Falling With Style: The ATLAS Program; or, Re-evaluating the Worth of Your Cow

Helen Laroche tells us all about her mis-adventures being an actress in the Bay Area theater scene. 

Last weekend, I attended the first session of this year’s ATLAS 2013 training program. ATLAS (Advanced Training Leading Actors to Success) is a yearly program put on by Theatre Bay Area for approximately 40 actors and 20 directors. The group attends approximately 15 hours of seminars on a number of topics, including:

* grant seeking and writing for individual artists
* goal setting and accountability measures
* accounting advice

As a participant in the actor track, I also was given guaranteed admission to the Theatre Bay Area General Auditions a few weeks ago, and a number of auditors wrote up feedback on my audition. I’ll receive that feedback at one of the upcoming ATLAS sessions — and I expect it’ll be the subject of a future article.

There are a few other perks to being an ATLAS participant, including potential discounts on things like headshot and postcard reproductions, artist business cards, and relevant reading material. There’s even opportunities to win 6-month extensions to one’s TBA membership. But the yummiest perk is the fact that 1) the program forces me to build a career road map using the resources offered up at each session; and 2) with that career road map, I have the opportunity to apply for one of one of four $1000 Titan awards offered exclusively to ATLAS participants.

Between the call to set big theatre goals, the concept of applying for individual funding, and a fellow ATLASsian’s mention of a 12-step group called “Under-Earners Anonymous,” I was keenly struck by a feeling I hadn’t had before: I am good at what I do, and I deserve to get paid for it.

Now, this feeling is equal parts “duh” and “aha.” I have always been shy to ask that my time be compensated, whether it’s as an actor, a voice teacher, or a summer camp counselor. Moreover, I’ve looked with equal parts awe, jealousy and disgust at people who could stand up for themselves and value themselves so highly. (Case in point: my high school voice teacher, who also happened to go on tour with countless pop and rock stars, charged 2 C-notes an hour. And that was before his prices went up.)

But the truth is, continually accepting “work” that has no stipend attached to it is a career-limiting move — and not only because it’s keeping me from accepting paid work. I’m beginning to learn that it affects my confidence, too. When I continually give away the milk for free, I start to think that’s what I’m worth.

So the time has come to take on fewer projects, value myself more, and in doing so, do better, more fulfilling work. Stay tuned — I have another ATLAS session on this upcoming Saturday, which I’ll overview in my next article.

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