You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘economy’ tag.
There Really Is No Business Like Show Business
The time: January 2009
The place: Broadway
The event: A total of 14 productions (including three long-running Best Musical Tony winners, two shows with multiple Tony wins, three musicals by Tony-winning writers and/or directors, a high-profile revival of a play with Hollywood stars, the last original play by a recently departed playwright, two limited engagement holiday shows, one Chinese spectacle, and the triumphant return of Liza Minnelli) closed.
It’s Steven here from Penguins and Procrastination. Last summer, I worked at a well-respected, professional (or for those in the know, Equity) theatre upstate New York. In the lineup of shows were four popular musicals that can be brought up in everyday conversation. However, even with loyal patrons and repeat subscribers, the theatre had trouble filling the seats. With $4.00 gas prices and the urge to save money, regular theatergoers were not willing to make their annual trips to their favorite regional theatre or stay for the after-show cabarets. Similar situations have been seen across the nation, causing many regional theatres to shut their doors or be in danger of doing so.
These instances may be a serious wake-up call for any aspiring theatre professional, such as the one writing this blog post. And it is. The nation’s economic crisis has affected all industries, and it is no secret that Broadway and the theatre in general have been hit hard. What does this mean for someone like me who is taking his first steps into that elusive field called show business? A few things come to mind, and not all of them are scary.
In the midst of all the drama surrounding the economic state, I have found that New York City is never at a loss for theatre opportunities and auditions, and those auditions are teeming with talent. The theatre scene is just as competitive as ever. This is a good thing. Competition is a healthy aspect of show business. The quality of talent is not necessarily diminishing with the gloomy economy. Standards of talent have not decreased, which means that from an artistic point of view, the theatre continues to thrive.
It is a fact that in this economy, people still make a living by working in the theatre. It may true that actors have to accept gigs that pay less than they’re used to, but to be working in a show means a steady paycheck for the duration of that contract. Out-of-state theatre gigs and tours help people save money since they don’t have to worry about paying rent for however long the contract is (as long as they sublet their apartment or any similar alternative). Also, many theatre people have other jobs to help pay the bills. These jobs are flexible and don’t go out of style, whether it is working at a restaurant or offering services such as photography, web design, or music or dance expertise to fellow actors. Let’s be honest: someone working in the theatre probably knows what it’s like to have a smaller salary than someone working in corporate America, so a year of slightly less pay is manageable.
If the economy has scared anyone out of a career in show business, it hasn’t ended the life of the business itself. In fact, Broadway has adapted to the economic climate. Sure, intimate or experimental musicals such as 13, [title of show], and most recently The Story of My Life have all failed on the Great White Way, but there are only four empty houses on Broadway currently (that’s a low number of empty Broadway theatres). The focus of shows playing on Broadway has shifted to uplifting tales during economic hardship (like Mary Poppins, In the Heights, and the brilliant Billy Elliot) or family-friendly crowd pleasers (The Little Mermaid and Shrek). I realize that four of the five shows I just mentioned are based on movies, but this is a way the theatre has redefined itself to stay afloat. If this is not Broadway’s proudest trend, at least it has kept itself alive. (More screen-to-stage Broadway transfers coming up: Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 and the U2/Julie Taymor Spider-Man musical, with Sister Act, The First Wives Club, Ghost, The Addams Family, Catch Me If You Can, and Slumdog Millionaire in the works.) This isn’t the first time a gimmick put Broadway back on its feet. In the aftermath of 9/11, jukebox musicals helped bring people back to the theatre. One of the original jukebox musicals, Mamma Mia!, is still playing worldwide and was turned into one of the most successful movie musicals ever.
The times reflect and reshape every medium within the entertainment industry. The requirements of a theatre professional are always changing, economic crisis or not. Of course, it is wise to be a bit more conscious about money right now, but the theatre is far from dead. I’m currently working at a dinner theatre in Florida with actors who are happy to be employed and audiences who relish a good night at the theatre. I’m also returning to that suffering theatre I worked at last summer for one of their biggest seasons yet in terms of the caliber of their lineup of musicals. The economy has claimed some victims in the theatre world, but this is all part of the natural evolution of theatre itself. Broadway will survive, the theatre will prevail, and the show must go on.
