On the Menu: Freedom or Power?

Aug 28, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Attitude

Thanks to Linus Bohman for the photo: http://linusbohman.se

Twitter friend and inspirational writer, Gini Martinez (@ginimartinez) posed a really interesting question on Twitter the other day, which got my bloggy-sense all excited. (It’s like Spidey-sense, but for inspiration and not crime fighting.) Gini asked:

 “What would you rather have: freedom or power?”

I wrote back, “Oh gawd, can’t I have both?”

And she responded with, “You tell me, Miss Erin. Can you?”

And Ladies and gentlemen, just like that the gauntlet was thrown… and this blog was born!

The Argument for Freedom
I think most actors would agree that freedom is vitally important for their acting career. Freedom allows us to set the schedules we need rather than the schedules that are required of us. Financial freedom means we’re able to take projects that we love rather the ones that help pay our bills. Logistically, freedom allows us to really live the life of an actor, rather than having to split our focus. I feel incredibly lucky that I learned early on that I needed to learn how to be self sufficient so that I could have freedom to pursue acting fully. This meant I practiced for many years under the direction of amazing business owners and working many more hours than I was paid, just so I could learn all aspects of owning a business. And fortunately, I was able to translate that to a coaching career the fully supports my #1 passion: acting. I experience immense freedom as a result of these choices (not the least of which is completing this blog at 3am, knowing that I don’t have to get up in the morning.)

Freedom, for me, also means the space to create. Actors can often feel confined by a particular way of working, which can stifle their creativity and make the process more difficult and less enjoyable. Sometimes this way of working is imposed by a director who has a specific artistic vision, and sometimes it is imposed by executive producers who hold the financial fate of the production in their hands. To be free of that would mean such a difference in what we’re safe to create.

We can also feel barred from fully experiencing the range of emotions we need for our characters. Freedom, to me, allows me the safety of going really deep in my work as an actor. I’m currently working on the role of Anna in the play, “Closer,” and believe me, when we get to the end of Act One and I’m in a violent fight with Larry (both verbally and emotionally), I need the freedom to explore and risk failing in order to bring my best performance to audiences.

The Argument for Power
Ohhhh… power. Power seems to make the world go round. Power allows us to stand tall for our desires and beliefs. Power makes people simmer down and listen. It gives us the opportunity to lobby for the kinds of roles we want, work with the kinds of people we admire, and chart our own course in our careers.

Power allows us to command the kind of money we deserve for the work we offer. In a recent  article on day jobs, I talk a lot about the power an actor has with their voice to demand the things that they need. We are often afraid to stand up for ourselves, opting instead to be easy going — sometimes, even complacent. If we feel powerful, this means that we can easily assert our position without the need to beg or plead. And when we don’t get what we want, power gives us the strength of character to understand that the word “no” doesn’t de-value our worth.

Power also allows us to give opportunities to those we want to support. One of the most exciting things about being managing director of a theater company is that I get to offer work to actors, directors and designers that I know and love. It is absolutely amazing to be able to give back to those who have made my life as an actor a true dream. Thus, power allows me the chance to make a difference in the lives of others — which is my core objective in life. 🙂

My Argument for Both
I actually believe that having freedom gives you power, and having power gives you freedom. So, this little exercise made my head spin a little, because I didn’t know how I could live with one without the other. It’s a huge “chicken or the egg” argument.

Truly I believe my freedom started because of different kind of power — the power of crazy optimism. When I was only 24, I read a newspaper article that talked about owning your own home. “You can own for the same amount as you rent!” the article said. For some reason, I had the gumption to do some research and found that, with a First Time Homebuyers loan, I could indeed, afford own a home – I was able to buy a townhouse with a mortgage comparable to what I was paying in rent. I lived there for 2 years but started to feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of owning. So, I sold the townhouse — luckily, for a huge profit — which then allowed me to pay off my debts (read: more freedom.) I then got my Equity card (read: power), and due to auditions/rehearsals I decided to quit my day job in favor of a part time job. Selling the townhouse allowed me the financial freedom to do so easily. Power leads to freedom leads to power leads to freedom. And so on, and so on.

Having my own business, where I control my hours, my workload, and my income, has been a huge freedom for me but it also comes with great power, and great responsibility (cue the super-hero movie music!) I can’t pretend it’s all perfect – the power that I have limits my freedom somewhat, because anytime you have power it means that people are counting on you. And some days, my need for freedom wins out and I don’t get the work done that I need to. But the most exciting part of it all is that I CHOOSE EVERY MOMENT. And that, my friends, is why I believe you can have both at once: Freedom makes me feel immensely powerful, and power makes me feel incredibly free.

So, let me turn it over to you: Would you rather have freedom or power? Please leave a comment and get the conversation going!

Erin  🙂

Added Bonus: (Because at Playbills vs Paying Bills, we think you deserve bonuses every now and then!)

Often, the result of having freedom and power with “work-at-home” employment, is being sucked down into various rabbit holes of silliness and mischief on the internet. Here are some fun articles you might like:

Why Working At Home is Both Awesome and Horrible
5 Questions You Need To Ask (To Avoid Ruining Your Life)
You Should Be On Broadway

Erin Cronican is the New York contingent of this blog. Find out more information and view her materials on her website, or read the rest of her blog posts.