In earlier blog posts, I have detailed how I was introduced to the Alexander Technique in college and how it provided profound benefits to me as a performer and a person. But post graduation, there were a few years when my involvement with the Technique was minimal.
I moved to Chicago with every intention of becoming a full-time professional actor, but no illusions about how difficult this would be. I knew it would be an uphill climb and require a tremendous amount of dedication and energy, and a strong possibility of failure. What I didn't know was that the way the Chicago theater scene is set up, you can work with good companies indefinitely without it ever being financially supportive. In addition, the day job necessary to support you while working at these theaters (most of which structure rehearsals around standard 9-5 work hours) makes it difficult to audition for film and commercial work which could theoretically make up the difference. What this means is that most actors are working 40 hours a week and then rehearsing for another 20+, in addition to auditions, classes to create connections and improve your work, and maybe (maybe) a personal life, much of which happens in bars post 11pm. The sum total of this was exhaustion.
This was the conundrum I found myself in 4 years into my Chicago experience. I had worked a potpourri of day jobs: box offices, apartment rental agent, customer service, the restaurant industry. I was lucky enough to be more or less continually employed by respectable theater companies and some amount of intermittent on camera work. Most of these jobs, despite sometimes being union or with well known theaters, payed either a stipend or a non-supportive weekly salary. Sustaining this was taking its toll. I was tired ALL of the time. I was depressed that I could be considered successful without it actually being a sustainable career. And the exhaustion was effecting my work: I found myself falling back into bad habits onstage, being tense in my body, and going numb to what I was creating.
I had intermittently used my Alexander Technique training from university throughout my career (to a certain extent it was part and parcel with every performance I gave), but I wasn't actively applying it offstage. During one particularly strain-full schedule, I lit upon the idea to use Active Rest as a way to try to leave the frustration and fatigue from my day job behind going into my evening.
This idea changed my life.
I found a remarkable difference in how much of myself I was able to bring to rehearsal at night, how much fresher I felt, how much more engaged and full of ease. I then decided to try to apply Alexander principles to my day job, found even more freedom. This helped me realize that the way I lived my life effects my art as much as anything I did while creating.
I eventually decided to take a series of private lessons with the excellent Roscoe Village based teacher Courtney Brown, and this renewal of my creative life through the work resulted in my decision to get certified as a teacher.
It is this experience that inspired the workshop I am teaching at Green Shirt Studio this Sunday: 'Day Job Survival Strategies from the Alexander Technique'. I will share some of my insights on how the Alexander Technique can create a 'trickle up' effect from your day job to your performance. I hope you will consider joining us.
Thoughts on what is going on in the work and the world right now. Many posts to come.