I’m no longer an LA actor. Let me share a moment with you why that is.
“What are you doing back here?” I don’t quite know how I heard it. “What are YOU doing back here?” “What are you doing back HERE?” “What are you doing BACK here?” All I knew was it was early 2008, the height of the Writer’s Strike, and I was sitting at yet another commercial audition waiting my turn to act the hell out of a one line double-take to camera.
The person talking to me was no other than fellow YOMYOMF offender Roger. Roger was standing over me in his hunky, manly, sexy-licious 6’1 frame. (Am I right on this Roger? 6’1? BTW: I added ‘sexy-licious’ cuz you know you are! Word!) He was carrying one of those laptop bag things that people affectionally call a “Murse”. He looked at me with a mix of quizzical pity. “You got out of LA, why did you come back?”
It was a good question.
I had left LA and the LA acting community for 3 years. I had this dumb luck and got into an MFA program (for Acting no less) and I couldn’t turn down 3 years of governmental loans and scholarships to play on a stage, albeit, farther away. Now, when you’re an actor in LA, nothing else exists outside of the box of LA. Okay, we know there’s a place called New York City where everyone is really trained in the acting craft and where they ride subways. But beyond that, why would you want to act outside of LA? LA is film/ tv/commercial/cruise-ship/Disney Land and World/regional theatre mecca! All production companies come through Los Angeles… why act anywhere else?
Roger has no idea how much he shook me up with that question. I had returned to LA with brand new contacts and a brand new management team (along with an excellent agent) who had all ‘discovered’ me at an MFA showcase (despite the fact that I had been under their noses in LA for 8 years, but I digress)… and here I was, back in a room full of actors herded like cows in order to say one line. Moo.
And it was that day… that very day, I started thinking of all the actors I met who will never be ‘famous’ but whose work has made me laugh/cry/rethink every step of my life.
Then there’s Larry Pisoni, who -when I was a child- delighted all of my peers with his Pickle Family Circus.
And last but certainly not least, Geoff Hoyle. I was 19 years old when I first saw the clown Geoff Hoyle perform a one-man show called “Feast of Fools” at the Marina Theatre in San Francisco. I never knew one person could hold my attention for so long with a simple move of his eyebrow. That was the a-ha moment of my life when I saw that and said, “I want to do that!” (Little did I know I’d actually follow this line of work.)
As luck would have it, 14 years later, in a little city called Seattle, I had the privilege of driving the incredible Mr. Hoyle home to his temporary apartment. (During my MFA time, we were given workshops by professionals, and he had just finished a clowning workshop with us.) I was star struck. But I had to stay calm. He was my hero! But stay calm. Hero! Calm. Hero! Calm.
He had asked me my plans after graduate school. I mumbled something to the effect that I’d probably would be returning to LA because most of my friends and contacts were down there. He listened as the car swooshed through the Seattle streets. I then shyly asked him about his work and why, with all his talent, he didn’t live in LA. He grew thoughtful…. said some things that I don’t remember… but he did say one thing that resonates with me to this day, “(If you’re not in LA) you can never be famous…. but you can be an artist.” With those words, he walked off into the sunset of my fading memory.
So I sat there, with Roger standing in front of me, hearing those words still in my mind… and I started to wonder, is there an acting career to be had OUTSIDE of LA? One year after that meeting, I left LA to find out.