What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? (Part Six)

“Go West, Young Man”

To be clear, I was neither impulsive nor starry-eyed (maybe just a smidgen of each) in my decision to move to LA. Upon first experiencing the chill of a Philadelphia winter again three years prior, I knew I wanted out of there. And now, here I was: 28 years old, single and unattached, and with nothing tying me down. I had been laid off from my job a few months prior (the boss, in his 60s, shut down the office and transitioned into consulting), and the unemployment money I was collecting would enable the cross-country move without costing me all of my (very modest) savings. Winter was on the horizon. The timing couldn’t have been better.

There were a number of things appealing to me about LA. I could explore my two new (very different) burgeoning interests to my heart’s content: acting, and backpacking. My greatest interests overall tended to fall into the broader realms of “The Arts” and “The Outdoors” – and LA was a haven for both. Some of my closest friends from Nashville had already migrated out there. Throw in the weather (and the ocean/beaches), and it was a no-brainer!

So I loaded all of my “essentials” into my ’95 Nissan Sentra, and drove to the opposite coast.

I had a lot of good fortune upon arriving in LA. I stayed with a friend for 11 days until I found a room to rent in Brentwood – a wonderful, centralized location – that I moved into on December 1st, 2000. And, by the end of December, I had already landed and started a full-time job (as an Executive Assistant at a Century City accounting firm) that paid a good deal more than I had ever made before.

With a place to live and a stable job anchoring me, I threw myself into my new life. The next five months would be among my busiest ever.

Acting (and Backpacking)

The first step, it seemed, for an aspiring actor new to LA, was to enroll in acting classes. I explored my options, and audited classes at a few studios before settling on the Beverly Hills Playhouse. Classes were held at the Skylight Theatre two evenings a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) for four-hours-plus each night. The classes primarily consisted of “Scene Study” wherein two or more students at a time would stage a scene together that would then be thoroughly critiqued. All of the preparation for these scenes took place outside of class, which meant that numerous additional hours per week (on non-class evenings and weekends) would be spent meeting up with acting partners, who lived all over LA, to rehearse. The classes themselves were as stimulating as they were intensive and, because participating in them required a significant commitment of time, energy, and money, they tended to attract people who were serious about acting.

Meanwhile, out of a desire to engage more with the outdoors and increase my backpacking skills and experience, I also registered for the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter’s 10-week-long Wilderness Travel Course. This amazing course (that I cannot say enough good things about) included ten lectures/classroom sessions (on Wednesday nights) as well as day-or-weekend-long outings every other weekend.

Between work, acting classes, scene rehearsals, WTC activities, and more, I was almost never home. And, as soon as the WTC was over, I had a bit part in a play that required three weeks of rehearsals followed by six consecutive weekends (Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays) of performances.

The play was Buffalo Nights Theatre Company’s production of Arthur Schnitzler’s Anatol. I got the audition because the director (Jessica Kubzansky) was a friend of a close friend of mine (Steve Goodie, who did the sound design for the show). Though my part was very small, I did appear briefly in (and “in between”) every scene, and therefore needed to be at every rehearsal. Everyone else in the cast was a working actor, with fairly extensive credits in theatre, TV, and film, and it was a privilege for me to be included in what was, I thought, a really high-quality ensemble.

But I was going at a breakneck pace, and it was tiring. And, at this point, something interesting happened. I would show up for rehearsals in Santa Monica straight from work and find myself resenting having to go inside (even though I had very willingly signed up to be in this play). What I longed for was to be outside! To enjoy the last hour(s) of daylight at the beach or, perhaps, hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Once I had seen my commitment through with the play, I stopped the acting classes, and stopped the acting pursuit altogether. Unlike with music, I did this with absolute peace. I had gotten a good glimpse of what one needed to put oneself through if one was to pursue acting seriously, and decided that, for me, it wasn’t worth it. Maybe if I had not already been through the mill of the music business I’d have taken it further, but I decided that a) I did not love acting nearly enough for that, and b) I (apparently) loved myself too much to subject said self to those particular slings and arrows.  🙂

I had fun, for sure, learned a good deal (much of which has stuck with me), gained a greater appreciation for the art and craft, and was definitely enriched by my experiences onstage and in class (both in PA and CA). I wasn’t going to rule out the possibility of acting again in the future, but my decision for the time being was made without any regret, and, as it happens, I’ve never looked back.

More to come in Part Seven…

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