Steven holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Emerson College. Originally from Long Island, he is currently performing in Thoroughly Modern Millie at the Show Palace Dinner Theatre in Hudson, FL. He urges everyone to support the performing arts in any way possible, especially in schools. Check out his blog, Penguins and Procrastination.
The other day, while watching the evening news (something I try to avoid these days), I saw a sobering statistic – that unemployment in California is now in double digits. I instantly burst into tears.
I have a job I hate. And thanks to the sucky economy, I can’t quit.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful for my paycheck. Two of my good friends, who used to be my managers and mentors when I worked for an enterprise-software company, were both let go within weeks of each other. They have mortgages and kids and spouses and tuition to worry about. I only have myself.
But that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t sleep at night or that my stomach is continually upset.
I really, really, really want to quit. And I can’t. Unless I’m willing to cash out my (quickly shrinking) 401(k) and hope I find a job before it runs out. Or unless I’m willing to put everything I own in storage and just live in my car until I find a new job. I’ve been sufficiently aggrieved to seriously consider both options.
My personal recession actually started 4 1/2 years ago, when the company I worked for was acquired, and I took the severance package. This big chunk of change represented a second chance to pursue the dream that originally brought me to Hollywood in the first place. You see, I’ve always dreamed of being an actor. And most actors live in a constant state of recession while they go on pointless audition after pointless audition, hoping for that one big break. Meanwhile, the endless, exhausting stream of going-nowhere activity makes it all but impossible to hold a steady, well-paying job. It’s literally Hollywood or bust.
After my severance pay and unemployment ran out, I started working as a contract freelance writer, making half of my corporate salary and paying twice as much in taxes. I compensated with credit cards. I charged my rent. I charged my food. I charged my acting classes. By the time I finally accepted that Spielberg wasn’t calling, I was $69,000 in debt. It was time to go back to work, and I took the first job smoking: a position as a marketing communications manager with one of the companies I freelanced for.
It was a nightmare from the start. Nearly the entire management team turned over, and the people who brought me in quickly left. The new regime pigeon-holed me into a role so limited, I felt like a bottom-of-the-org-chart peon.
No problem. I’d just keep looking. And in a few months, I’d be on to something more challenging and fulfilling.
I didn’t count on the global recession. It came early to Los Angeles, thanks to the Writers’ Strike. In October 2007, there were lots of jobs to apply to. In November, when TV production halted overnight, jobs were instantly hard to come by, even in fields unrelated to the entertainment industry. The housing bust, which brought down Southern California-based companies like Countrywide, simply made a bad situation worse.
Eighteen months after I started the sucky job from hell, I’ve only had three interviews and no job offers.
Am I discouraged? You bet I am.
Anita is a take-charge marketer with 10 years’ experience in the technology sector. She lives in Los Angeles and holds a B.A. from Yale University. Check out her resume and portfolio.
I spent most of my formative years in the nurturing cocoon of the Clinton administration. I was vaguely aware of Bush 41, but the first president I chose (in my head) was Clinton, so he was really my president. I didn’t really know what war was. I had heard of the first Gulf War, but it seemed less a war, more a way to keep a madman at bay. I knew something of Bosnia and Serbia, but these were minor engagements (especially compared to what we’re involved in now). All I was aware of was economic excess and of prosperity. I assumed that everything always came easily, not necessarily without work, but without worry. I realize now that I was wrong to assume. This is not to say Bush 43 is entirely at fault, or that Clinton is blameless. There were mistakes being made everywhere, on Capitol Hill, on Wall Street, in banks, and in our own living rooms. Now the fruits have been borne from our mindless sins of ignorance.
