Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

They say there’s always magic in the air

on September 27, 2010

Just last week I had a conversation with one of my cast-members about the differences in pay between stage and television actors.  He offered a shocking example of comparable salaries.  In 2003, when Bernadette Peters, a highly sought-after and respected headliner on Broadway, starred in the Gypsy revival, she earned $20,000 per week.  It was the highest reported Broadway salary at that time.  In comparison, an unknown regular on Medium earned $20,000 per episode.  (Bernadette Peters later accepted a significant pay cut to keep the show open longer, and shortly after, Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane beat Ms. Peters’ record, each earning $50,000 per week when they returned to The Producers in 2004.)

Choosing a life in theatre is not guaranteeing financial stability or “success.” Part of what makes theatre so thrilling for me is the remarkable people I meet in this field, who have all chosen a career for the love of the work, and not for the paycheck. Similar, I’m sure, to the non-profit and educational fields of my fellow bloggers.

I am, for the first time, making a living wage doing something I love.  I don’t have any dependents and I live with two fantastic roommates, which helps.  Luckily I really enjoy having roommates, especially these two. And I am actually grateful to have the experience of not having enough money while I was living in New York City.  I had to cut out different things from my daily routine and really decide which items or activities on which I spent money. I found free or discounted activities and this group of women has been very good at locating the best happy hours in the city!

However, I have memories of New York as a cold and somewhat lonely place. Particularly compared to San Diego, which is warm and full of the good friends I’ve made in the four years that I’ve been here.  I think that view of the city and that time in my life has a lot to do with money. While I lived there, I worked in a Malt Shop and Barnes & Noble, not making enough money either place and stage managing for free. I wanted to go out and do “New York” things and meet new people, but I was on a very tight budget.

The plan was to obtain my MFA and then move back to New York and “conquer the city,” being in a position to make enough money stage managing, without having to have another job.  Enough money to pay the rent and buy groceries, but also to go out after a show with my cast without worrying if it costs too much. One of these days in the not-too-distant future, I will move back to New York to pursue the dream of working on Broadway and rediscover my romantic love of New York City.

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