They say you don’t know what you do for a career until you stop doing it. For a performer it’s a lot different. What you do for a career and what you do for a living become two different things. Performing shows and making money off your art can be fleeting sometimes and consistent at others. Sometimes it’s enough, sometimes it’s barely enough, and sometimes it just isn’t.
That’s why you’ll generally seeing performers (especially independent artists that are at the Fringe) work a “real job” to make ends meet. In fact, a lot of our performers get their material from the jobs that they work everyday. So even if they’re not working their most “creative” job they can still ways to be inspired in the more ordinary aspects of their day-to-days.
Since a lot of these performers are either traveling or from out of state, I had to use technology to get in touch with each and every one of them. Here are some of the stories that I gathered from our #IndyFringe15 performers:
I have several jobs in order to sustain my growing company. I did my time as a server. I’ve recently worked at a Buffalo Wild Wings as well as a server on a fine dining cruise ship. Before I left for the summer, I was working with The Circus Project as an outreach coach teaching acrobatics, juggling and clown to at risk youth in the community. I also worked as a tumbling and aerial instructor at the Echo Theatre Company. I even worked as an administrative assistant for the Imago Theatre. When we return in October, I plan to continue with these jobs once again, while also pursuing other artistic endeavors including Box of Clown’s next full length feature, my first solo show, and a duo with an old classmate.
MOM? A COMEDY OF MOURNERS
I work full time at the Indiana Repertory Theatre as the Assistant Manager of Education. I am truly lucky to be able to have a day job helping introduce live theater to students all across Indiana, and to further share my passion by teaching acting to young students here! Before that, I worked as an Instructional Assistant for students with moderate to severe cognitive disabilities – cards from my students on my last day of work are plastered all over the walls of my desk, and I was truly given renewed fervor for art through their genuine spirits.
–Anne Marie Elliot
In January I took a job as the wholesale accounts manager for a bagel bakery. It’s the first “straight” job I’ve ever had. From the time I was 18-28, I was a rock and roll concert and special events producer, and for the last 12 years, I’ve been a phone sex operator. I took the phone sex job in 2003 to pay for acting school and found it’s was a great day (night?) job that allowed me the freedom to write, rehearse, perform, and tour. Over the years, I’ve worked for other services, been an independent phone sex operator, and ran my own company with 20+ women working for me. In fact, my second one-person show is called “A Story of O’s” and is all about my time on the phone lines. A very different story on the surface than “Threads” but they’re both about the search human connection.
-Tonya Jone Miller
I’m the luckiest of all humans on the planet. When I’m not crafting, rehearsing, or performing stories, I’m coaching professionals who want to tell their professional stories more effectively OR I’m giving workshops to professionals who need to tell their stories OR I’m teaching public speaking at Butler. In each of those environments, I try to tell stories as often as I can to model whatever I’m teaching or coaching. That keeps me sharp and reminds me to always adapt my storytelling to my audience. How do I keep an artistic mindset? I remind myself that people in professional environments are refreshed by an artistic tale if it’s well told in a manner that is adapted to their interests.
I’ve had 17 jobs. Often 3 or 4 at a time, juggling them so I can fit in rehearsals in the evenings. My show, ODDyssey, is my autobiographical tale about all of my odd jobs and odd skills and odd people I’ve met along the way. Babysitting, waitressing, retail and hot days spent working at theme parks are just the tipping point. Yes I can say I’ve worked at Kings Island and Disney World, Applebees, Starbucks and many local businesses but what seems glamorous is really the opposite and what seems terrible, well hopefully my show can shed some light on what service industry workers go through to makes consumer’s lives pleasant, what we sacrifice, our wages and that it’s ok to tip your barista or thank that person re-filling your drink or taking out the trash. To end this, I also hope people see just how difficult the life of a working actor is. We work to support our real career which is making art! Support the artist. Support the local businesses. Tip your servers 20%. Be polite. Be patient. And finally, buy tickets to see live theatre!
My “day job” is in a medical lab. I use a flow cytometer to look for leukemia and lymphoma cells in blood, bone marrow, and tissue. It can get monotonous, but it forces me to take a break from writing and publishing and allows me to interact with other humans so I am not stuck in my own head all the time. I’m fortunate that I move around alot at my job. My coworkers keep me entertained and provide inspiration. My current employer has been very flexible with my schedule and that has really helped me progress with my writing in the last couple of years.
I’M NOT GAY
I’m a retired metro columnist for the Evansville Courier & Press. I penned more than 6,500 columns on every subject from murderers and moonshiners to Appalachian snake handlers. We moved to Carmel two years ago to be with our two grandchildren. My two-act “Jubilee in the Rear View Mirror” about the 1960s civil rights movement has been produced in Evansville, Nashville, Tenn., and Oxford, Ohio. I wanted the audience to learn about that period of time so I interviewed African-Americans in Evansville and Greenwood, Miss., who grew up under segregation until the civil rights movement kicked in. These two DVDs ran on a continuous loop before the show and during intermission. I have spoken at two high schools in Indy on this material.
KILL THE COLUMN
Our work with The Fourth Wall is year-round, but decidedly part-time, so we each maintain busy schedules as freelancers. That is to say, we pursue a variety of artistic projects in addition to our day jobs. Hilary works at a brewery, Greg works for a grocery delivery service, and I am a massage therapist. These other jobs tap into our other interests while providing the flexibility we need to accommodate national touring, which sometimes takes us on the road for a month (or more) at a time.
