Sunday, May 15, 2016


One of the absolute worst things you could ever say to writer is "You used to write...". Someone said this exact thing to me in the last five months. I know it wasn't meant in a bad way, but the truth of it stung. I haven't been able to write. I haven't been able to work on anything; no real progress on my poetry or screenplays, and my blog has been silent for far too long. But that's what happens when you're abused; you shut down in order to save yourself. And now, after finally finding my way out, I'm sitting here in a Starbucks in Texas, trying to think of all the things I need to say and how to say them all without getting in trouble.

That's the hard part though - staying out of trouble. I'm too good at bringing a mess, at burning a bridge completely to the ground when I find myself in a place that is abusive. And I've been in abusive places since November. First, an abusive living arrangement. Then an abusive job. Then an abusive tour.

There's only one common thread in all of these: me.

I've been going over every step, every decision, every word and email. How did I get to this place? Fear. Desperation. Not listening to my intuition. Following the path of things I know I shouldn't do, but doing them anyways because it looked like I had no other choice. But hindsight is 20/20, correct?

I wish I could have been a better person on this last tour. But honestly, none of us were our real selves. We were in constant survival mode; fighting to find decent food, energy to somehow push through a show (or even two) after traveling on a bus for 8 - 10 hours, and trying to somehow keep the physical pain at bay. Four months of that as daily routine makes a person completely insane.

So we fought. Within and without. A few people quit or got fired. I tried to make a difference, but pretty much failed. There were three times where I spoke the words out loud, I can't do this anymore. I have to quit. But I didn't. That's not what I do. I stay until the bitter end, until I cannot take it anymore and then set fire to everything and everyone around me. It's not pretty. I've done it to relationships. I've done it to employers. And now I've had to do it to a theater company. I never in my life thought I'd have to write those words.

Theater is what I love. It is my entire life. It is the only place where I'm truly happy. I've sung on three national tours now, traveling the country for months at a time, getting paid to do nothing but sing. You'd think it would be the perfect match for me. But it wasn't this time around. The struggle was too much. And my mind has permanently been changed on one issue: the social media campaign that AEA (Actor's Equity Association) began in the fall of 2014, "Ask if it's Equity".

When I first heard of the campaign, I found it to be horrible. It was an affront to my own working circumstances. I'm a non-union singer, but that doesn't mean that I'm not Equity quality. I heard it numerous times at auditions, "You're non-equity? How is that possible?" And so the campaign struck a nerve. I hated every mention and found it completely distasteful. I had already sung on two tours and had decent experiences on them. The only meaning I could find from it was that non-union singers were somehow unworthy of audiences. And that was simply not true in my world.

I've come to realize however, that it was not the intent of the campaign. No singer should have to get up for a 4 AM bus call only to drive for 8 hours straight to a theater into a two show day. Yet it happened. No singer should have to fight for clean, safe accommodations. Yet we had to. No singer should be so pushed to their limits that they need therapy, both physical and mental, after a production. Yet here I am, needing both.

As I've been spending this week off in Texas, I've noticed new patterns in my life; I'm shoveling food down too quickly because that's what I had gotten used to, having only 15-30 minutes to eat or shop. I am in a constant flight or fight state of mind, my nerves always on edge. My muscles do not remember how to relax. I spent five hours at a spa, but was only able to let go and enjoy it after a couple of hours had passed. It's exhausting, being this distraught and frayed all the time. And it will take months of work to undo.

But I am one of the lucky ones. My next contract is in a place I love, where I feel safe and completely supported. And at the end of that contract, I'll be joining AEA. I will have protections in place. I had always been so scared about joining the union. The only things I've heard were that jobs were harder to get and all the tours were going non-union. And that's partially true. I'm moving up in the ranks. I'm going to be auditioning against the people who are on Broadway now. But I also realized that I have been auditioning against them already. I found a role that I had submitted for went to a woman that I idolize. So in reality, not that much is actually changing for me. Except that I'll have someone on my side when things go wrong. That I won't have to fight as hard to make sure that I'm taken care of. And my sanity - well, hopefully that will return in the weeks to come, as I spend another six weeks in Missouri.

My mind however, keeps going back and thinking about those people I am leaving behind, the ones who aren't as lucky as me. The friends who are still non-union, desperate for work and taking whatever comes. How are they supposed to survive? How can I help? Is there anything that I can actually do?

I will do what I know: I will write. I will speak up. I will speak out. I will teach others how to stand up in a way that might make a difference. And I will not be afraid. I will be here.

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