Okay I am being mean. It isn't really other people. It's meeting new people. People who I probably will never meet again, not because they are not nice, but simply because of the law of averages. These people are lovely, kind people who give to charities and raise puppies and frolic in fields of golden sunshine. But I'm sorry, if one more of these people asks me in that supremely innocuous, let's get to know each other way, "What is it you do then?" I am going to blow a gasket.
Yes, yes I know! I know what you're going to say, they are only making conversation, they don't even really care - but it is so damn hard to explain to people that I am an actor. How can someone be something when they aren't actually doing it, and especially, with acting, if you haven't done television or film?
You see, when I meet a doctor (which granted aside from my new housemate isn't all that often), I confess I make an assumption. I assume he's a good doctor. When I meet an architect (which granted I never have), I confess there too I make an assumption. I assume he is a good architect. But when one meets an actor, the assumption is the complete opposite. This of course is reasonable. I am a very reasonable person. When people over here ask me if I am American, I am one of the few Canadians who does not get offended. After all there are more Americans out there than Canadians and the accent is almost indistinguishable (no, it really is).
Anyway the reason it is reasonable is because of the nature of celebrity these days. The desire for instant fame. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "I want to be a doctor, or famous." And for many people the way to this fame and life of perfectness is through becoming an actor. What is even more depressing is how almost anyone would give up their job, the one they worked years to be promoted to, the one they spent years studying for, the one they spent thousands of dollars to pay for, if some Hollywood director offered them a lead in their major blockbuster (and by the way, props to those of you who wouldn't).
And so, when they meet an actor they assume they are just one of those thousands of wannabees out there. There is little to no way to convince someone who has never seen you perform that you are a good actor short of telling them, "Hey, I'm a good actor" (and that doesn't work either). Especially if after they ask what the actor has done the actor replies, "Well I just finished drama school and have done a few things, profit-share on the fringe." The person will invariably think, "Poor thing must not be that good then. I mean Orlando Bloom got Lord of the Rings right out of his drama school." (okay they probably don't think that last bit, I'm just bitter - but not as bitter as my male colleagues, you should see how they respond to his name).
And then . . . and then!! What makes the answering of the question even more difficult is when you actually are doing a show, but the show is something like, I don't know, a production of Peer Gynt at the Rosemary Branch Theatre in Islington for the month of October.
Because then. . .
"You're doing what?"
"Peer Gynt. It's by Ibsen. Who wrote Hedda Gabler? A Doll's House?"
"I've heard of those ones. What is it about?"
"Well it's the story of one man's life, about him not being himself. He travels . . . there are trolls . . . "
"I see. Where is it?"
"In . . .Islington."
"Ah it's fringe."
"Yes, but it's really professional. All the actors and the director are profess. . .ion. . . al . . ."
"So it's paid."
" . . . not exactly . . ."
Then I go home and cry.
Okay, so maybe there is something to be said in that I shouldn't care what other people think, and I am working on all that and everything, but maybe, while I deal with my psychological issues, in the meantime we could all make a little pact now that when we meet someone new (and even though this is actor specific I can tell you most twenty somethings resent that question equally as much) we could ask something else. Like . . . "Have you ever studied Latin?" I, for one, have not. But I do think it might be cool actually to study Latin. But it would have to be taught in a fun way, I could see it being sort of dry. I think they've translated Harry Potter into Latin, or was it ancient Greek, well I think that could be a fun way of learning it.
For those of you who are interested in finding out what Peer Gynt IS about, do check out the show. You can get information by visiting www.daletk.co.uk and clicking on current productions.