Guest Blog-From Theatre Publicist And Director Chris Hislop 

This Isn’t For Everyone

It seems odd to write an article where the brief was “inspirational” about quitting the industry, but I mean what I put in the title – this isn’t for everyone. Theatre has some incredible highs, but there are barriers to success both practical and emotional, and it takes a certain sort to survive and thrive in the industry. This isn’t a negative – far from it. This is what makes it so special.

Because this is a immeasurably hard industry to thrive in. It’s incredibly hard to get into in the first place, with the barriers to access, being quite rightly decried industry-wide as limiting theatre to the non-wealthy, after which there is no guarantee of work and/or success, with the former being hard to come by and the latter being subject to the wholly subjective whims of producers, audiences and critics. Even then, the truly successful can never rest easy, and with industry salaries being a fraction of what can be earned elsewhere unless you’re at the very apex of the industry (and, in some fields, not even then), there are truly no laurels to rest on.

And yet, every year, thousands of new drama school students apply, or make their way on to the hundreds of actor training schemes that claim to offer the same. The jaded maxim is that they’re chasing the dream – this elusive hope that they might be able to fulfil their childhood passion of treading the boards with the greatest. It’s no surprise “actor” comes up frequently, alongside “astronaut” and “rock star”, in idealised childhood job fantasies – and yet the reality pales quickly in comparison to the dream.

But is it as cut-and-dried as all that? I tend not to think so anymore – nearing on 15 years in the industry has meant that I’ve transitioned from early idealism through jaded cynicism into a sort-of zen realism – but it hasn’t shifted the little nugget at the core of my being, the thing that drew me to theatre in the first place and, despite many different jobs in many different theatres, has never really changed: the desire to tell stories.

I know, right? Hokey. “The desire to tell stories” – what silly social media meme did that come from? It’s actually one of our earliest anthropological traits as a species – we’re absolutely desperate to tell stories, to get better at telling stories, and I personally believe that, in those that make their way into theatre, that drive is just more pronounced. Be it onstage, offstage, or in support of, theatre is one of few media where you can tell a story and see DIRECTLY how it affects an audience. Unlike performing to camera, theatre gives the storyteller their audience where they can see them – and where they can see their ability at work. It humanises them to us and us to them; it creates rapport where there may be not a shred of common ground; and it facilitates the best kind of storytelling – where the reaction of an audience changes how you tell them the story.

But let’s not get too bogged down in theatre theory of the whys and wherefores of this – you’re reading a blog on a theatre website so I’m guessing that either a) you’re a fan or b) you’re interested in it already – let’s focus on why people do it. Because everything above is still patently true, and five minutes spent trying to be an actor/director/thespian of any stripe will get you crashing down to earth sharpish about the long hours, lack of financial reward and intense amount of drive, self-belief, determination, gall (and maybe even guile) needed to even begin to be lucky enough to make all of these disparate pieces become a theatre “career”. And yet some people stick it out – some to immense success, most to a generally peripatetic, floundering existence from one paycheck to the next with vague grandiose plans that never quite come to fruition. Despite the humungous drop-off rate into other careers or stay at home parenting/partner support, there are still a collection of mad nutters who wrangle the very fringes of a living out of this. Why?

Because their desire to tell stories, in whatever way they can, supercedes their desire for anything else. There’s an element of self-sacrifice to it – often a crippling emotional openess that can make them both the life and soul as well as the soul-sucking vacuum of most social encounters – but these fools have decided, for whatever reason, that telling stories is more important than a stable home life, sensible working hours, traditional family/children, retirement… And it is, from the outside, entirely foolish. And if you feel at all on the fence about it – as many, many colleagues and friends have over the years – I say what I started this article with: “this isn’t for everyone”.

Maybe you have to be a fool to work in theatre. But the fools that do wouldn’t be anywhere else. So come be a fool and tell stories – or go and do something, anything more sensible with your life. Your parents and your bank manager will thank you. But if you are one of us fools: accept the hardships, face the trials, for Heaven’s sake DON’T become one of those people who endlessly moans about it, and come tell more stories. Your heart will thank you.

