SEEKING WORKCategory: Theatre
Nearly every stage player, old or young, experienced or otherwise, has to face at one time or another the problem of “getting a job”. Always a perplexing and often a heart-breaking affair, in the theatre it is, I think, the most haphazard and precarious of all undertakings. It depends so provokingly upon opportunity, upon personal recommendation, upon previous successes, upon striking the right moment, upon the manager’s humour, upon a hundred things that appear to have little right to come into the problem.
There are some fortunate theatre folk who never have to seek work. It comes to them. But they are so few and so exceptional as to be negligible. Ordinary jobs are‘procurable usually through agents, through the manager or any one of his small army of satellites, through the introduction of any friend with sufficient influence or reputation to secure managerial attention. The manager will search out for himself the special service he needs.
For the rank and file in almost every theatre there exists a list or card-index, perhaps with photographs, of all the possibles in each walk of the profession. The details in these dossiers are often as complete as those for the criminals in Scotland Yard or for the celebrities and notorieties in the biographical bureau of a big newspaper office.
Every year the dramatic schools turn into the stream of acting scores of young people anxious to make their way in the theatre, full, at the start, of ambition, hope, energy — all those things that fan the smallest vestige of talent into a flame.
Talent, it is said, always asserts itself. But does it? My experience is that some kinds of effrontery and unlimited self-confidence frequently pass in the theatre for ability. The greatest natural ability has often to be lured from a hiding-place, where nervousness, modesty, and reticence have thrust it away like some hidden treasure.
Let no applicant for work in the theatre ever despair. Failure at one door does not necessarily mean the same result at another. I cannot think of any actor ,or actress of distinction today who has not at some time or another almost cried with vexation at inability to progress, to secure a chance of proving himself or herself, or, perhaps, even to get bread.
If you have youth on your side your hope may be the greater. It is the old folk in the theatre whose plight is the more serious. Age has, perhaps, its compensations in greater philosophy, a broader and truer grasp of essentials, a recognition that little matters in life without a contented mind and a clear conscience; but for an old actor, who has had his triumphs, whose day and whose chances are past, to have to trudge along the road or wait wearily for something to turn up — this must be the most cruel experience of all.
(From Acting for the Stage by S. W. Carroll)