Adieu, ChicagoActress

“You must learn day by day, year by year to broaden your horizon. The more things you love, the more you are interested in, the more you enjoy, the more you are indignant about, the more you have left when anything happens.”
Ethel Barrymore

“I don’t understand, if you want to be an actress why the (bleep) are you moving to Paris?”

The question caught me off guard. I stood in the middle of my friends engagement party with my eyebrows raised, trying to come up with a susinct soundbite answer.The guests stared at me, awaiting my explanation.

The answer seemed simple and obvious to me. I’ve loved nannying for the last two years. Why not do the same job, while getting paid to live in one of the greatest cities on the planet? For the next year I will be living in the 7th arrondissement in Paris, France. I’ll have my own studio near my host family, language classes several times a week, and the ability to hop on a train and go anywhere in Europe.  I’ll learn a new language, have new experiences, and (hopefully) make some new friends. The trade off is, I put my acting on hold for a while.

“Ambition is only understood if its to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success.”(Bill Watterson)  Most people assume if you are serious about acting, you must move to New York or L.A. and wait tables until you get your “big break.” For the majority of my life I believed thats the path I would follow after graduation. After visiting New York several times, I was shocked to discover I didn’t love it the way I thought I should.  L.A. was not a viable option as I had very little money saved, and almost no connections in California. While its romantic to hear stories of movie stars who moved to L.A. and lived in their cars before they were sky rocketed to fame and fortune, that lifestyle holds no charm for me (and I don’t have a car to sleep in anyway). So after graduation I set to work building a life here in Chicago, finding a day job I loved and some footing in the store-front theatres. I have been able to support myself and do what I love, thats not a small thing.

The question left me speechless because it cut to the core of what I’ve been afraid of: that if I leave for a year, I won’t be able to come back. There is part of me that feels guilty about leaving. I worried I might be percieved as a fraud for not relentlessly pursuing acting. I didn’t even want to write about taking a break here, for fear that an industry member might see and not want to hire me (a moot point, as I am leaving anyway).

These lingering feelings of doubt and uncertainty vanish whenever I think about what I’ll be exposed to in Paris. Moving to Paris is not at odds with my career in the arts, Paris is the cultural epicenter of the universe! I’ll be able to see operas, ballets, and read Moliere in its original language! I’ll be exposed to art, music, new ideas, a completely different way of life. I’ll be living in a culture that takes pride in its artistic history and contributions. I’ve already found some english-speaking actor meet ups I am excited to check out. I want to see how theatre is used and regarded in another part of the world.

A life in the arts is not a linear path. When I expressed my concerns to a friend recently, she offered me this fantastic analogy; theatre is like a river. You can be as immersed as you like, or you can get out for a while. Whenever you feel like jumping back in, there is always something new coming down the pipeline.  When/if I do return to Chicago theatre, I will have a new set of skills and experiences that will set me apart from the 200 other brunettes I’m constantly auditioning with. No two paths to success are the same, and I plan on finding my own way.

I’ve loved writing in this blog, if you’d like to follow the next part of my journey, meet me over at my new blog. Within and Without.  

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