@chrishislop

https://www.chrishislop.com/

Guest Blog-From Writer Gemma Murray 

The arts is a place of performance, creativity, imagination and storytelling. A space for ideas and freedom – chosen by those with the creative minds to build a world on a page or tell a tale with their bodies. However, this thinking outside the box, people often struggle to prove themselves. 

The unemployment rate for actors, calculated by the actor’s equality association is at 90% and a separate study shows that an estimated 52% of every 10,000 scriptwriters are unemployed. The statistics speak for themselves, proving that this certainly isn’t an industry with high success rates, it is though, an industry with possibly the highest rates of passion for the job than any other. This combination of rejection for the art that you love, can lead to an unsurprising rise in mental health problems, affecting those working in creative industries. 

The arts is a place of expression and this is undeniably wonderful for the positivity and mental health of those who flourish in the industry – the passion to create and speak to the world in a safe place, for people to show themselves, their ideas and soul and in turn, give a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction. But what happens when this art is rejected? When your passion is turned down and feels underappreciated? The feasibility, need and relevance of the arts are things that have undoubtedly been in question in the media and when creative passions are queried, this sense of self is too. Perhaps a root of this mental health crisis stems from a lack of appreciation on a larger scale, the argument of the extra-curricular nature of the arts is an angle that cannot be ignored. There is difficulty, in choosing a job, that most people see as a hobby and the constant justification to both the world and yourself, of your passion’s importance. 

Dancer Phoebe elaborates further:

‘In many schools at the moment subjects such as dance are being cut from the curriculum, which leaves dance to serve the only purpose its left with – extra curricular activities. We need to stop thinking of subjects in terms of outcome. The outcome of maths is not can you do algebra, but it is the process itself that is important. This is the same with the arts. The arts should not be valued in terms of your outcome at the end of the subject, did you produce an art work and did you achieve a correct/final answer? It should be valued in terms of its process as a disciplinary subject. That being – what it teaches you along the way, the skills you develop, how this can be applied in things other than the one subject you are specialising in. Art is important for everyone. Art teaches you how to be open minded, it teaches you values, subjectiveness and objectiveness, to think of things on a deeper level, to question and to establish your own opinion. Its important for social integration, communication, bonding and inspiration, which of course is always relevant. Where would children and even adults be without books and colouring pencils? ‘ 

The mental health of artists is something that we must not ignore – the struggle for recognition and high level of stress when this is received. Supporting our artists is something that must not be bypassed and seeking help may be far easier if this was an issue addressed, something that ‘ArtsMinds’ is championing. With a study estimating that symptoms of anxiety are ten time higher and depression 5 times higher within the arts, ‘ArtsMinds’ is a place to safely speak and gain help for mental health problems within the industry – as ArtsMinds say themselves,  life can be the hardest act of all. 

Offering help to performers, writers and artists is something that I feel is particularly important. I myself have suffered from anxiety all my life, and writing, scripting and art are all things that have allowed me not to suffer this in vain, being able to transform my overthinking worrying brain, into scripts and art. Another, rather relevant quote for you ‘No artist sees thing as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist.’ (Oscar Wilde)  The place of creativity, freedom, art and love should not be one of loneliness in the inevitable times of rejection , and so perhaps it is time to ask. Ask you friends how they are, do not presume their happiness. Question their coping mechanisms and encourage them without prompt. The arts is a safe and glorious space for championing the wonders of the brain, and so perhaps, give a second thought to those wonderous brains when they are not creating.

If you feel as though you would like some help , please do not be ashamed! This is such a common feeling , and help is not as scary as you may think (trust me, I have asked, and the world, much to my surprise, did not collapse around me).

 http://www.artsminds.co.uk/
@_GemmaMurray 

Always Remember What Motivates You In The Arts 

We all need a reminder sometimes, of just what makes us tick, that drives us to want to succeed at what we are working on.

The Art? Fear of failure? Pride?

In an ideal world it would always be about the Art. But, in truth we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to the point, where we as creatives, worry about everything. Of course we don’t intend to put pressure on ourselves, but when we worry about what we perceive to be others expectations of us, we do.

We need to focus on what we are doing and our path, but this is easier said than done. Constantly, we see what others have achieved and we start to question our own achievements, rather than being proud of ourselves and what we aim for in the future. Why should it take others to validate us to give us self worth? Of course it’s a lovely feeling to get praise now and again, but it’s NOT the most important thing in the world.

