what do you actually do?

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Hello everyone, here we are the middle of the working week, and I am in bed, after being knocked out with the flu asleep for the past 19 hours! So I hope you guys are feeling brighter eyed and bushier tailed than I am right now!

Ironically, as I am off sick, today I thought I would chat a little about what it actually is I do for work. I talk a lot on here about following my dream job and I think most of you know that I work in theatre, but even my own parents aren’t always entirely sure what it is I do, so hopefully this will clarify that, and not be too boring.

I’m one of the lucky ones, since I was 9 years old I’ve always known what it is that I wanted to do. It started like with most people, by acting in a school play, then I moved onto a few productions with university students who needed a child actor and then my local amateur dramatics group. I loved acting, but I never went to drama school or classes. It wasn’t so much the acting that really captured me but the process of being in a show as a whole, the idea of putting something together from words on a page, and making people see and believe that story, and hopefully be entertained in some way by it. It was the magic that theatre can create, for those on and off stage that I loved.

I’ve also always been a bit of a realist, and the idea of trying to make it as an actor scared me. I have so many amazing talented friends that are actors, and I admire them so much for having that gut and determination, which I think is what you need more than anything to make it in that line. I just didn’t have it, and I also had the added thing at 18 of being one of the kids who was ‘meant to go to university.’ I managed to find the balance though and studied English Literature and Theatre Studies, and loved every minute of it.

Fast forward three years, and here I am on my 21st birthday, a graduate back home, with absolutely no idea of how to turn a degree into a job, and also not really sure of what all the jobs in theatre were. Something which I think all degree courses need to spend a bit more time doing, is explaining how what you learn at uni transfers into the working world. Just a list of possible job titles and what they actually mean would be nice!

ANYWAY. I found an internship, doing some arts marketing, which also gave me the chance to get back into performing. At uni I had studied all these great writers and theatre companies, but hadn’t really spent any time, working out what theatre I was interested in. So I started off writing a couple of kids stories, and wanted to make the stage like a giant pop-up story book. Then came my first grown up show ‘Confessions of a Waitress’ I had all these stories to tell from working in a restaurant, stories I knew other people would understand. I toured than into theatres, festivals, and best of all, performed it in actual restaurants. All the while still working at my internship, and putting in the odd shift, of actual waitressing.

Then I got to work on my second show, this time much more personal. ‘Love Letters and Other Pointless Scribbles.‘ A show about getting my heart broken and my Grandma’s Alzheimers. The shows I make are a lot like this blog. You don’t come along and see an actor acting out a story, it’s me on stage telling you about my life, just in a slightly more theatrical manner, than if we were sat having a cup of tea.

In the process of touring with this show, I left Manchester moved home and returned to full time waitress. I loved writing and performing, and I still do but it doesn’t pay the bills. I’ve worked on a few community arts projects, helping people with Alzheimers express themselves, and created a specially commissioned show for a coastal festival, and every now and then I still do a spot of storytelling. I don’t ever want to give up performing, and maybe in the future I will work out, how to be an artist and get paid for it, but for now I have another job in theatre that I absolutely love.

So as many of you know, last June I moved to Blackburn, for my first ever ‘proper’ job. That is a job with a salary, and a set up that vaguely looks like 9-5. In a nutshell what that job is, is to choose which shows get put on in several theatres near where I live. But better than that, I get to go out and talk to people about what they would actually like to see, and inspire people that thought that theatre wasn’t for them to give it a try.

Over all, my career in theatre looks like it has been a bit here there and everywhere. And it sort of has, but through it all, I have stuck with the idea that I want to make theatre about and for everyday people ‘theatre my dad understands.’ I love theatre, it has completely and utterly shaped my life, and in many ways, I am one of those people that sees their job as a bit of a definition of who they are, but I think that is ok, I think that if you are passionate about something then of course it is going to be a huge part of you and your life.