FRUIT FLIES LIKE A BANANA
My story may buck the trend here – I kind of sold out backwards. I worked a Litigation Support paralegal job in a big Chicago law firm for 21 years, struggling to make time for songwriting and performing as the corporate culture grew ever more 24/7. I finally committed to music, quit the day job, moved to a small town an hour from the city, and cut expenses to the point I could get by on music plus savings. My best songs all came out of that period of struggle with the day job, though it wasn’t until I left that I had time to record and tour them.
THE NOT SO SECRET ORIGIN OF CAPTAIN AMBIVALENT
Well, since I like to live in shades of stereotype, I have always been a barista or retail manager as the day job. I am such an experienced barista I am highly certified in latte art and wrote a whole Fringe show set in a coffee shop. I also moved to San Franciso for a few months on the promise of a barista job. You may see a pattern here, as my show this year focuses on a group of retail managers in a mall. I have never been happy at a day job, and that tends to not allow me to go far in any careers, but the arts. Last year, my boyfriend graciously told me to quit my day job and start my theatre company. It was time, last year, as I had really fallen into my gang that gelled with my work, but also as a company. Our first season closed in Fountain Square the June. Our second season opens at the Indy Eleven and closes at Fringe, taking the middle two shows elsewhere, but long story short, it’s been great to answer “What do you do for a living?” and say “I manage a theatre company.”
HELL’S FOURTH RING: THE MALL MUSICAL
I spent a year as a product demonstrator for home soda makers. I would camp out in department stores for six hour shifts with a soda maker, a 5 gallon water cooler, a collection of syrups, and a strong desire to be doing something else. The hardest part was that I was instructed to demonstrate the machine, not handout samples. This meant that after each half-liter of soda I made, I dumped most of it into a wast basket. Every couple of hours, I had to carry that basket, full of freshly carbonated slurry through the mall in search of a drain — any drain — down which I could dump it. It was often a pretty messy job.
I was working for a corporation for a short time. I hated it from day 1, but I needed the money to make sure I could be on the road in the future and save some money. This saving money idea has changed since then. I walked into my first day and asked my Art Director about projects and she replies “Go the In Progress folder”. I asked her where that would be and she replies, rather aggressively “You haven’t figured that out yet?” I had been there for 10 minutes. Needless to say I wasn’t interested in this job and while riding the bus at 7am I’d keep repeating the phrase “You’re earning your stripes” I’m not entirely sure what that meant. After 2 weeks I would sit at my desk and write. Write my material, satire and commentary posts, send emails after emails to bookers. That kept me sane, knowing that I wouldn’t be stuck that forever. But roughly 3 months into that job I got fired and I took that as a blessing disguise to pursue comedy with nothing holding me back.
AN INDIAN COMEDIAN: HOW NOT TO FIT IN
So I have actually been able to make my living on stage one way or the other for 17 years, mostly as a motivational speaker for students and then as a touring fringe artist. Indy Fringe will actually be my last fringe as I’m fringe-retiring after the festival. I actually started driving for Uber and Lyft last month as a way to make some money when not on the road. I did over 160 hours with Uber in just over three weeks to qualify for a new driver bonus. I’m taking a break from now until Indy, but I think I’m going to activate as a Lyft driver when I’m in town – I’ll promote Bromance (with myself and Kurt Fitzpatrick, also in Dancing in The Mist) to my passengers…and pass out a bunch of free Lyft ride cards to my Fringe friends – best of both worlds!
DANCING IN THE MIST
There are 4 of us that will be performing. My mother Peggy, our business partner Debbi White, myself and a guy named Paul Wasson who occasionally comes to perform with us when we do more adult type shows.
Until recently Peggy, Debbi and myself have been full time puppeteers. We have Peewinkle’s Puppet Studio here in Indianapolis and have been here for 18 years now. (Although we have all been performing for many many years all over the place!) I just took a teaching job at our local high school teaching Fiber Arts and Intro to 2-D design. We have known Paul since he was a little boy attending our puppet camps in the summer. He is now a hair stylist as a profession… but joins us on occasion!
CABARET OF PUPPETRY
And it doesn’t stop there. Matt Kramer (Camp Summer Camp) and Jim Peterson (Girls Like That) both teach at middle school and high school respectively. Paula Kuria (Not My Baby!) works as a home care nurse. Taylor Martin (Indy Magic Monthly) used to tune pianos. David Gaines (A Little Business at the BIG TOP) has worked as a clown, professor, artist model, telemarketer and even worked as a carny. Kevin Crowley (SARGE) used to work at UPS. The team with Men’s Room contains a lead bartender from Louie’s on Mass Ave, as well as a Chase business banker and a waitress at the Stacked Pickle. Performers for the show Up Yours, Indianapolis range from an attorney to a grocery store bagger. Stewart Huff (Stewart Huff: Road Stories) told me that he misses his job at Dairy Queen while KT Peterson (Mr. Boniface, The Wise) dresses up as a dinosaur to make her living.
We’ve all worked tons and tons of jobs in our life. Most of the time we’re surprised with how the day to day business can impact the other things we do in our life. It can make for some long days, but it can also make for some great stories. Besides, if it were easy as an artist than there wouldn’t be that much to talk about would there?
Remember that almost all profits from shows go back to performers so all support helps makes these artists in their livelihoods.