Stacey Smith

Art is Hard

The other day I was on Facebook and read a post by one of my favorite improvisers: Stacey Smith. If you don’t know her, she is a gifted performer, super positive and a hard worker. She lives in Chicago — a city that has more opportunities than most for improvisers.

Her post was brutally honest about her disappointment and struggles in improv. And when I read it, I could relate. To the rejection. To the sacrifices. To the frustrations that come with a life in this art form.

There are no formulas to how to succeed in improv, no logic to any of this. That’s what makes this career path so exciting and so dreadful at the same time. Life is not fair, and in improv multiple that by ten.

But I thought her post was also incredibly hopeful, too. And knowing how talented and strong she is, I know she will persevere. And if I think she can persevere when times are hard, it only increases the chances that I can, too.

Here is her post. Please enjoy.


Art is hard.

My name is Stacey Smith and I am exhausted. I’ve been working professionally in comedy for the past few years, and from an outside perspective “I am living my dreams.” Coincidentally I can also never pay rent, I have crippling student loan debt, I am incredibly anxious, and I have sacrificed so many things to make this work, “living my dreams.”

Yesterday I went into an office and was told that I would likely no longer get work as an actress in a building that I’ve been working for in multiple capacities for the past few years.

I’ve performed literally hundreds of shows for this building and I’ve never had a show that I wasn’t proud of. I’ve memorized hundreds of lines in mere hours to prove myself. I received a shout out from a notorious reviewer. I’ve skipped weddings, births, celebrations and other big moments in my life to make sure that they knew I was committed. I’ve shown up to every scripted audition over prepared. Most importantly, I’ve been professional and kind to everyone I’ve ever worked with. BE PROFESSIONAL AND KIND.

I’ve also noticed that a lot of people who have gotten work over me are people that have done the opposite of all the things I’ve mentioned above. People who have been tardy. People who didn’t know their lines. BE PREPARED. BE ON TIME.

Now, I am not here to throw anyone under the bus or speak ill of the company I’ve so fondly worked for and still do in other departments. But this is just to say that there’s usually no rhyme or reason for things. You can’t control it. As difficult as it may seem, we have to put our blinders on and walk our own paths. DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. OUR PATHS ARE NOT ALL THE SAME.

I am exhausted. It’s hard to make time to take care of yourself when you’re always on the clock for your career. I hate to call out of things and make schedule changes, but sometimes it’s entirely necessary. However, I’ve been very aware of listening to my body after having multiple health issues last year. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.

I am severely underpaid. I know my worth, but also know that to live in my apartment it costs money. I work 100 hour weeks and get paid for 20 of them. I bounce back and forth between dozens of appointments, rehearsals and shows daily to be able to provide for myself. KNOW YOUR WORTH.

I am sensitive. I cry because I am proud of my friends. I cry because I am happy to see my boyfriend after a long day. I cry because I see a corgi. CRY.

On the other hand, I am proud of the work that I do on and offstage. I am changing my students’ lives. I am making audiences think and feel. I am sharing my voice. I am traveling the world.

My life is hectic, but it is cool. I have met celebrities that told me they were a huge fan of mine. I have created a curriculum to empower young girls. I have created a festival where performers from all over the world showcase their musical and improvisational talent. I run a training center. I am in love with someone I met doing comedy.

You have to let the good outweigh the bad. For every rejection, there’s a stranger recognizing you on the CTA. For every missed opportunity, there’s opportunities that you can create yourself. So when you’re feeling down, just remember that there’s people that you look up to that have the same struggles as you. We all feel this. Not just you. I will continue to do good work and I hope that you do too.

I’ve got your back.


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2 replies
  1. Louis Hirsch
    Louis Hirsch says:

    Art isn’t hard. Getting on stage and giving aperformance especially when it works is (at least for me) one of the easiest and most fun things i can do. The business of making a living at your art is terribly hard. that is what breaks you down. But if you really love performing somehow it can be worth it. IMHO. but then what do i knw I perform mostly as a sideline. I don’t have to go through the daily grind.

    • Jason F
      Jason F says:

      People with a regular job like myself, who do improv on the side, have the luxury of choosing when to act/improvise. If it’s your career, you don’t get to choose; you have to pretend that comedy is fun all the time, regardless of your feelings or pressures that day. THAT IS HARD. Convincing a casting agent/director that you’re enjoying your audition when you’re broke and exhausted is the real performance. I think Stacey’s post is a good wake-up call for those younger improvisers or actors who are a bit starry-eyed about the practicality of an arts career. It has many joys, but a good income is not often one of them, unfortunately. I hope Stacey keeps performing as long as she feels rewarded by it.


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