Emilee in Wonderland: Overcoming an actor’s plague and embracing ‘funemployment’


Emilee Dupré

Written by Emilee Dupré 

Summer in New York City is a scorcher.  The heat won’t let up and I am quite – dare I say it – unemployed!  Venice at the Public Theater closed on June 30 and thus began the great interrogation game of “What Are You Working on Next?!”  A show closes.  The quiet sets in and the inevitable doubt arises, “Will I ever work again?!”

And the answer is, “Yes, of course, you will, eventually.  Now, relax!”   Of course, that is easier said than done.  After all, I am a classic workaholic. I love to lose myself in preparation for a role, for an audition, for class, you name it!  But this pattern can spin out of control and result in an actor’s’ plague, what I call “the without-a-job-I-am-no-good” sickness.

As I gain experience and a little perspective, I question if constantly losing myself in my work is the healthiest way to pursue my acting career.  This time around, I have to know, is there a way to be both a workaholic and simultaneously indulgent in my joie de vivre?  So here in late July begins my grand experiment: the balancing act of hard work and relaxation, hence the term a few of my friends and I have coined as “funemployment.”

This week, I had a big audition for which I had to learn five songs and several scenes, so I did my fair share of hard work – research, memorization, coachings. I also helped plan an amazing party for one of my very best friends, an actress whom I met doing a show a few years ago.  I even managed to attend a few other celebrations, and got a surprise visit from my dad, who flew all the way up from Florida to spend some quality time with my sister and me.  And shockingly, this made for a very full, lovely and relatively relaxing week.

While floating from celebration to celebration, I realized something very beautiful about the life of an actor: it is filled with multitudes of rich but fleeting experiences.  We collaborate intensely as a single, breathing organism to tell a story.  On a daily basis, we share the collective experience of rehearsal or performance.  The cast becomes intimate very quickly.  And then, just as fast as a company comes together, the show closes, and we disperse, continuing on our solo journeys. It is therefore pretty easy to become a loner.  But occasionally, you meet those special people who can end up in your life for a long time, if you choose to let them into your world.  If you wish, you too can build your own unique, occasionally dysfunctional, amazing family of artists!  And it is here, where things get really rich and colorful.

One of my very favorite books is Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which is about her friendship and muse-ship with Robert Mapplethorpe.  They serendipitously met, became dear friends, lovers, all the things, and they would eventually inspire and support each other to become the unique artists they are and were.  The thing I love so much about this week of celebrations is that I am reminded that I have a few of those close friends who have become my family here in this wild town.  They bring me inspiration, support, kindness, love, relaxation, fun and a little bit of crazy here and there.  After all, one must keep it interesting, mustn’t one?

The reality is that this career takes a lot of endurance and having great friends and experiences outside the theater makes working even more gratifying.  Not only that, but when we are telling stories, we have to bring our individual interpretation to the table.  It is hard to look through the lens of another character if you are always wearing blinders.  In the moments I spend truly present and connected to the world around me, employed or “funemployed”, it is here that I find my inspiration.  We need the negative space to see the whole picture and we need the quiet moments in order to nurture our creativity.

Emilee Dupré is an actress, singer, and dancer who was most recently seen in The Public Theater’s production of Venice. She also appeared as an original cast member in the Broadway companies of Chaplin and The People in the Picture.  Emilee graduated with a BFA in Acting from NYU Tisch.

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"I found the theatre and I found my home.” ― Audra McDonald

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