Keeping up Appearances, Day 17
There is no glamor in running to catch a train, but I do it all the time. With a sweaty brow and messed up hair, I clamor to get to almost every destination slightly early or on time, to keep up a professional appearance, usually because I procrastinate to leave my comfortable home. Because of my struggle to keep up a stylish appearance with a very tight budget, I spend time hunting through thrift shops (my friend graciously calls them “Salvation Armani”) for designer bargains. When I perform as a soloist in a gorgeous gown (a singer learns to search through end-of-season sales for potential concert gowns) or singing at the Met, few would guess the often struggling reality of my daily life behind my mask of glamor and composure.
We wear these disguises for each other too, of course, as we talk up our next gig to give an impression of well-earned success and therefore hireable talent, all the while wondering if we can juggle the next billing cycle. Keeping up appearances gets exhausting, but most of us do it to varying degrees. We fear imperfections like sickness and lateness in an industry where who we know and his or her opinion of us often helps us land the next gig.
Fortunately, I’ve so far avoided sickness this season, though I’ve also witnessed colleagues trying to fake feeling well as they work through pneumonia or the H1N1 virus, risking their health and that of their colleagues merely to appear unstoppable. Alternatively, we obsess over coughs and sneezes on the subway, take ridiculous amounts of vitamins and Airborne, and stay away from sick loved ones to avoid our potential infection. Attempting to make myself more marketable and more likely to get noticed and hired in the past, I’ve dyed my hair red, continuously paid for expensive haircuts and highlights, taken Slim Fast to lose weight quickly for a revealing costume, obsessed over audition outfits and even rehearsal clothes, makeup, headshots, résumés, websites… The list never ends, even without ever having had plastic surgery.
Maintaining a career in entertainment and the arts can exhaust the best of us in a constant battle to project a certain image, even after the show ends and the spotlight fades. It makes sense that I waited until the last minute to leave to head out to Naked Angels tonight. By waiting until the last minute though, I didn’t have a chance to primp my hair or apply my makeup, and I know whatever hairstyle I managed to throw together couldn’t have survived my sprint to catch the train very well. I just have to hope the trip proves worthwhile, that I have a chance to finally read tonight, and that my peers notice me despite my lack of makeup, the extremely tattered lining of my otherwise perfect winter coat, and my somewhat dissheviled hair.
….Well, I didn’t get to read tonight. I reintroduced myself again and will simply have to try again next week. I do know I fight a certain tendency to seem needy or overbearing to the people in charge of casting, while also knowing that the drive to appear easy-going or available likely accomplishes just the opposite – awkwardness. I did get to see some newly familiar faces and network with fun and intelligent actors and writers, and that never hurts. Enjoying the atmosphere, having fun chatting and networking with my new colleagues, and loving the Tuesday evenings of free and diverse performances, I’ve resolved to treat these evenings as I once treated my Metropolitan Opera auditions. No matter my appearance, I will show up and be myself as long as they’ll have me, regardless of the outcome. Welcome back, persistence.