Every two years or so, since I turned 18, I get itchy feet. I suddenly have an overwhelming desire to move country. Not to travel but to move to and live in a new culture. This little affliction has brought me on many adventures; I have met many wonderful people and have had incredible experiences.
However after my last jaunt to New York, no less, I realised that this instinct to migrate was not doing my career any favours. I am an actor and one vital component an actor needs to further their career is “a name”.
Now I am not talking about fame or prestige but just to be known in the circuit so a casting director, director, producer or friend has the capability of recommending you, so an audience can recognise you and your work and decide whether to buy tickets or not.
You may think, being in New York, I would chose to stay put but I didn’t. I chose Galway. I chose to return home to a city I know and love. New York is saturated with actors, most are good, many are trained and they are all driven. New York is also expensive and lonely. In a world of self-taping and emailing as the main form of contact, cultivating a decent career in the West of Ireland is far from impossible. So I came home. I got on a plane and then a bus and things suddenly became less of a struggle. I had the support of my family and friends and of a city that accepts and loves the artist.
However there is one phenomenon that is true of both Galway and New York: the artist or actor who forgets to work, too busy planning future projects and talking about old ones to actually go to work and create. They get lost in the world of egos and appearances and forget the substance. It is easy to fall into this alluring trap. This is something I, like many others, have struggled against and my weapon of choice is self-motivation. I found out quite early in my career that the phone is not going to just ring one day with your ideal job or a casting director isn’t going to pop into your kitchen at the precise moment you are telling a funny story and pluck you for The Gate or The Abbey. It is up to you. You are your own keeper!
Being an actor in Galway has taught me more than just self-motivation though. It has also taught me to accept help. Galway and more accurately Galwegians offer this support daily through general kindness and generosity. On top of that general support I am lucky enough to have personal support. I wouldn’t still be doing what I am doing if it wasn’t for the unyielding help of my family and friends. Free from judgement and free from the expectation that I will find a “real job” my support network have been unflinching. I used to feel guilty about this. I used to feel like a burden. Recently I learnt to let this guilt go and since then my career has suddenly taken a turn for the better.
Acting is not a choice, for me at least. I’ve tried other careers and other jobs all of which made me extremely miserable and if I am honest, a serious pain in the behind to be around. At this point it is too late for me to turn around. I must persevere. And if I was to give advice to people starting out I would say these three things –
1) Choose a home. Actors no longer need to be tied to the big cities so choose somewhere you will be happy and start earning your name.
2) Self-motivate. If you don’t you may realise months and years have gone by and no one has knocked on your door and you have created nothing. Make a routine for yourself. Set your alarm for the same time every day, email, create, learn, be active in your industry!
3) And finally, accept the help you are given and accept it with grace. Life will become a lot easier if you do.
Galway theatre company Anam presents ‘Low Level Panic’ next week at The New Theatre, Temple Bar, Dublin. Previews take place at 7.30pm on Monday 14 July and the show runs from Tuesday 15-Saturday 19 July. See www.anamtheatre.com.