll be perfect for my type.
- If I could just get a commercial, I could pay all of my bills!
- I don’t know any other actors!
- I only know other actors!
- I’m sick of being single.
- All my actor guy friends are gay.
- When I’m on my death bed I’ll have achieved Meryl and my soul will pass from me into acting heaven for my faithfulness and Meryl’s angels will wait on me.
Jana (it rhymes with “banana” or “anna”) is an artist from Clarksville, Maryland. Growing up her parents always told her to “be whatever you want to be.” Seeing as she has come from three generations of doctors, she obviously became an artist. As an actor, she has performed internationally Off-Broadway, and locally to the Baltimore/DC area. Favorite roles include Juliet, Ariel, and Caliban. Jana is the Founder of Red Connect Online, a social media marketing company that creates customized advertising campaigns for small businesses. You can listen to her podcast, Confessions of a Closet Christian, on the E-Squared Media Network. You can also follow her on Twitter (@Jana_Stambaugh) and friend her on Facebook.