Husband and I recently saw a cool show on Broadway called Brief Encounter, a theatrical reincarnation of a Noel Coward film that was like a Marc Chagall come to life. The plot is about two married English people who fall in love. It’s terribly repressed and romantic. When they fall for each other, images of the ocean crashing come up on the back screen. On one of their dates, they hang from the chandeliers while silver confetti falls all around them. My favorite was the opening image, where the screen had a black and white film of the cuckolded husband waiting for his wife at home; in front of the stage, the lovers break up, and the woman runs through the curtains back to her husband, and immediately appears in the black and white projection with him. It was so neat and magical, the entire audience gasped and clapped their hands like delighted six-year-olds, myself included.
And for as much as I enjoyed the show, I also cursed it for inspiring another generation of folks to want to pursue the arts, suffer poverty and uncertainty, all for the chance to be part of a cool show. It’s a topic I’ve talked about a lot with friends recently. Nobody goes into acting thinking they’ll be broke; they believe, I think, that at some point, it will become a financially viable way of life, but people like George Clooney represent 2% of SAG actors, and I don’t know. It’s almost a delusional yet irresistible calling. At some point, believe it or not, acting was a mildly financially viable option for me, but it was through work that I found depressingly banal–unfunny, feminist scripts that were supposed to be funny that colleges were paying to see. In my defense, there were no mentions of “tapestries” or generations of women passing on stories, and it was not earnest theater, but it was a job, and nothing is worse to me to think of making art a job.