By: Doug Shapiro, Accelerated Artist NYC Career Coach
“I’ve run the gamut. A to Z.
Three cheers and dammit, C’est La Vie.
I got through all of last year
And I’m here.
Lord knows, at least I was there,
And I’m here!
Look who’s here!
I’m still here!”
Hello, my beautiful Accelerated Artists! Doug here, feeling ever more Uncle-y since I turned 46 a few weeks ago. Birthdays, especially as we become, shall I say, more seasoned, are an opportunity for reflection. There is still so much I’d love to accomplish, yet I’m very happy where I am in my career.
This article is to offer perspectives from three very different actors who have been on the boards for a while and continually keep working. Whether you serve as a screenwriter, theatre technician, or choreographer, read this through the filter of your own calling. Part one in a three part series, this week I’ll be talking about yours truly, next week I’ll champion for the amazing J.B. McLendon, and round out week 3 with the indomitable Deborah Tranelli, so stay tuned!
If you’re in the beginning stages, here are some ways to lay the groundwork for a long-term career. If you’ve been at it a while and in the trenches with us, here are some ideas to keep it fresh.
Doug Shapiro, Age 46
Serving Composers and Lyricists
Since I moved to NYC sixteen years ago, I’ve run most of my career in service to up-and-coming composers and lyricists—workshopping their musicals, performing in their readings and recording their demos. The work is inspirational, I’m an integral part of the creation process, and I’ve formed over 200 composer, lyricist and playwright relationships with artists that know me and trust me with their work. (Full disclosure-I just totally plagiarized this paragraph from my prior article: “So Many Ways to Book a Dream Job”.
Becoming a trusted quantity to these phenomenal creative forces has led to some of the greatest gigs of my life: Voicing three workshops, the cast album and the live show of Disney’s FINDING NEMO: THE MUSICAL, singing backup for Carol Channing, Liza Minnelli and Kristen Chenoweth on Broadway stages and Lincoln Center, and performing Off-Broadway with The Transport Group’s ONCE UPON A MATTRESS this past winter.
Ask yourself: to whom can I be of service? How can I be a vehicle to bring someone else’s vision into the world?
Not only does this work expand your vision of what is creatively possible, it creates a team of professionals who are grateful for your service.
Mentoring and Coaching
The great actor Jeremiah Kissel patterned what it is to be a mentor for me back in my intern days at the Theater at Monmouth (see my article “The Gift of Mentorship”) Ever since then, I’ve made a point of teaching a “Business for Artists” seminar whenever (and wherever) I’m part of an acting company. This is what actually led me to work with Accelerated Artist in a coaching and teaching capacity. It’s a theatre-related side career that I love and is a key part of my multiple streams of income. Counseling others reminds me what I get to do for my own career! It has also led to my lucrative and exciting Business Role Player work with Potential Squared who even knew that was a thing?
What is your unique area of expertise? Can you offer a dialect seminar to your castmates? Show your film crew how to construct masks? Make a video that features the best costumes to come out of your shop? It doesn’t even have to be career related! Enhance the lives of your fellow artists by showing them how to fly-fish, look up their ancestry, or change a tire. Be remembered as a citizen of your community who in invested in others’ success. And, rather than having a “survival job” that claws at your soul, choose a “side career” that nurtures your spirit!
I have yet to have national name recognition. I have yet to command 5-figure salaries. I have yet to work a Broadway contract. Though I have a manager I love, I am not currently signed with an agent. I’ve enjoyed a few high-paying and high-profile gigs. Those who are not on board with my vision of success could look at my career and declare I have failed. Those individuals are wrong.
I’ve learned to run my life and career according to my guiding values of love and influence. One of my favorite streams of income is my church gig with Madison Avenue Baptist Church. I love the pastor and her congregation. The music director is an excellent leader—as devoted to serving us musicians as he serves his faith. And, as the longest-serving member (8 years?) of the sextet, my recommendations have filled four of the other five positions. (I feel the need to note I love the soprano, too.) I’m a gay Jewish man and I can’t wait for the next Sunday when I get to sing at this Baptist church.
For sixteen years, I’ve been a company member of The Barnstormers in Tamworth, NH. There is no need for this summer theatre credit on my resume and there has been just one salary increase during my tenure here. But I keep coming back. I feel very loved in this beautiful town and I love them too. Audience members buy tickets based on which shows I’m in and have followed me when I work at other theaters nearby. I even have a favorite breakfast place that knows my order, has made me my own mug, and has benefitted from my recommendations. Being the theater’s unofficial “Sherpa” is one of my greatest pleasures.
Choose your jobs based on your values, my friends. That is the recipe to success.
Looking for career related advice about how you can integrate your values into your life? Reach out to me! All you have to do is get on Accelerated Artist’s website, and click the scheduling link with me. AND, there are a few $5 service slots left for an hour of career coaching with me on Friday, September 9th. Stop procrastinating on the life and career you deserve!