Songs for the Struggling Artist

Where the Women Go
November 26, 2013, 10:32 pm
Filed under: art, feminism, theatre | Tags: , , , ,

Over the years, I have made theatre with a number of extremely talented remarkable women. I started a company with women and make work with a woman-centered sensibility. These women are also my dear friends and most of them left NYC a long while ago. Until recently, I just saw myself as an odd victim of fate, surprised by fortune that almost every major collaborator has picked up sticks and gone elsewhere.

Then I started to think. Almost to a person, these friends/collaborators have gotten married and moved away to follow their husband’s (or wife’s) career path. Many of them have, in that moving, also given up theatre. I can name you former theatrical collaborators up and down the West Coast, in the mid-west and in Vermont. As far as I’m concerned, the country is littered with former NYC theatre practitioners and their partners.

Is this a post about how women shouldn’t put aside their own ambition to follow a partner? Nope. In almost every case, these women are happier, more at ease and thrilled to be able to have livable homes, babies and actually afford healthcare.

So what’s the problem? Well. NYC has lost a slew of remarkably talented female theatre practitioners. It is a loss to Theatre in this city. Given what a hostile environment it can be for women, it is no surprise that many of them hitch their wagons to their partners’ stars and just hightail it out of here. But the loss to the culture is profound.
When it comes down to it, it’s almost impossible to advocate for your own career when it has nothing to offer you. So when your partner gets a nice job across the country or is getting offered enough money to support you both, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from going.

The only female theatre artists I know who have stuck it out in these NYC trenches are either single or partnered with other theatre people. And listen, I know this isn’t a scientific sampling but I wonder about it. I wonder if theatre is losing its most smart talented women because the circumstances are so ridiculous. And if you’re one of those who hasn’t left yet, I want to meet you. Because I’m very afraid that the next wedding I attend will mean the loss of yet another collaborator.


5 Comments so far
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So. Not to tell you that you are wrong, but to perhaps give a little hope, (HOPE! Yay!) I’ve just moved to NYC in my mid-thirties after trying like hell to make it work in a regional market. Clearly, that did not happen & here I am.

In addition, one of the main reasons I am with my husband is because right from the beginning I made it crystal clear that loving an actor sucks in many ways & requires a certain amount of sacrifice on the part of the significant other– you know the drill: willingness to live below the poverty line, a certain finesse with the ego stroking, touch-and-go approach health care, & most important to this discussion, a desire to live in one of the 2 cities in this country in which I am employable. I am not exaggerating when I say that the last item has been the tipping point in all of my other adult romantic relationships!

This is a partnership we are talking about here; both of us get something from loving each other in the way that we need. I can honestly say that I would not have been able to move here if it were not for the support my husband provides (& I’m not talking about financial support; though he has a regular job now, the flux of the past year has meant a lot more unemployment than either of us intended.)

I thought about moving to NYC directly after my BFA program, and bless my 21 year old self because I knew that I didn’t have the fortitude to really stick it out. After living in a regional market & coming to a point where I could have made the decision to stay there, pursue a parallel career & perform once or twice a year, I am so, so grateful that I have a partner who saw how much I was struggling with the lack of opportunities & said, “Babe. We can leave. We can do this together. I want this, too.”

Am I weaving the reverse tale from the one you relay above? It wouldn’t be the first time our partnership exists in opposition to gender norms– ask my husband about taking my surname when we married, especially because I have a traditional hispanic last name & he is white! Comedy!– nor do I think we deserve the Subverts Expectations award. What I am saying, is that if you are looking for a new collaborator, you should give me a call.

Comment by salmueras

I never had the guts to try NYC in the first place, BUT I would bet good money that many of the women you’re thinking of will at some point enrich the artistic communities of their new hometowns with their talents. Which is good from a meta-arts perspective if definitely sucky for NYC and you personally. XOX

Comment by Miller

I’m still here! Your articles are always so thought-provoking and timely. Hope to see you soon.

Comment by Adrienne

The other piece of the story is that when I looked around in NY (before I left and before I left theater for the time being) almost all the artists still working either had partners that made so much money they could support both people, or the artist herself came from some sort of money, or she lived on the edge all of the time. Even though my partner made good money in NYC, it wasn’t enough to support both of us. So I decided I wanted and needed to get a stable job outside of the arts, and it was time to leave NY. I still hope to find my way back into the arts at some point, but it’s going to be a minute before I find a way to do that, that doesn’t involve the insane amount of personal and financial sacrifice I experienced every day in NY. For me, it’s less about following a stable partner, and more about wanting to experience some sense of stability for myself. Same idea, but slightly different.

Comment by Sara Zimmerman

Great article, I am a dancer and married. My husband makes enough to support the both of us and we are still here in NYC We have considered other state because of the cost of living and real estate options but both of our career paths require us to be in NYC for the foreseeable future.

It is a double edged sword because I do have the luxury of being an full time artist and mother without having to worry about finances but if his career called him to another city we would probably move our life.

I would love to collaborate or have a meet up with you ladies anytime!

Comment by SJ

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