Finding Your Place in Theatre

Jennifer Butler

We all have moments of self-doubt: when we think about the choices we have made in life or of our ability to believe that we can achieve something and that we are good enough for whatever dream it is that we are chasing.  Those moments occur when things just don't seem to be going as planned. Your mind starts to wander to that state where you question everything you have ever done. I am once again in that spot.

A few years ago I walked away from teaching. I had been a pre-school teacher for a couple of years and I quickly realized that it wasn't the lifetime career that I originally thought that I wanted. I wasn't happy and I knew firsthand how precious life can be and that being miserable was no way to live. And I needed to get out. This all happened around the same time that I had become involved with theatre again. After being involved with just one production, I fell in love with theatre all over. For the first time in a long while I knew what it was like to feel happy and that the theatre was where I wanted to be more than anywhere else. So, I walked away from it all. The regular job and the consistency of a real paycheck for a life in the arts.

When I fell in love with the arts all over again, I knew this was exactly where I needed to be. But ultimately, I still had to work a job to make money to live on so I work retail and babysit to help pay the bills. That plan was working for a while. The plan was to work where I have to while gaining experience in the theatre. Doing one show led me to do another which led me to connect with another theatre, which opened more doors to combine my love for writing and my love for theatre, which ultimately led me to have the experiences that I have had to write about for this blog. And I met a ton of new people which did worlds of good for my social skills.

However, lately, I have had moments (usually after a tough day at work) where all the questions I mentioned above flood my mind. Is all this struggle worth it? The experience I am getting in theatre could honestly take me anywhere I want to go, from New York to California or even around the world.  My days can be rough when I am stuck at a job that is no longer fulfilling for me but I need to be there because, at this level, Community Theatre just doesn't pay the bills. In a way, I feel stuck or at least M-F 9-5 I do. It was the same feeling that I had right before I left teaching. These are the moments when I question things the most and ask myself is it all worth it? 

And then I leave work, head to rehearsal or to a performance and when I walk into the theatre I get that feeling that I am home again. I know that the answer is yes. Yes, what you are going through will be worth it. There will always be ways to make more money but how many people get to say that they spend most of their time doing something they love. For some, theatre is a hobby, and for others, it is their job, but either way, it’s a way of life that I am choosing to live. So things may be rough now but they can always go up from here.  And what it comes down to is this: that in the end, no matter how things are going, theatre is something I will always have in my life to lift me up and that is something that I wouldn’t change for anything.

Photo: Shadowbox Live, Credit: Tommy Feisel