Think of all the reasons why you love what you do..I know it’s a simple philosophy and the best part is it works. Write them down and then read the list, you will be amazed at how many wonderful points you have. This can unlock your consciousness and remind you of all the amazing reasons you enjoy a career in the Arts. 

Be bold and be kind 🎭

Guest Blog-From Theatrefullstop Founder Lucy Basaba

I was honoured when I was asked by Fran to contribute an article to her blog. We met last year when she very bravely trusted me to direct a recording of a monologue she had written. From that very moment a friendship blossomed, and it has been great to see how Fran has grown as a theatre maker, founding her own theatre company.

I am the founder and editor of a theatre website called Theatrefullstop. Theatrefullstop started life as a lone blogger writing her thoughts on the latest theatre happenings in the Fringe theatre scene. I’d read a few reviews prior to writing my very first however had been brought up to think that theatre reviewing wasn’t something that I was entitled to do. What I’ve learned along the years is that this is not the case. If you have the passion for theatre, you already have that unique perspective, your own voice. Theatrefullstop started in July 2013 and celebrates 4 years this year. In that time I’ve been able to build a small but dedicated reviewing team. Team members have left, whether that be to pursue careers in the arts or have returned to their native countries, however we all still keep in contact, with members returning and contributing occasionally.

In 2015 we won the Young Person Recognition Award at the UK Blog Awards and that was a fantastic confidence boost as we were being celebrated for something that had been created out of a passion for theatre. Fast forward to 2017 and this year has already witnessed the first Pub Theatre Festival; a festival giving emerging theatre makers the platform to showcase their work at an established pub theatre venue. It was a lot of fun organising the festival (and a lot of work too) and it was great to watch the 14 companies chosen. This year will also witness the first Theatre and Technology Awards; an initiative celebrating the artistry and creativity happening technologically both on stage and off. There are 11 categories and voting is now open so please vote if you can!

What’s been great about theatre blogging is the people I have met along the way. I started off writing and now I’ve found that another passion of mine is organising events. In terms of advice that I can give in terms of starting up a blog; use a blog platform such as WordPress and don’t pressure yourself into writing a lot of reviews in a short space of time. See a show a month, a show a week if you’re up to it and before you know it you’ve built up a portfolio of reviews. Once you’re comfortable with that and figured out a routine, you can focus on a variation of content such as interviews, videos, features etc.

To find out more on Theatrefullstop here: http://www.theatrefullstop.com/

Relax and Replenish…Make Time For You

Sometimes, you feel that you have come to a point where you are lethargic, frazzled and extremely tired, in both mind as well as body and start to panic. I can’t be tired, I have so much to write, rehearse, promote..

Sound familiar? I have a feeling it does. We all feel we have to be on auto-pilot in the Arts as every second counts. It is not the end of the world, to take time to relax and do absolutely nothing, for at least a couple of hours. Trust me, I know it will feel odd, when it seems you should be sorting out everything under the sun, but it is VITAL to make time for you.

Here are three ideas on how to unwind and relax:

1. Read or listen to an audio book you have been meaning to, for what seems like forever.

2. Listen to music, in fact listen to your playlists that make you smile.

3. Pamper session– I am talking the three F’s- a facial, favourite food and favourite film.

Hope this has helped inspire you to have some well earned you-time, please never feel guilty for putting yourself first once in a while. 

Remember, being kind extends to yourself, as well as others.

None Of Us Are “Perfect” In The Arts

It has been said a thousand times Don’t compare yourself to others, but still we do it. We have a glimpse on social media, of how well that person we haven’t seen in years is doing and we crumple. It’s natural, we look at ourselves and start over analysing- picking apart who we are. 

That’s the problem. Sometimes we forget that who we are (who none of us are) will never be our self imposed ideal of perfection. There is no way of clicking fingers and making life the way we want it, we have to work hard and above all enjoy the life we have. 

So what if we haven’t had our new play get the feedback we think it deserves or have that role in that new musical?! Occasionally, we get to places too early and other times our time-keeping doesn’t go to plan. Don’t tear yourself apart, it’s just life, it happens.

