• michaelabennison

Being an Actor: Expectations vs Reality

Updated: Jan 30

Anyone who works in theatre knows that people outside of the profession can have a skewed idea of what it's like. The stereotypes and representations they draw on are often vastly different to the reality of working in the performing arts.

This can lead to some awkward social situations as your Tinder date gushes about how interesting your life must be, or your aunt asks why you haven't been in a Marvel film yet.

So, in an effort to ease the frequency of these cringe-worthy moments, here are 6 common preconceptions non-theatre folks have about actors and acting, and what the reality actually is.

1) "Your job must be so glamourous!"

Not really. Usually, when we're not ushering, waiting tables or teaching drama to 5 year olds, we're in cold rehearsal rooms, damp theatres and staying in people's spare rooms. All in the name of that wonderful business we call show.

2) "It's all down to luck."

With the industry as saturated as it is, blind luck alone will get you nowhere. What you need to do is make your own 'luck': be diligent in your practice so your ready to take the opportunities that come your way, consider every opportunity that presents itself, make connections where you can, and strive to be the kind of company member people will want to recommend.

3) "Landing a role in a soap/big film franchise would mean you've succeeded."

This is a very narrow definition of success. Yes, film and TV work is more lucrative than stage, but commercials are even more so. If salary is your only measure, a McDonalds ad is the jackpot! Also, by taking franchise film or soap roles you run the risk of typecasting. Fame and notoriety in the short term can hinder your long term career.

4) "Actors are too thick to keep up with science/politics/finance etc."

Actors, like all other people, contain multitudes. Not everyone gets into theatre because they weren't high achievers at school. And many theatre professionals are politically active and socially conscious. I have a blog post on here about my favourite dinosaur, for crying out loud!

5) "Actors are attention seekers."

You can't be an actor if you hate receiving attention - the job involves people watching you! But it doesn't then follow that actors must crave attention all the time. That self-centered attitude would really hinder your work as an actor. Serving the story you're telling can often mean taking attention off of yourself and focusing it on where it's needed.

6) "You have to be young and beautiful to get work."

There's still a tendency for Hollywood stars to be young and beautiful. But in truth, theatre, film and TV is written to reflect real life to a certain extent. And in real life people exist at all ages and at all degrees of beauty. And actors can diversify into other areas like voice over and motion capture. There is work out there, even if you don't look like Kira Knightly or Jude Law.

So, there's 6 false expectations and rebuttals I've come up with after a long day of rehearsals. What are some you've come across?

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