I was talking to a sixth grader I tutor yesterday and we ended up discussing various things. At one point, she asked me about medicine and how long it takes to become a doctor. I laughed and went through the whole spiel. I told her that if she doesn’t take any breaks in between, she’ll probably be in her late twenties by the time she starts working. It was the truth; the road to becoming a doctor is a long, winding, pothole-ridden road. She sighed before declaring the world was probably going to end before then. I was taken a little aback by her pointedly frank pessimism, especially given her age. Pessimism wasn’t supposed to kick in until at least the angst-ridden teen years. Yet as I thought about it more, I realized she was right to assume, and right to worry. We have become conditioned to fear.
I’m not saying the world is going to end. Obviously that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that the smooth sailing we have had for the last decade or so has come to an end in the most unceremonious and clumsy fashion possible. Gone are the times when wide-eyed, college graduates can expect a job waiting for them within months after their graduation, followed by buying their first home, setting up their children’s trust fund, and letting their 401(k)s bloat with money. Employers no longer are waiting at the end of the college road with open arms and a fat paycheck. Instead we are seeing college grads moving back with their parents, as they wait and wait for employers to come calling. Over 2.6 million jobs were lost in 2008, and the number continues to grow. As the economy shrinks, states are now cutting spending in places that could have drastic consequences (like Paterson cutting hospital spending in New York State in a time where healthcare is suffering). Again I used to assume that doctors were at least a little immune to economic crises; after all, there’s always a need for doctors right? Yet when hospitals can’t afford to take on new doctors, and when people can’t afford to get healthcare, even doctors are finding it difficult to find work. There is no real certainty in the current economic climate, and the possible ramifications are frightening.
As I was buying my ticket to Penn Station from my home station, I saw a man who asked me for a buck or two towards a train ticket. This wasn’t your typical bum though, and this wasn’t the city. This was Long Island. He looked like any other Joe Schmo who lived on Long Island. Maybe I’m naive to have even entertained the idea that Long Island was somehow, immune, from the economic downturn. I can’t help but think that the number of people booted onto the streets will increase as the economy continues to sink.
Many of you must be reading this and thinking, “She is such a pessimist” and “This is so depressing.” It’s the truth. No one wants to envision a world where we have to be fearful for our livelihood as well as for our lives. Certainly we don’t want that for ourselves, and we definitely don’t want that for our children. We want our children to know that they can do anything they want, with little worry, assuming they put in the effort. Yet it’s something to keep in the back of your mind. To continue assuming that everything is perfectly peachy is a sign of sure insanity.
Yet to those that say, “Why bother doing anything if we’re just destined for a rough road to employment in the end?” the point is not to give up, the point is to work harder. Employers (presumably) will favor the more qualified candidates over the guy or girl who just scraped through with a bachelors degree. Go for the unpaid internships to get your foot in the door. Network as much as you can, a resume and transcript can only tell so much about a person. Do whatever you can, short of stepping on another guy’s toes.
We’ll have to make some changes to the way we conduct our lives now. We can’t continue the same wasteful practices that landed us here in the first place. We can’t allow the market to operate of its own volition. We need strict regulations to rein everything back to some sort of stable state. It’s important to note that all situations are temporary, good times, and bad. I’m just hoping that, for the time being, the stimulus plan passed by Congress will have its intended effect sooner rather than later.
Until then, we have to work hard and stay positive. This, too, shall pass.
So far so good, I’d say, with some exceptions:
Rahm Emanuel: I cannot think of a better person for the position of chief of staff, given his reputation as someone who “takes no prisoners.” He has been involved in politics for some twenty three years, from political staffer to Congressional Representative from the state of Illinois. Besides his experience, his no-nonsense attitude is much needed to keep President Obama’s staff on task, with regard to seeing his agenda through.
Bill Richardson: This one I’m not terribly sure about. Bill Richardson has had ample experience in federal office, as a representative, and as a member of Bill Clinton’s Cabinet as Secretary of Energy. However, I’m not certain much in his years of political experience has set him up to serve as Commerce Secretary. I could be wrong, the man did serve as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., so that in itself may have given him some understanding of the state of foreign commerce. His tenure as Governor of New Mexico, too, lends itself to some understanding of domestic commerce. Who knows.
