Slow Play

Jan 16, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Acting Tips, Attitude, The business

The Royal George Theatre in Chicago, IL

Okay, picture this:

You’re an actor. To help support your showbiz career, you’ve taken up a day job at Bob’s House of Biscuits. One day, while you’re cleaning the biscuit display case, you look up to see Steven friggin’ Spielberg waltzing through the door, looking for lunch. As a self-managing, opportunity-seeking, moment-seizing actor, what do you do?

  • Option #1 – Exclaim, “Hi,omigod,you’reStevenSpielberg!!!!Omigod,I’manACTOR!!! Here,haveacopyofmyheadshot,it’sreallygood! Iam sooootalentedandwouldjustDIEtoworkwithyou. Anyway,thanksforcomingtoBob’s,haveagreatday.CALL ME!!!!!!!!!!!”
  • Option #2 – Greet him in a friendly manner, like you would any other customer, and don’t mention film, acting, or yourself AT ALL unless he somehow brings it up first. Be calm, cool, and collected. Be a person. Don’t be a whactor. Let the man eat his biscuits, for crying out loud!

So, which do you choose?

Many of us work similar day jobs to pay the bills. We face situations comparable to the one described above almost daily. Most of us have no problem sticking with Option #2 (the wiser choice, if you’re keeping score). But for the sake of reinforcing the point, I’d like to share a true story.

The Set-Up

To help sustain my acting career, I work at a casual dining restaurant in Lincoln Park. The restaurant is mere steps away from the famed Steppenwolf Theatre, as well as the slightly lesser-known but still vastly impressive Royal George Theatre. One of Chicago’s most well-known talent agencies, Geddes Agency, is a few doors down. In addition, the area is littered with five-star restaurants that draw Food Network camera crews on a regular basis. Needless to say, I am constantly surrounded by working actors, directors, playwrights, agents, and business managers.

I get to know these individuals during their lunch breaks. They tell me about what their respective institutions are up to, and how their careers are going. When it comes to my own career, I make it a point to keep my mouth shut. I let them get to know me as a person first. I focus on building friendly relationships with these people, all of whom could have an impact on my acting career one day.

After a mere 4 months, choosing Option #2 has finally started to pay off for me.

The Payoff

Last week, the manager of the Royal George (we’ll call him Steve) came in for his usual late afternoon lunch, and we got to talking about some big upcoming events for his theatre. Steve mentioned that he was especially busy that week because he was sorting through applications for ushers and bartenders, and he asked me to let him know if I knew anyone looking for that kind of work.

“This,” I thought to myself, “is a most excellent chance to seize the day.”

The very moment I got home from work that afternoon, before I even took off my coat, I looked up the theatre’s phone number online and eventually got through to Steve. The call went something like this:

JVB: “Hey Steve, it’s Joe from Pizza Capri. How are you?”

STEVE: “Oh, hey man! I’m great, how are you?”

J: “I’m doing great, thanks. I was actually just calling to let you know that I’m very interested in the ushering & bartending positions you mentioned this afternoon.”

S: “Oh, awesome!”

J: “Yeah! I was wondering if there would be a good time for you that I could swing by a copy of my resume.”

S: “Dude, I don’t even need to look at your resume. I’ve seen you at work. I’d hire you on the spot!”

And just like that, I now have a flexible paying job at an amazing theatre. Yahtzee!

Would this opportunity have arisen if I had chosen Option #1 upon meeting Steve back in September? It’s difficult to say for certain, but I highly doubt it. He didn’t hire me because I’m an actor. He never saw my headshot or resume. He hired me because he knew me as a friendly, outgoing, professional person in whom he could trust.

What It All Means

  1. Exercise an appropriate amount of patience, and opportunity is sure to present itself. When it does, seize it!
  2. Approach your day job with the same degree of professionalism and caring that you would any other gig. You never know who’s watching!
  3. Instead of worrying about getting jobs or gigs, focus on building relationships!

I start my job at the Royal George next week. I’ll only be an usher at first, but I’m told I’ll begin bartending this Spring. It’s not enough to quit my restaurant job just yet, but it’s a step in the right direction for me, and I can’t wait to see where it goes. 🙂

Living the Dream,


Joe Von Bokern is the Chicago contingent of this blog. Find out more information and view his materials on his website, or read the rest of his blog posts.