- Jonathan Jacob
How a theatre kid broke societal norms to travel full time.
Updated: Aug 3, 2022
"Move to the city. If you want to be a successful actor move to the city. Once you're in the city, get a job to support your rent, find an agent and try to audition. Auditioning is your other job. Agents are your gateway to success. Support yourself, a healthy social life and also find time to hit every audition you can. You want to be successful right? Hit. Every. Audition. You. Can."
This isn't healthy.
I cannot begin to explain how many people I talk to that think becoming an actor starts with moving to a big city, finding an agent and auditioning till their body shuts down. Only then to define their worth by comparing themself to others and assuming they aren't talented because they're not signing contracts or getting signed to an agency. But, like anything in life, an acting career is not one size fits all. Agents aren't the be all end all and booking work doesn't automatically provide happiness.
Remember when they told you to find your type? Well, what if your type doesn't follow the mold of what "normal" theatre/acting life entails? What if your type only auditions for what you know would make you happy instead of what gets you a contract?
All too often I see my friends working contracts they hate, being used and abused for next to no pay and it's so easy to post on social media saying, "booked and blessed". But define "blessed". Blessed to be putting your body, mind and energy through a ring of fire in order to say you are a working actor? What is the point if you don't grow? What is the point if you come home with nothing to show for the work, time and effort you put into the contract? This cycle needed to stop for me.
So, I left New York City. I left with a determination to prove societal norms wrong. Being a professional actor doesn't mean selling out for contracts that don't benefit you. If anything, I think being a professional actor is understanding that not every contract is right for you. Sometimes things will come your way that you have to say no to and guess what....that's ok. It's ok to say no.
I said no to contracts that didn't respect my time. I said no to contracts that didn't respect financial worth. I said no to contracts solely because it wasn't the kind of job I wanted. None of that has hindered my career and I am still a professional actor even though I said no, multiple times.
There is no contract with life that states we have to show up to an audition we don't jive with. There is no contract saying we have to accept every offer just to say we're working. This mentality needs to change in order for you to realize you can be happy living alternatively to the "actor life". I realized that this past year. I realized I didn't need to be living in NYC to book work. I realized I didn't need an agent to define my success. I realized I didn't even need an apartment to audition and I got a contract auditioning right inside of my van.
I broke the societal norms of actor life when I decided to drop my agency and again when I decided to uproot my life, donate everything I own and travel...full time. And guess what...I'm still booking. No agency is going to pigeon hole me, no location is going to weigh me down and nothing is going to stop me from seeing everything I possibly can, while I can.
I’m an actor who loves to travel and I found a balance of work and play that benefits me more than it ever has in the past. Downsizing and getting rid of everything extra in my life has granted me the ability to up and go without question. I‘m going to travel for eight months, overseas, singing for Norwegian Creative Studios and it took me a day to go through all of my stuff to get ready. I’m not leaving an apartment behind, I’m not scrambling for a sublet; I am fully prepared to step off into this contract, worry free, which I was never able to say in the past.
I’ll be honest, I thought I’d live in NYC for the rest of my life. I thought I’d go to college and get a degree in musical theatre. I got the grades, "I climbed to the highest place on every fire escape" to work my way into managing a bar in Manhattan so I could afford to live there and life kept getting in the way. Finances prevented me from college, contracts pulled me away from my job and all the hustle to keep myself afloat got in the way of me keeping a place for longer than a year or two. I truly don’t regret a thing. I think I needed it all to happen in order for me to realize that rolling with the punches is what actually makes me happy.
Never really having the safety or security of feeling settled is what keeps my jet set mentality so easy to work with. I truly feel whole wherever I go and that’s because I feel whole within myself. I give myself everything I need and follow my bliss every chance I can. I listen to my heart. I don't overthink the things I cannot control and I try to take stress with a grain of salt because it's all part of life.
So this is my message to you. Just because you’re a theatre kid at heart, doesn’t mean you have to succumb to the “norm” of the life of a theatre kid. Stop stressing yourself out for missing an audition, don’t worry about those classes that every one is saying you have to take in order to keep up with your gift and certainly don’t sell yourself short of a life you want to live because you’re afraid you won’t book work.
Take your career and your life into your own hands because no one knows you better than yourself.