Janet Napolitano: I feel like she would have been better for Secretary of Education than Homeland Security, given her accomplishments as Governor of Arizona. Her nickname was the “Education Governor,” so I’m curious why Obama tapped her for Homeland Security, of all things. I would rather have someone like, I dunno, Wesley Clark or someone with at least some experience in that realm. Nonetheless, she could surprise me.
Tim Geithner: This one was a solid pick, I have no complaints. He served as 9th President of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. I think that speaks for itself.
Larry Summers: Good pick, but I think many of the women in the country may have simultaneously shuddered at the announcement that he was going to be head of the National Economic Council. Gaffes aside, he was Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, and I think he’ll be fine in this position.
And then of course, best for last:
Hillary Clinton: I’m wonderfully conflicted about this one, which I know is not “confirmed” yet, but looks highly likely. On one hand, she has solid foreign policy experience (minus that little thing called the Iraq War). For better or worse, by appointing this Clinton, you get the other Clinton as part of the package and he is still an active (not to mention mostly beloved) presence in most of the world, so that in itself could be a benefit to the Obama administration. On the other hand, I would have rather seen her in another role, like head of the Department of Health and Human Services, given her strong support for universal healthcare.
More analysis to come as the appointments roll in.
It looks like most of us are pretty riled up now, but just in case the point(s) isn’t perfectly clear, here’s why we need to get the vote out.
This election REALLY matters.
Ok…they said it last time. Remember? When John Kerry ran against Dubya. That race really mattered too…needless to say, the nation collectively dropped the ball. So we embarked on another four years of neo-conservative, country-destroying policies that have borne their poisonous fruit. The economy is tanking, education is tanking, healthcare is tanking, everything…is…tanking.
How does that affect me, you may ask. Let me put it in terms to which we can probably better relate.
The dollar is losing value, so your plans to backpack across Europe after college? Not as cheap as you may think. That trip to the Caribbean will probably cost you a bit more than you’d like. Don’t even get me started on air travel. Oh and that pretty Prada bag? That’s an Italian import, expect a higher pricetag on that. Same for Armani, Gucci, etc.
Are you on par with students from other countries in the areas of math and science. Probably not. Why? Blame Dubya’s “No Child Left Behind.” While the intentions are good (increase passing rates) it also dumbs down the curriculum so far that everything is just watered down to its basics. So you say you want to go to college to further your understanding of some topic of interest? That’s fantastic. Expect the price of a decent education to take off like a rocket, and those loans you were going to take out? Yeah expect it to get harder to get a loan, and expect it to get harder to pay it off once you have your framed, shiny degree (or degrees).
Well now that you can vote, you can also probably buy your own health insurance right? Most health insurance companies make some sort of allowance for full-time students over the age of 18 to continue to stay on their parents’ plan until some age (usually 25). That’s assuming, of course, you can afford to be a full-time student. If you can’t, well then you’ll need to find a job that provides healthcare benefits. That is, of course, if you can find a job. Finding a job in this economy is about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack. Now imagine finding that needle with about a thousand other people clamoring to find it as well. Best of luck.
Don’t expect to be able to buy a home anytime soon. We are probably going to end up a society of renters…until the housing market is somehow, treated…if not cured.
Half our products are being produced abroad, where the regulations are much more lax. Hooray for melamine! Unless you like your food and merchandise with a side of profound neurotoxicity and painful kidney stones, we need to find a way to bring production back to the U.S. Otherwise, expect really high medical bills…since getting affordable health insurance will be pretty hard.
Ok, but cars are better right? Sure, I have a soft corner for imports. Yet the question is…why can’t we get the same quality in the U.S.? Ford, GMC, Chevrolet (for the most part) are still clunky and noisy even though they are cheaper. They are lacking the smooth appeal in function and appearance that their foreign cousins seem to have as a default. Let’s try to change that.
Gay rights need to come now. Let’s stop living in a world that frowns on (at the very least) basic civil liberties for gay couples, while gladly contributing to the juggernaut that is the porn industry. Seriously…does anyone else not see the irony here?
