When the world stops moving, productions come to a grinding halt, and the theaters close down around the globe, amazing organizations everywhere open up their doors to allow actors to attend free talks, online networking events, one-on-ones with casting directors, and even watch online theater productions streamed right to your living room. And you can just tap into any and everything at your leisure, right?
Wrong. Why? One word–kids! Like so many actors out there, I’m faced with the challenge of looking after two tiny humans during the coronavirus lockdown. So from about 5.30 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day, one or both are awake and typically needing constant attention. It’s not so easy to just log onto my computer and see what talks are available that week or spend an hour refreshing my computer hoping I’ll be one of the lucky ones who grabs a space in a highly coveted one-on-one with a legendary casting director. Even if I could, I don’t imagine the baby or toddler want to listen in on my lap for 30 minutes.
If like me you’re an actor doing the child shuffle during the lockdown, you might have ants in your pants about staying tapped into the acting world. After all, while this will end at some point, it’s still nice to feel that we are more than just parents now. It’s wonderful to know what’s currently happening in the acting arena and what the state of play is. It’s also wonderful to be productive, proactive, and to connect with other people in the industry.
It’s for this very reason that I’ve been on a hunt to find parent-friendly acting activities so I can still feel connected to the industry during this time. After looking around, and even participating in a few myself, I’ve put together a list of a few things you can do so you don’t feel completely out of the loop until auditions, productions, and events resume as normal, which could be quite some time for many of us. This is not an exhaustive list by any stretch, but merely a handful of opportunities and ideas for you to pick and choose from that hopefully won’t conflict with raising your family at the same time!
1. Pick one director or producer a fortnight and reach out.
You can do this via email or text if you know them well. It might seem pushy, but trust me it’s not. All those industry people you knew before lockdown are feeling exactly the same way you are. They’ve been hiding out at home just as long as you have and they don’t know when they’re going to be back to work either. How lovely would it be to hear from someone who is just checking in to say hi in earnest?
2. Consider joining evening talks held by organizations.
There are a number of companies hosting talks out of business hours and thus providing parents everywhere with a glimmer of hope of being able to participate. My organization hosts free evening talks (GMT) at U.K. Actors Tweetup, Make Your Film evening events are happening once a month and they’re donating all proceeds made to Film TV Charity, and our very own Backstage is offering live online talks with The Slate that you can watch on the Backstage YouTube channel hours later. There’s a plethora of content out there for consumption after your little ones are snoozing.
3. Join a Facebook group to connect with other actors.
The sheer volume of Facebook groups available to join is endless and sometimes it can feel like Facebook will lead you down the “Alice in Wonderland” rabbit hole. But right now, Facebook groups provide a place for people to connect and to find a sense of acting community in many areas. If you haven’t ever considered it, perhaps now is the time to find one. Personally, I highly recommend the group Get Inspired started by two CSA casting directors. There’s a flurry of content on there daily and they’re also hosting some brilliant Zoom coffee chats, allowing actors to log on and join them.
4. You can always watch theater.
Being an actor isn’t always about listening to talks or chatting to your industry buddies. Sometimes it’s just about watching the pros do it. Ever decided to have a night out to the theater while the kids stay home with a babysitter? Well, now is your chance–only you’ll be babysitting the little ones and the theater is in your living room. With Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cirque du Soleil sharing some of their previous shows online for your viewing pleasure, as well as places like the National Theatre allowing you to see their world-class productions, it’s not hard to find something wonderful to watch. Or you can check out sites like Omeleto and watch countless award-winning shorts streaming free for your viewing pleasure. If you love the work of one of those directors or actors you see, why not go back to my first point and reach out and tell them?
5. Do your own spot of acting with the #TimeToActChallenge.
The incredibly talented photographer Alistair Morrison has opened up a challenge for actors everywhere. The online stage is open for all actors to perform “isolation Shakespeare,” and join David Suchet, Dame Harriet Walter, Simon Callow, Brian Cox, Dame Judi Dench, Jenny Agutter, and Ed Westwick, to name a few who have also done it. Simply learn a Shakespeare piece at your leisure, film yourself at home performing it, upload it to your social media page with the tag #timetoactchallenge and nominate a few others to join. What’s the added bonus of this wonderful initiative? The key aim, apart from actors getting to practice some fabulous Shakespeare sonnets, is to raise money for NHS charities. So you’re effectively dusting off the acting cobwebs while also helping our key workers
There you have it. From performing Shakespeare to watching world-class theater online, you can still be involved in the industry even if your days are mostly spent doing home learning, park walks, and singing nursery rhymes. But just remember, whether you do just one thing a month or 10 a week, it’s completely up to you as to what you deem achievable, realistic, and pleasurable. If you want to completely tap out of the industry too, that’s OK. You know your mindset better than anyone and it’s important to take care of your well being as well as that of your family. Stay safe and most of all, enjoy time with those little ones while we have all this resting time.
*This post was originally published on May 13, 2020. It has since been updated.
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