Without getting too far into the history of entertainers, indulge me for just a moment as I take us back to the days of the minstrel. During the medieval era, minstrels were entertainers who wandered the countryside from town to town to perform for the locals on the streets. I’ve always imagined they had to be very talented musicians and actors to gain the attention of locals in the hopes that they might get a token dropped in the bucket or be given a loaf of bread or even a place to stay for the night. Gypsies may be the closest modern day equivalent of the minstrel, but than again, are gypsies still a thing?
Musicians, actors, and magicians were not highly revered during these medieval days, not famous and in fact often the opposite, infamous. They made their livelihood by performing. Yes, they literally had to sing to earn enough coins to get supper or a place to sleep for the night. It was a difficult life, and many did not see the value they brought to the community. They undoubtedly were looked down upon and encouraged to “find a real job.” Does this sound familiar? Has anyone ever told you to give up your dreams and find a real job? Or have you ever been encouraged to have a backup job in case this one doesn’t work out?
One of my most valuable mentors used to use this term “sing for your supper” a lot. In other words, take your talent, your skill, expertise, and yes, your network, and use them to make a living. This proposition is in the United States economic and social environment in 2021. The argument can be made that with the invention of the internet and social media that being an entertainer is perhaps easier now than it was way back when.
Here are some thoughts to reflect upon:
In conclusion, we must accept that artists working to fund their business has been around for centuries. We must be okay with the concept of survival jobs as a means to progress in our craft. Some days we will be paid well to act, and other days we will not. For more tips on survival jobs and strategies for establishing a sustainable acting “business,” check out our upcoming class “Auditions and Business.”