Diving into the Performing Arts Industry in 2019!
Every actor who has spent years going from supporting roles to guest starring appearances before finally booking leading parts has encountered one, so have ballerinas who have gone from the ensemble’s last row to soloist and the West End singer introducing herself on the first day of rehearsals: Newcomers.
They’ve booked their first show upon graduating from performing arts schools, often are the youngest in the cast, and the world seems to be their oyster. After all, they’re young, in great physical shape, their technique is precise, polished. Having just completed their training program, they are curious, enthusiast, and unjaded by the industry. On the other hand, most are unknown, have yet to build their network, and wonder if what they’ve learned in school is what’s actually going on from stage left to stage right.
Who are these new faces suddenly appearing in the lights? Are these Millennials as self-centered and entitled as the media and backstage gossips reporting them to be? What is it like to dive in the performing arts industry in 2019?
The dancer, the acrobat, and the actor. All three in their early 20’s and perfecting their craft at the Contemporary Dance School, National Circus School, and National Theatre School in Montreal. A woman and two men with the desire to live off and for their passions “forever,” “until retirement” or “ ’til death part us!” A very warm, contagious energy lights their eyes when reminiscing about a theatre in Saskatoon, chatting with a friend in an urban farm field or that Ballets Jazz de Montréal performance where each first acknowledged that being on stage and telling stories with a script, tight wire or some twists and turns was their destiny. All three are inspired by diversity and looking forward to collaborating with other artists of all ages, backgrounds, and origins.
“It doesn’t matter what nationality you are, people are there to celebrate!” says Joel, the acrobat.
In spite of their respective institutions becoming the center of their lives and working full-time at becoming better artists these past three years, all three shake their head and quickly answer “No” when asked if full-time training is a job. If only for how different each year has felt and how the theory has slowly been vanishing at the expense of practice and personal interpretation. “The deeper we get, the bigger expectations towards the student body grows and the smallest the window for mistakes and failing becomes. This form of training regiment and schedule is very tiring, often feels self-absorbed, but it definitely is not a job.” reckons Benjamin, the actor.
“All of us know that it will get harder out there! Making money will be a welcome change, but training full-time will no longer be possible. Staying capable while covering ourselves financially, both on and off stage, is a new reality that each of us will have to face and learn to handle as fast as possible.” echoes Chéline, the dancer.
This trio of future graduates breaks the stigma that Millennials all want to make it big and fast by not bringing up salary when asked about their biggest interrogations toward the industry. This new generation is concerned about being able to display vulnerability on stage so early in their career, about knowing who is hiring, for what and how to reach them.
‘The notion of time is a big one for me. School keeps you so busy all week, I frankly would not know what to do with my downtime. Schools don’t prepare you for not working nor for maintaining artistry when there are no shows in sight. Seriously, having time, what’s that like?” asks Benjamin.
Delivering professional and moving performances while facing expectations from employers, working as a freelancer and the responsibilities that go along with self management are on their minds and feel foreign as other people above have been making the decisions for them since freshman year.
You can hear admiration for longtime performers in their voice, even if the dancer, the acrobat, and the actor disagree with the idea that the industry was better “back then.” They see diversity and the desire to let different voices being heard as priorities in today’s industry. Minorities are also more present than ever on our stages. To top it all off, all these political, intimate and artistic questions asked to and by creators and performers are even more good reasons to dive in the industry.
“Diversity and uniqueness are definitely present and valued in 2019!”
Their own interest in diversity, as well as their positivity, optimism, curiosity, and good communication skills, are what these newcomers want to bring to the arts world. They feel that this package is what will help them face the lack of funding that forces creators to work with smaller casts, to opt for well-known pieces over new ideas or to invest in short runs. The direction taken by leading companies in more recent years also makes them pause and wonder if they’d really enjoy being on those big shows when there seem to be lots of little projects and companies that keep popping up.
Being unable to separate life from work, to balance it all out, or to create a strong professional network are some of the common fears shared by Benjamin, Chéline, and Joel. Injuries that would keep them from performing, taking gigs out of security instead of genuine interest, letting the passion dwindle, being rejected and not knowing how to face such rejection are also top preoccupations.
These three stay clear from their generation’s clichés when asked about priorities in this new life chapter. They bring up happiness, finding pleasure in highs and lows, giving everything possible in each performance, self-care, good stories that need to be told, stimulating work environments, and good, open communication. Not too shabby for any performer!
To sum up, what does it mean to be an artist and to dive in the performing arts industry in 2019?
“Togetherness, true collaboration is what art should be about. It cannot only be about one single vision. Artists are humanity’s caretakers and joy bringers.”
– Benjamin Thomas
“It’s about being real in what you believe in and invested in your work. Saying what you think, believing in it and enjoying it enough to share it with others, that’s what it means to be an artist.” – Chéline Lacroix
“Art is about connection. It doesn’t matter what your job is, being an artist is doing it like no one else can!”
– Joel Malkoff
Also by Martin Frenette:
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