Friday, February 17, 2012

On the Actor's Hustle

"I feel like on a scale of one to ten, I kinda hit ten when I stopped having to serve people food. So, I've been riding ten ever since. This is great." 
-Chris Pratt of "Parks and Recreation" to Ellen DeGeneres on the recent successes of his career.
I really have to stop worrying about losing my job.
The poor economy is hard on everyone, but according to a recent study, my age group (18-34) is hit the hardest by it. I used to joke that those of us graduating with degrees in art were actually better off than graduates in other fields in a recession because we always expected to be unemployed. Everyone else had the rug pulled out from under them. “But I have a degree in human resources?! I should have a job!” is somehow a stronger argument than “I have a BFA in Acting and I got an A’s in yoga and circus skills, dammit!” Still, the awareness that acting jobs are hard to come by doesn’t make this first year out of school any easier.
It is nearly impossible to launch an acting career while working a 9-to-5 job. Over the last few months, I’ve found a number of part-time gigs in Chicago. I’m a nanny, a knitting instructor, a waitress, and a standardized patient (that's where I act like a sick person in order to prepare doctors for their USMLE Clinical Skills). These gigs (usually about 30 hours a week) pay the bills. But my job, first and foremost, is being the CEO, CFO, marketing director and product of the Maura Clement Corporation. My duties include, but are not limited to, rehearsing my upcoming play, seeking out and doing auditions, sending out headshots, staying physically fit (God bless all those Groupons for yoga), keeping abreast of what’s going on in the Theater (mostly through Jacob Perkins' facebook page), seeing shows around town and avoiding accidentally responding to adult film audition postings on Craigslist (*please note, dear reader, that “adult actress” does not refer to your age.) I continue to remind myself that I am an actress for a living, a waitress to pay the bills.
Scheduling my life is a nightmare. I always seem to be bartering for my time. Here’s a recent example, I needed to travel to Minneapolis for my Montana Shakespeare audition on a Tuesday, when I usually nanny. The family gave me Tuesday off in exchange for my Saturday night, when I often waitress. So I tell my manager at the restaurant that I can’t work Saturday and cross my fingers that it all works out without anyone firing me. And up till this point, it always seems to. This seems to be the case nearly every week. The juggle is how do I keep my art always my first priority without totally pissing off the people who I currently depend on financially?
The obvious conclusion I’ve recently come to is that if I get the acting job, which is after all the whole point, I’m going to have to quit all other jobs anyway and move to effin’ Montana. SO WHO CARES?!  Now I’m not saying I plan on being inconsiderate or a bad employee. On the contrary, I try to be a great nanny and waitress so that these people continue to think I’m worth all the hassle. But I need to give myself a break and not worry about losing these jobs because I see no end to the hustle. Am I going to always have a pit in my stomach for fear of losing my humble income? Hopefully one day the hustle will just be made up of acting gigs (How will I ever balance all these movie offers?! Life is so stressful!), but the reality is that in this field, we artists are continually interviewing for the next job. 
I'd like to transition the hustle to being made up of commercial gigs, teaching gigs, Standardized Patient gigs, knitting gigs, and acting gigs. That would be perfect. That would be a ten.
But regardless of the career hustle, life happens. There are things that are more important than my acting career and those things are people. Life happening is the best way to get perspective on the relative insignificance of whatever triviality I am worried about. Today my brother Jeff returns from his second 7-month tour in Afghanistan. So I dropped everything, got out of work, hopped a flight (very generously donated by the Dave and Jenifer Clement Foundation for Getting their Daughter Places) and am eagerly waiting to celebrate his safe return. That’s real life. My best friend Tina came to visit and we adventured around finding Chicago’s photobooths. That’s real life. My godmother is bravely battling a tumor. That’s real life. A boy brought me flowers on a third date. That’s real life.
Never forget that the best way to enrich your artistic life is by living your real one.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Chicago Photobooth Pub Crawl

Like every good adventure, it began with a dream. Tina Le, visiting from New York City rolls over in the morning and says to me, “I had a dream that we went to a photobooth and I licked your face.” I responded, “Let’s make it happen.” And so began a beautifully improtu photobooth pub crawl around my neighborhood, Wicker Park. Now, I don’t go out much and I don’t often buy drinks when I do go out. But I am type-A and I do love goals. So let’s say this evening I was a goal oriented drunk... Buy a different drink and take a photo at all the places with photobooths. Our first stop was the famous Reckless Records on Milwaukee Ave, a place I knew Tina would love because of it's wide selection of Jack White 45's. No drinking at Reckless, but Tina did find a record for her collection.

Next stop was my favorite bookshop, Quimby's ($3 a photo, black&white) on North Ave. Best part of Quimby's was the props they had available. Both Tina and I paid homage to our favorite book, Just Kids by Patti Smith, me with the book, her with her Robert Maplethorpe tee. There was also a fan, cause Tina is my geisha, and a rubber shark cause I am a bathtub explorer.

Our journey was destined to because of a serendipitous street art exhibit that was happening under the Damen Blue Line train station. Kiam had hung a mirror in the shape of "I AM" on the brick wall. We wrote what we were on a post-it and then he took this polaroid of us. We wrote, "Maura's best friend" and "Tina's best friend." How sweet.
Tina says this photo looks like she's meeting a celebrity.

A short jaunt down Damen past Division led us to the Rainbo Club ($3, sorta sepia, analog). The bartender proudly declared that their photobooth was one of two analog photobooths in the state and apparently Liz Phair took the cover photo for her album Exit in Guyville there. We drank Old Fashioned's in honor of Don Draper.
We continued down Damen to my favorite place on the adventure, Bar Deville. ($5, sepia, digital) We drank Tina's favorite beverage in the world, hard cider. There is free pool, lots of space, funky upholstered furniture and the feel of a French dive. We upset some gentleman by borrowing the pool equipment for props... and Tina bit my ear.

Our final stop was Beauty Bar on Chicago Ave where the bouncer was kind enough to let us not pay cover to get in to use the photobooth... but tragically...

And so ended a very well documented evening in Chicago.