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!
This article series 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 two in a three part series, this week I’ll be talking about the amazing J.B. McLendon, and round out week 3 with the indomitable Deborah Tranelli, so stay tuned! (If you’d like to check out week one in this series, featuring the experience of yours truly, click here.)
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.
J.B. McLendon, 46
J.B. and I attended Syracuse University together. He excels in every aspect of theater and is working with me this summer as our Props Master:
Explore all Aspects of your Craft
J.B.’s mom has a technical theatre background. When J.B. wasn’t performing in a show as a kid, his mom had him participate building props, sewing costumes, and moving the scenery. This appreciation for other theatrical elements made him a better, more considerate actor. “You know what it takes to make a show go up.”
When he arrived in NYC at 21 and started auditioning for agents, J.B. was told, ‘You have the talent and the voice, but you don’t look your age, so you won’t work until you’re 30.” (Upon turning 30, the same agencies told him to wait until he turned 40). So, J.B. started accepting both technical and administrative theatre work. And by excelling at these jobs, he’s constantly recommended for others. He’s directed, designed costumes, run box offices, worked as a company manager, staged managed and so much more. “As long as you continue working in theatre as a whole, no matter what the job is, it will lead to work if your organizational skills are prime, you’re talented, and you have an appreciation for all aspects of the business. Extra knowledge from something that isn’t your chosen profession will be something you’ll be able to use down the road. Never think of yourself as being too good or not good enough to do something.”
There was even an instance where he came in to a job as a stage manager in summer stock but, due to personnel circumstances and prior relationships with the directors, he kept getting pulled into shows. J.B. would call the scene change, drop the headset, and run onstage to sing. Eventually, he transitioned to acting full-time that summer.
What other aspects of your art can you learn so that you not only remain in your industry with a fulfilling side career, you can also enhance the work you already do?
Say Yes to Anything
“If there’s a contract and a paycheck, I’m there.” In New York City, J.B.’s roommate was a professional drag queen and had a regular gig that included hosting drag contests. When the number of registered contestants was low, J.B.’s roommate would come home and tell J.B., “Time to shave.” J.B. had never done drag before, and…yes. He did it well and kept getting recruited for events in New York City, on Fire Island, and eventually Key West, which is currently his home base. Though working as a drag queen is an expensive investment, J.B. has achieved a degree of fame, recognition, and plenty of opportunities to perform for an audience. Drag pays his bills and can be quite lucrative—especially when he’s working weddings and corporate events.
The next time you think, “I could never do that,” embrace the possibility that Yes, you actually can.
Let Accolades be your Drug of Choice
From around the time of 9/11, J.B. started supporting himself by bartending, and these jobs led to his drinking more and more. This followed him to Key West. According to J.B., he was a functioning alcoholic, and the enjoyment of his art was gone. On the rare occasion he did get out for an audition, he was not at his best and didn’t care deeply whether or not he landed the role. His first sober audition was for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and he landed a supporting lead. It was his first time getting on stage as a boy, sober, in almost 10 years. J.B. felt ALL the feelings… and then moved forward anyway without alcohol as a crutch. Once he was able to move past his nervousness, the applause and accolades replaced alcohol. Now J.B. is enjoying his life and craft infinitely more.
You were put on this earth to change it with your craft. What obstacles have you put in your own way? Alcohol? Negative belief systems? A toxic relationship with a lover or agent? Release them and celebrate!
Looking for career related advice about how you can say YES to anything, release limiting beliefs that don’t serve you, and explore side career possibilities into your life? Reach out! All you have to do is get on Accelerated Artist’s website, and click the scheduling link with me. Stop procrastinating on the life and career you deserve!