This month, I am pleased to share an interview with Los Angeles based actress and writer Heather Dowling. Heather’s one woman show Unemployed. Finally. was just a part of the Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival in March. Heather discusses how the show came to fruition, what she looks for in a dream role and some powerful advice for any artist today.
How did you start acting?
Being unemployed. I know it sounds crazy, but I found myself moving to LA for my husband’s job, and as a result, unemployed for the first time since the age of 14. Acting and writing was something I always wanted to do, but was convinced it was “unrealistic” as a career by the time I graduated from high school. It became a “hobby” in my 20’s - regional theater and classes.
What brought you to LA?
Well, my husband worked in television and was ready to take his career to the next level. Within a year of being in LA, I was in my first stage play and it was like I was home. I’ve been full speed ahead with my acting career ever since.
The life of an actor can be tough. Have you ever felt like giving up acting?
Of course! People talk all the time about how tough breaking into acting is, how steep the odds are, and all of that NOISE, the noise about being “realistic” can really make it feel impossible and pointless. But, I know it’s possible. How? Well, other people do it. So, it’s possible. That’s not to diminish how incredibly challenging it is and the focus it takes, BUT it IS possible.
What keeps you motivated to stay the course in a very challenging/competitive industry?
I have done a LOT of personal development training which has given me a powerful way to relate to the rejection and uncertainty of it all. I also surround myself with actors who are always learning, and always looking to empower themselves and others. I do my best to avoid those who indulge in the conversation “this is so hard.” I have many incredible actor/writer friends and coaches who help keep my mind straight, for sure. Oh, and I look for ways to CREATE work for myself, to pull working relationships toward me and create my own content so I’m not just waiting for “permission” from someone else to perform or to write.
Tell me about this one woman show you wrote and performed all over the country.
It all started during a conversation with my husband and brother-in-law at a gastro pub when we moved to LA. I kept saying, “I’m unemployed. For the first time since...14! What now?” As we talked and joked about the more than 30 jobs I’d had over the course of my life. My brother-in-law (knowing my past-life dream of being an actress and a writer) said, “You could write a really funny one-woman show about all the crazy jobs you’ve had!” I thought he was nuts.
But then, 2 years later with the help of my coach and director, Jessica Lynn Johnson, Unemployed. Finally. premiered at the 2015 Hollywood Fringe Festival. I sold-out 6 performances, took home the Encore Producers' Award and was nominated for Best Solo-Performance - out of more than 80 solo-shows. Thanks to my success at Fringe, Unemployed. Finally. made it all the way to 42nd Street, New York City for United Solo in 2016. I was then invited to perform in the 24th Annual LA Women's Theatre Festival in 2017. I was also invited to bring the show - and all 39 characters - to the Cake Batter's Funny Women Festival at iO West, the Spotlight Series at Theatre Unleashed and Whitefire Theatre's 6th Annual Solofest. It’s been an incredible ride! Writing and performing my own solo show gave me such confidence in my performing and auditions. It has made all the difference in my career so far.
What are you working on now?
I’m writing another solo-show called Fertile: A Conversation About the Expectation of Pro-Creation. It’s been percolating in my brain for a long time, and I’m excited to be performing a 10-minute excerpt at the Soaring Solo Student Showcase on Oct. 16th at 7:00 pm at the Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks. (Find tickets and more info here.) Eight other solo performers will be sharing moments from their shows, too.
What are some of your favorite ways to spend your time off?
I LOVE good food and good wine - discovering new places to have both is my favorite hobby. I also think karaoke is a lot of fun and I LOVE NFL football.
Who/What inspires you?
Boy, that list is LONG - people in my life and people in our collective history - so many! I do have to say, though, I am inspired daily by my fellow actors, writers, creators. I’m amazed at their resiliency, their resourcefulness and I’m thankful to have them beside me, sharing the ride.
What is your dream role?
Hmmm...so many good ones. I love Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air, Connie Britton in Friday Night Lights, Rhea Seehorn in Better Call Saul, and almost anything Tina Fey does. I love grounded, strong, witty women. Even better if they have something to fight for. (Do you need me to be grammar conscious with these answers? Fail.)
Are there other things you enjoy pursuing?
The biggest thing for me lately is developing new habits to take care of myself and my body for the “long haul”. I’m an MS patient; I play 35-42 years old and this career has a visual component, so I need to keep developing good, permanent habits. Not JUST for the looks, but to stay vital.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Whatever you’ve done so far, whatever’s happened, whatever you’ve decided about what is and is not possible for your life - none of that matters now. As long as we’re breathing, we have a chance to make new choices, to reconcile with the past, to challenge ourselves and invite change to create a life we love.
For more information about Heather, please visit her website at www.heatherdowling.com, and you can keep up with her on Instagram and on Twitter at @SaysHeather. You can get all the info on her October 16th performance and purchase tickets by clicking here.