“Exit Stage Right:” Ciara Pressler’s Career Guidebook for Performers
How many career advice books are there in publication? You could spend hours in the Personal Development section learning about the health and growth of your personal financial portfolio, how to hone your interview skills, tips on networking in “the field,” not to mention ways to innovate in your office. The materials are endless.
But how many are there on those of us who don’t have an office? How many manuals have been written about getting home at 2 AM from a bar shift and auditioning the next morning at 9 AM and how to make the coffee strong enough to stomach it? How about the roller coaster of successful performance tours and the confusion when tours end? Or advice for musicians who have worked tirelessly to build a band through the nights, but still sit at a service desk in the day? We performers are strange creatures who have a hard time squeezing our carefully quirky lifestyle into the paradigm of 9 to 5. This is old news. We are used to thumbing through career books to find the one chapter that might truly apply. The one about time management.
Ciara Pressler just put something new on the shelves, and it’s for us.
Central to Pressler’s philosophy is the inherent passion born in performers that makes them vibrant individuals who have much to give. She confronts the misconception that re-evaluating a stage performance career is giving up and instead reframes it: “Passion develops…”
As a result, “Exit Stage Right” has our community a-buzz. This handbook strictly for performers on how to navigate the sharp turns of a career on stage, and more specifically how to find your way gracefully into a supplementary or after-the-fact career has us talking about our experiences. The book incites us to reexamine the skills we gained in this uncommon business that in fact are viable in other markets. It allows us to confront the idea that we do not have to only be actors, dancers, musicians. Our lives don’t end when we don’t perform. We can have it both ways, and the guidebook makes it seem less daunting.
Yesterday, on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer show, Lehrer asked Pressler if the premise of the book was a sad one. “No, I don’t think so,” she replied, “I think understanding what you really want now is a very happy and postitive thing…I want to help them create a system for evaluating that.” Often when performers think about leaving their stage careers the resulting response is one very similar to Lehrer’s: sorrow, and more often, panic. Pressler believes that with deep self-reflection and some preparation, a transition to a new occupation can be smooth and rewarding. She does not assume, however, that every performer wants the same thing. “Exit Stage Right” is not preachy, it feels more like sitting down with a great empathetic friend for coffee. It’s about your unique situation. Pressler uses her own experience of leaving acting to empathize and keep readers on track to productive thinking rather than despair. (It worked for her, she now owns her own successful Marketing and Communications Collaborative.)
Central to Pressler’s philosophy is the inherent passion born in performers that makes them vibrant individuals who have much to give. She confronts the misconception that re-evaluating a stage performance career is giving up and instead reframes it. “Passion develops,” she writes, “…the inherent reasoning flaw in the ‘make your passion your career’ notion is that non every passion is a sustainable career.” Through each chapter Pressler pulls together all the threads of a balanced life: schedule, lifestyle, contribution and leisure. She helps us to consider that a sense of fulfillment comes not only from sacrificing all for our performance resumes. She poses the question, “if you are good at this, what else are you good at?”
No doubt this tool is directed toward those artists who are no longer happy chasing “the original dream.” But even readers still mystified with the audition, tour, gig, director track can find valuable seeds of thought. “Exit Stage Right” is a vital start to a conversation about how schools can better prepare artists to support themselves no matter their success rate. For individuals, it is a nice way to take the temperature on personal goals and future plans. Preparedness never hurt anyone.
Now, when we go to the business section, we know someone has our number.