The Career Center Orientation: The Blue Folder*

*it isn’t really blue

Bagel today is everything toasted with lox spread from Pick-A-Bagel! 

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Writing this post has put an unreasonable amount of stress on me. I have to cover so much information from the Actors’ Fund Career Center Orientation meeting, try to use my words like a big girl, and stare at these mutlicolored handouts that make my eyeballs tremble and my upper lip twitch.

For now, I will not post pictures of the handouts because there are so, so, so, so many. I took pictures of all of them, so if enough people actually want to see them, I will upload them in a separate post so your computer, tablet, phone, ENIAC does not break.

I will start at the beginning…

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The Career Center Orientation is one of the hundred workshops that are offered by the Actors’ Fund. This occurs every single Monday from 12p-1:30p here: The Actors Fund 729 Seventh Avenue 10th Floor (between 48th and 49th Street). 

From the moment I walked through the door, everyone was a little too nice; a little too…merry. The security guard didn’t even ask me for my photo ID when there was a giant sign posted above his head.

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I said, “I’m going to the Actors’ Fund.” He smiled proudly and replied, “Why not?” and gestured to the elevator doors.

I did not like this. I had a feeling Rod Serling was lurking behind a desk somewhere, smirking and flicking his ashes as he slinked about, leaving behind a trail of carcinogenic breadcrumbs.

When I exited the elevator, there was a tiny room with Ikea furniture (or was it CB2?) disastrously placed in the center of it. Actors were crammed next to each other on the “couches” like a ship in a bottle that was put together by a three year old with large hands.

Just a little after 12pm, a woman- let’s call her “Sherbet”- opened the glass door and asked if we were all ready. As if I were in one of my own bad dreams, the rest of the actors gleefully responded, “Yes! Hi! So happy to be here!” I’m talking Cheshire Cat, Donny and Marie Osmond, Tom Cruise couch jumping smiles. I was wearing a t-shirt with a drowning skeleton on it with the equivalent expression on my face.

Sherbet was the last to join us as she made sure that everyone found their way, about five paces from the mystery sofa. Why Sherbet? Why, indeed, dear friends, why indeed. Sherbet wore a lemon-colored dress I can only assume was from the 1950s. It was so worn that I could see what appeared to be a girdle underneath.

50s-longline-girdle-tnYes, one of those. I am not fucking with you.

Sherbet also wore a matching lemonade-stained wig. I assume she found them in the same trunk, but only had time to steam the dress.

She looked like Tippi Hedren after the birds came for her.

Phyllis Diller would have told her to run a brush through that polyester refuge.

The wig was unkempt, to say the least.

Sherbet then passed around a paper for us to sign, asked us to take out our union membership cards, and handed out what she called the blue folder. This is what the blue folder looked like:

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To Sherbet’s defense, the inside of the folder was blue.

I did not realize until I came to this orientation that The Actors’ Fund was for literally every single union in the entertainment business. So, if you aren’t an actor, you most likely make a lot more money than we do, and you may actually be eligible for this incredible housing that they keep telling us about. Please apply for it and invite me over so I can cry in your shower.

She instructed us to take out the salmon- colored print out of the power point presentation that she was showing us. Yes, this made my head hurt, too. And the salmon color made me hungry. After the power point, she went through the rest of the colored handouts:

Mint Mucus Green was for Housing Workshops! Pulsing Blue Veins was for the Job Development Calendar (more workshops)! Sinus Infection Earwax Yellow was for Career Counseling at the Career Center (workshops)! And Epileptic Hot Pink was for 1 time a year workshops called Career Nights! 

I will be putting all of this information on separate pages so that you can peruse them at your convenience.

Basically, it’s a folder full of workshops that will lead you to more workshops. Sherbet informed us that the Actors’ Fund has a shit ton of money and the money goes into these workshops that are absolutely free. The problem with these workshops, is that they are only helpful if you lived in some sort of incredible bubble your entire life that was filled with S’more jelly beans, cotton candy culottes, and the best 90s playlist ever.

There were 13 people in my group. 10 of us were women, 8 of those women were African American and over 40. We know the basics of leases and rental agreements. We know how much we can afford to pay in rent. We know how to use LinkedIn, Craigslist, write a resume, and network. Yes, these are what many of the workshops are about. There is a 2 hour workshop on how to use LinkedIn and this workshop happens every week. Bless Sherbet and all the other delicious sounding counselors that are making a living teaching these workshops.

Sherbet shared her story with us. After years of touring as a trombonist- I’m gonna let that one sink in.

After years of touring as a trombonist on cruise ships, she came back to NYC with no job and no way to pay her rent. The Actors’ Fund helped her pay rent for the apartment she had until she booked another gig a couple months later. When she finally threw up her little lemon-colored flag, The Actors’ Fund gave her a job.

So, what can I gather from the workshops offered by The Actors’ Fund? Go to them if you want to work at The Actors’ Fund.

Regretfully, I cannot tell you what was on that #FF087F colored sheet at the moment because every time I look at it my pulse jumps up to 250 BPM. But I can tell you that they are only offered once a year. 

Here is an example of one: “Healing Careers: Drama, Dance, and Music Therapy, Massage Therapy, Personal Training, Social Work, Psychotherapy, and Speech Therapy are some of the healing occupations that build on the mind-body connections developed by entertainment professionals. Come hear from CAREER CENTER members who have pursued education and training to develop therapeutic sideline and second careers. May 19 2016 5:30-7:00pm/ Location AFM Local 802, 322 West 48th Street, (between 8th and 9th Avenues).”

When one of the women at the workshop said that she was so upset by this, because she actually did want to hear about what this workshop had to offer, but she booked a job on that very day, Sherbet said not to worry. Sherbet was sure she could get information to pass along to her.

Why isn’t there a place for this information to exist permanently? Are workshops the answer when so many of us have hectic schedules trying to audition, interview, work sideline jobs, raise children, go to school, and cry in our showers/kitchens/closets/fire escapes/lo mein?

When rent at one of the affordable housing complexes is $645-$675, but an entertainment professional is just below or above the cut off, can’t we figure out a way to judge eligibility on a case by case basis? Here are my tax returns, my W-2’s, my extra income from sideline work, my resume so you can see I’m not dressed up like a deranged “other mother” Elmo in Times Square and am actually performing.

Can SAG-AFTRA and AEA get their heads out of the sand and see that $125/day, before +41% is taken out for taxes/fees, and $300/week is not enough to live on out here? Artists have never been wealthy, they’ve also never been driven away so quickly because of hunger and homelessness as they are now.

Are we that disposable? I am loath to admit that I think the answer is “yes”. Then all I can ask is please, please, brush out your busted-ass wig, and stop wasting money on colored paper, especially if I have to take an anticonvulsant before looking at it.

Here is the link to the Actors’ Fund Workshop Calendar 

 

Author: Lauren Ashley Carter

Lauren Ashley Carter is an actress, producer, writer, director, mystique, bagel-eater, lover of all things red. You've seen her in The Woman, Jug Face, Pod, Darling, The Mind's Eye, Law and Order SVU. You will see her in Imitation Girl.

1 thought on “The Career Center Orientation: The Blue Folder*”

  1. They ought to hire one of these out of work actors to build them an interactive Actors’ Fund website, which could house ALL of this information, plus, work as a bit of a community where people can meet one another virtually. Heck, they could also have a classified section for job listings, but then that might end up being a little too forward-thinking, while most people seem to prefer banging their heads on trees, to help help loosen the bark, so it’ll grow faster.

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