Our apparent physical ‘imperfections’ we see in ourselves, don’t go away because someone tells you that you’re beautiful, we all know that. We need to embrace who we are and see that these are what make us who we are, they are quirks that make us stand out from the crowd, let’s be proud of that.

No-one is perfect in this world let alone the Arts, so let’s treat ourselves with the kindness, we endeavour to show others. Starting today!

Be Bold, Fearless And Creative

I haven’t written an article on Frantastic View for a little while and I have definitely missed it (hopefully you might have too?!). As well as missing writing on my blog, I decided to restart writing articles, as the comments and messages from you my readers, about my articles and my career, show that in some small way I can inspire. This makes me overjoyed, that I make a difference, as everyone who says I inspire or have given advice that has helped them, makes me very happy indeed. In the Arts industry, we should all be helping each other, kindness is vital, along with being supportive. 

With this sentiment, I have chosen the three words of advice in the Arts, (along with kindness, which is a given).

Bold

Yes, if you want to create something but have absolutely no idea what you are doing…REMEMBER none of us do most of the time. None of us have all the answers, so never feel embarrassed to ask advice, or have a long research and development period. Approach that creative, you want to work with, take that risk, the worst they can say is no, right?

Fearless

Unless you try you will never know, who likes what if’s? I can’t imagine anyone does, so don’t let fear of the unknown stop you from performing that role or writing that play. Believe in yourself, or what you can achieve, it can seem an alien concept sometimes, but when we do, great things can happen.

Creative

Just simply be you.

What The Term “A Living” Means In The Arts 

The main thing in life is to be happy. The phrase ‘a living’ refers to what most of us do to earn money, but it also means so much to us in the arts. Our work is our life, it’s the way we live, a part of us, like an organ in our body. This life brings us joy.

We are happy as artists, when we are being creative and watching our working take shape. To be able to make a sustainable living is to which we all aspire, whether it’s through all our creative avenues, or just one or two to support other projects, such as a new play we are writing or acting in a Fringe work, that is not paying a substantial fee. 

Living means every moment of a creatives life is full with ideas, content and projects we want to develop. This is not an exaggeration ( OK perhaps a little one), but our life is definitely so much more than 9-5 and we don’t just earn, we live it! 

And as always, have a lovely week and don’t forget to smile!

Regrets Of What We Didn’t Do…

We all know that feeling..What if I had said how I feel? What if I had attended that audition? What if, What if and What if?!

To be very direct, we have two choices:

Let these regrets fester or do something about them.
Ok, this sounds a lot simpler than it actually is, as the reality of both can be terrifying. We need to do something about them, which again comes down to to two choices:

Let go..or say/do what we wished we had, before we had regrets.

This mainly comes from inner strength. This is a strength you didn’t know you had, but one that drives you to do what will make YOU happy. Whether it’s setting up your own theatre company, saying sorry to someone who means a great deal to you, or making a romantic deceleration, these are all things that could make you happy, so what do you have to lose? Pride? Ego? Reputation? So what?! Life is too short to make decisions based on what could go wrong, think what could go right. Please bare this in mind, if something means a lot to you, then it’s worth pursuing and especially if it will benefit others too.

As always, remember to be kind to others as well as yourself!

Belief vs Flattery: Life As A Female Creative

As Artists we are vulnerable. The ones who deny that, are not telling the whole truth. We want praise, to feel validated as a creative and that what we believe in, has resonated with others too. Someone says I want to work with you, we get excited. We must work together..this gets the heart racing. Only problem with this, is the fact, in most instances, these people who speak these words are not entirely as they seem.

Perhaps opportunists is a strong word, but as a female creative we meet these often, some so cleverly disguised, they could give chameleons a run for their money. These are usually men in the industry who try to use their status to reel in women they find attractive, with promises of “collaborating” although their definition is less honourable than the dictionary definition. 

Of course, this scenario happens in many different careers and not just to women, but the arts I feel, we need to speak out more about our lives as female creatives, to create a sense of unity.

My advice to make sure you do not get reeled in by these wolves, in a pug outfit, is trust your intuition, be cautious and if something doesn’t feel right….it’s not. You will know when someone genuinely believes in you, they will act with integrity and never sleazy behaviour.

Remember you have gifts, respect them and yourself. Surround yourself with those who respect you and never be patronised. Always.