An Open Letter to the Struggling Artists

Brad Pontius

Dearest Theatre Lovely,

Hello. Everything is gonna be okay.

We all know how hard it is to make a living with theatre. You might be having a hard time today coping with that. If not you’ve probably had at least one moment in the past where you’ve wondered if you’re cut out for life in theatre. Maybe you work backstage or onstage. Either way, things are gonna be fine. 

You have the drive, passion, and strange love for the craft. You can do this. 

Maybe that audition you went to went badly. Maybe you are having a hard time finding the right job, or you’re working a day job you really have no interest in. Maybe you got a bad review for something and you’re feeling crummy today. This is from one struggling theatre Professional to another. That time is gonna pass. You are gonna do great things. Never stop telling yourself that.

I have the confidence in you that you can step into a performance space and rock it. You have all the drive and passion to make it and I know that you will. I don’t care how often other people tell you that “Having a life in theatre is difficult” or “There is no way you can make a living that way, right? Focus on something important.” Screw those people. Okay? Maybe it will take a while. Maybe it’ll stretch on and you’ll get discouraged. But know that the community you belong to wants you to succeed and is overwhelmingly positive. 

Yes. You need to commit. It’s going to be hard. It’s gonna seem like you can’t do it.

But you can. You will. And we are behind you.

It’s probably going to start out small. Jobs you take so you can survive in whatever city you are. Maybe they’re super artsy, maybe they aren’t the kind of heart-stopping masterpieces you wanted. Maybe you’re working commercials, background parts and other stuff. It’s probably not going to be exactly what you want at first.

But you will get there. We are behind you.

You can spend hours in line every day to just be seen, people might not respond to every inquiry for a job that you want. You spend every moment of your life trying to improve your craft, even while you work side jobs at ungodly hours. You devote so much time to your respective theatre craft. You take time away from your social life because rehearsals run late.

It’s going to pay off. You ARE good enough.

Ask another actor and they’ll likely be honest about how hard it was to get cast in their first professional show. Ask anyone in theatre where they started. They probably weren’t privileged enough to start off with the big dogs. And that’s okay. You aren’t supposed to start there. You’re supposed to struggle. Each experience (good or bad) endear the business to you just a bit more, and you can use it later to remind yourself why you love doing what you do.

Take the opportunities where you can, and remember that every actor out there has the potential to be a part of what I loving describe as “The Theatre Family”. It’s a huge group. We fight sometimes, we disagree and things can get ugly. We’ve also got your back. We’re all busy, but theatre people are the friendliest and most welcoming folks on the planet. We took the same steps you’re taking (or staring at ominously). We understand you, what you’re going through, what you want to do, and we have faith that you can find it in yourself to be amazing. To be fabulous.

You’re going to be amazing. Never forget that. 

Your theatre Family is behind you. We love you and we’re cheering for you every step of the way. So get out there and rock it.

Your obedient servant,