I could probably go on…and on…and on. But we, as youth, generally have the attention span of small rodents. So I’ll stop.
Please vote tomorrow. I’m not telling you to vote for any specific candidate. I’m telling you to vote for the candidate that can save our future. I’m telling you to think long and hard about each candidate’s stance, and decide which candidate brings the most promising plan to the table. We will be the ones inheriting most of the mistakes of the last administration, not our parents (though they will also be affected). We are the ones that need to assure that, at the very least, our children will not have to deal with the same dilemma.
Please…go out tomorrow (November 4th, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) and vote. Polling centers, to my understanding, are open from 6AM-9PM. Bring your iPod, bring a book, bring something to kill the time because lines will be long but they will be worth it.
Let’s hope this election yields a better future for us, and our country.
I have been fascinated by Manuel Uribe’s story. For those of you who don’t know, Manuel Uribe is currently the heaviest man in the world, but is well on his way to losing weight having already lost half his body weight. I figured I’d see how obesity is in India, and found a table on Wikipedia that ranks the prevalence of obesity by state:
So Kerala, the state where my parents come from, ranks at #2. Punjab is #1. Goa rounds out the top #3…no pun intended. So why is this the case?
I’m not a nutritionist, and I’m not an expert on all the dietary habits of the people in each of these states, but I will try to draw some reasonable conclusions.
I love Indian food, that’s the understatement of the year. India is itself a culinary amalgam of different spices and styles. From the richer, dairy-heavy dishes of the north to the comparatively simpler, but no less flavorful dishes from the south, India is full of great cooking. Indians, also, have a genetic tendency to deposit fat around the waist. Yet India, like the rest of the world, is caught up in this need to urbanize and forego traditional physical activity obtained through biking or walking. Some areas are growing faster than others, and maybe that’s why some waistlines are growing faster than others.
So what makes the top few states special? Let me try to break it down as best I can. Punjab (God bless them and their awesome food) is home to possibly the richest food in India. Everything’s steeped in cream and clarified butter (known as ghee), and while that makes that unspeakably delicious, it also sets people up nicely for extensive weight gain. Combine that with less physical activity and voila! Obesity!
Now, my home state, Kerala. Ok I wasn’t born there, but it’s from where my ancestors hail. Kerala, while being the most literate state in India, is the second most obese. Why? Here’s my guess, one word: coconut. Kerala, besides being “God’s own Country” is also the “Land of Coconuts,” and those coconuts are put to good use. Between the avial, mezhukkupuratti, uperi, puttu, and every other dish swimming in some combination of coconut oil and/or grated coconut, we have enough saturated fat to cause heart attacks every minute of everyday. Yet gone are the days of the farmers toiling in the paddyfields, the fishermen hauling in a fresh catch from coastal waters. Here are the days of driving to work, school, sitting around at home, and watching TV serials.
Can we reasonably eliminate all the foods causing this problem? No, it’s a part of our cultural heritage. Can we tweak things here and there to render them healthier? Yes. Our family uses olive oil in place of coconut oil for a lot of recipes, making for a much lower saturated fat content. In addition, we try to stay away from the fried things as much (although murukku and pakkavada are staples in Kerala). Likewise for dosa we use oil instead of ghee, just to spare us those extra fat calories. They’re still delicious. Same goes for any other Indian food, maybe substitute oil for ghee, and avoid (if not eradicate) fried foods from the diet. Exercise is key, cliche as it sounds. Indians may not be known for their athletic prowess (Russell Peter’s sketch comes to mind…) but hey, we do what we can. I love to dance, so that’s my physical activity of choice. Bhangra, bharatnatyam, whatever. Just get up and move.
It is ironic to consider that obesity is even present at all in India, given the image of a predominantly starving country. Yes, poverty is alive and well (unfortunately) and that is something that needs to be addressed. However, obesity is being overlooked, and with a growing middle class and a growing economy, obesity is bound to follow.