Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee, An Actor’s Life for Me!

An actor’s life for me
A high silk hat and a silver cane
A watch of gold with a diamond chain

An actor’s life is fun
You wear your hair in a pompadour
You ride around in a coach and four
You stop and buy out a candy store
An actor’s life for me!

Hi diddle dee doo
You sleep till after two
You promenade a big cigar
You tour the world in a private car
You dine on chicken and caviar
An actor’s life for me!”
So go the lyrics of the Disney classic from Pinnochio. Based on those lyrics we should all pack our bags and move to Hollywood or Broadway! If only it were true!

REALITY CHECK! Just in case some of you think that’s really the case, let me set the record straight. In the acting industry there is something like a 95% unemployment rate. Even if you are fortunate enough to actually land a paying job in this industry, you are only employed until the current project ends, leaving you unemployed again. I’m not saying that there aren’t those who live the life portrayed in the song lyrics, but they are a fraction compared to those who aspire to that lifestyle. Hollywood and Broadway communities are filled with actors who are also waiters, taxi drivers and shoe salespeople. To succeed you need a great deal of determination and the ability to cope with the inevitable rejection. It is an industry where the old adage “it is not what you know but who you know” is certainly true.

Most of you know that I don’t play in that field. It’s not that I haven’t fantasized the “actor’s life” (minus the “big cigar” and “my hair in a pompadour”). And it’s not because I lack the talent or determination. No, the reason that I have avoided the lure of the “actor’s life” is because my determination comes from a different source than most of those seeking fame and fortune in Hollywood. This actor’s life is driven to use his talents out of a sense of calling to ministry in service to our Lord. (Let me quickly add that there are those who have a similar calling within the entertainment industry! Thank God for those people!) I consider myself blessed to be making a living in theatre that is also a ministry. God has provided a way for me to do what I love to do while at the same time avoiding the traps and pitfalls of life in the secular entertainment industry.

Occasionally, I meet someone who aspires to a career in theatre. They look at what I do for a living and see only that I travel and perform a great deal. At first glance it looks enticing, and they dream of the “actor’s life” reflected in the song and think, “Not bad, I’d like to do that myself.”

I teach a workshop at drama conferences directed to those who aspire to make a living as a Christian artist. The purpose is to give them a “reality check.” Just like those who falsely think that their pastor works only one hour a week (preaching the sermon), likewise there are those who think that the only work a Christian artist does is perform! Nothing could be farther from the truth.

So just what does life as a Christian artist look like? In my case, the term one-man show goes well beyond the time spent on stage. To give you a clue, here is just a partial list of some of the things that occupy my time (aside from being a husband and father).

Bookkeeping: paying bills, maintaining financial records
Booking shows: lots of hours on the phone
Travel: airports, rental cars, freeways, hotels, and fast food
Making Travel arrangements
Data entry: computer database of churches
Mailings & Processing Book Orders
Receipting donors
Writing: drama projects, newsletters, etc.
Rehearsal: for my productions as well as others
Fundraising: Drama & Dessert

As you can see, it involves much more than just those moments in the “spotlight.” Thankfully I have help and support from my family and some wonderful volunteers. It is a very busy life indeed. I’m not complaining, I love what I do!

So what’s my point? For those who think that they want to live the “actor’s life” and can find it as a Christian artist, think twice. It is not enough just to have talent. One needs to be part minister, part performer and part businessperson. One of my first words of advice to those who “wannabe” echoes what I have heard many a missionary say, “Don’t do it unless you are called.” But if you are called, then by all means DO IT!

For the rest of you who have wondered what I do with all that “free time” between performances, perhaps now you have a better idea!

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