A professional Director and performer once advised me not to include amateur dramatics on my Actor’s CV.
I followed his advice and deleted it, although a little mournfully. I still take part in amateur dramatics. Currently I’m the Evil Witch in Sleeping Beauty and I am learning throughout the process and I am giving the best performances I can give.
Yet you can understand why it may not be appropriate to include my amateur experience on a CV for a professional job. We’ve all experienced someone not yet ready for the stage yet determined to be on it anyway, then we know why Hamlet said:
‘Oh, it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags, to split the ears of the groundlings,’ Hamlet 3.2.8-11.
Nevertheless every artist was once an amateur. Therefore every (now) professional artist was also once an amateur. Maybe it’s not such a dirty word.
Amateur Dramatics is a mind field topic, filled with misguided judgements, preconceptions and truths. So let’s consider the definitions for the sake of this article:
AMATEUR definition according to https://www.Google.com:
noun: amateur; plural noun: amateurs
AMATEUR definition according to http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/amateur:
Taking part in an activity for pleasure, not as a job:
› relating to an activity, especially a sport, where the people taking part do not receive money:
AMATEUR DRAMATICS definition according to http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/amateur-dramatics:
noun: amateur dramatics
theatre performances in which the people involved are not paid but take part for their own enjoyment
Amateur can also refer to someone who does not have much skill. But I have taken part in Amateur productions where I have been able to tell my friends: ‘The only thing amateur about it is that there is no pay.’
It’s a question I struggle with as an ‘Aspiring Actress’ - someone who is actively seeking to become a professional. I know another professional Director who has encouraged me to pursue producing my own shows in collaboration with fellow artists and friends, consequently not relying solely upon the audition process (our project of this endeavour is called VINE and there will be more information about this on my website). But it raises the question for me: If we were to produce and take Vine to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as our first piece together, also making no money from it…Was that a professional piece of work offered by professional actors? Or was it amateur? Alternatively, was it aspiring; the thin line we draw between amateur for life and only possibly amateur for life?
Maybe ‘Aspiring’ should be redefined as semi-professional.
The current conclusion is this: I am an artist. Art is what I do. It’s what I make. It is my aspiring profession and my current profession at short intervals of time.
So whether I’m being paid for working or working for free such as in an amateur dramatics production, I will be professional and my audience is just as good as an audience from The Donmar Warehouse Theatre.
Maybe the true question and the first one we should be asking is; What makes an artist?
Then the following question is allowed to be: What makes an artist a professional artist?
How do you measure something so ambiguous? In answer to the second question, is it simply getting paid? Although getting paid is never simple. And if you are an artist then guaranteed you have worked for free at least once in your career.
Is it more about creating work of integrity no matter the amount of the wage or lack of one?
Having said all of this, it is vital to remember that we need to respect artists and credit them for the work they do and recognise their achievement of being above average. And amateur implies that you are only average. It seems right that we acknowledge when someone has succeeded beyond that level. They have worked incredibly hard and have talent to go with it. And the worker deserves his wages in whatever way that comes.
So for now, I may not include my amateur roles on my CV, but I won’t hesitate to mention them in an interview or audition when asked about previous experience. I will tell them what I’ve learnt from the process. And I will show them how I am a better actor and company member for it; because I kept on honing my craft when paid work wasn’t available and I am not above being in smaller budget shows with less commercial exposure.
And whilst doing this, I will continue to refer to myself as ‘semi-professional’ and ‘aspiring’ because that is what I am. Until it is finally recognised by others – and mostly importantly I am able to acknowledge to myself – that I am a professional.
“Those who are lost in their passion are less lost than those who have lost their passion.”
“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
Clare Louise Roberts
Singer Songwriter, Actress, Poet and all round Creative, passionate about sharing, ideas, collaboration and seeing other people develop their skills and passions.
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