Choosing a career is hard. Choosing to follow a career in something that you are passionate about can be even harder. I can honestly say I’ve had my heart broken more times by my career than I have by guys. But it also makes you more determined, and ultimately happier. When people ask me for advice about what career to take, I don’t try and sugar coat it. Be prepared for it to be just as tough as it is amazing, and if you don’t think you can take the good with the bad, find something that you can.

In my office we have a quote on the wall that says ‘People thrive when they can live and work in their element’ and I couldn’t have said it better myself. In all honesty I am not entirely sure what my next step is once this project finishes in a year, maybe a masters, maybe another 9-5, but I know that if I stick to my core value of ‘theatre for the everyday’ then I will be happy.

Live life & yes follow your dreams x

ps. you can find out more about my theatre company Teacup Theatre here.

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21 thoughts on “what do you actually do?

    • So glad that this is of interest to people! I think it is important to hear what people do next! My university invited me back to be part of an Alumni Pannel at the beginning of last year, and one year on, I can’t believe how much more I would have to say! When you come out of uni it feels like you should be sorted within 6 months of graduating, but really it takes a good couple of years to work it all out. It took me 3 years to get my degree, so it is only natural that it would take another 3 years for me to really feel like I have started my career! Best of luck with your course xx

  1. I could not agree more with everything in this post. You’ve gotta go through the struggle to get to where you want to be, right?
    And good point about getting more advice at university – they tell you nothing, not where your degree could lead to or possible routes for when you graduate – nothing!
    I guess it’s sort of like a trial and error thing, and hopefully one day, we’ll be set and it’ll pay off.

    Look after yourself, hope you feel better soon!

    Holly | http://abranchofholly.blogspot.co.uk/

    • You do, and I think it takes as long to feel like you’ve started your career as it does to get your degree!

      I wonder if none creative courses are better at giving you the opportunity to make informed decisions.

      I know that I was invited back to do the Alumni pannel at Lancaster for the theatre course, and that is a start! And of course, part of it is up to the students to actually attend those events!

      Over the worst of it and on the mend! Sleep being the best medicine x

  2. This was a really interesting read! Your story is so inspiring. I’m currently in my first year of doing English Literature, and I know that’s not the best degree for finding a job, but to me it’s more important to be doing something I enjoy. I know that it’ll work out in the end 🙂

    xx Mimmi, Muted Mornings

    • Whenever some one asked me what I was studying and what job I thought that would lead to I asked them how many students do you know that studied history that became histroians? So few degree titles translate directly to a job title, but language and communication is at the heart of all work, so studying it can only be beneficial. And passion shines through stronger than anything at an interview xx

    • It’s not only a lovely job, but an amazing company to work for, lots of cake, and a couple of dogs wandering around the office! Safe to sa all the hard work and heart ache paid off! Thank you, I’m very much on the mend now xx

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m graduating from college in May and I have no idea what’s going to happen after that! I want to be employed once I graduate, but I also don’t want to settle for something I know won’t fulfill me.

    Hearing about another twenty-something’s journey is reassuring for me. 🙂

    • You’re welcome, and remember that just because you might end up in a job you don’t really want straight out of college that doesn’t mean that you have to stick on that path. You’re in complete control of that, and I believe that every situation (even the ones you don’t want to be, especially the ones you don’t want to be in!) can teach you something! Best of luck for graduation xx

  4. Really interesting. Your job sounds amazing! I could never do it though – I’m not creative enough. Like most translators, I actually wanted to be a writer… but quickly discovered I do a much better job of translating what other people have already written.

    I hope you feel better soon.

    • A friend of mine is a theatre maker (as in she creates and performs shows, not builds sets) and she said to me once, that everyone is an artist we just might not realise what it is we create, she said sometimes she looks at her children, and how she has bought them up, and thinks actually one of her finest bits of artistry is being a mother. I think that is a really lovely way of looking at creativity, it might be that your art is translation, or it might be something else, but it is important to recognise those things as art and not just the stuff with fancy pants names attached xx

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