With my post-tech beer in hand, (Leinenkugel Summer Shandy), I sit here finally relaxing. Oh, alright, who is kidding who. There is no relaxation to be had. I am exhausted, pooped, tired, and just mildly thinking about what the next four days consist of. I give no apologies for my current lag in posts. Understand, for those that aren’t theatre persons, that the beginning of Tech Week begins to consume all of one’s life. Over the next week I will only be home to sleep. I will leave at about 8:00 am, work until somewhere around 11:00 pm, and then come home and sleep again. This will happen until next Saturday.
Over and over again.
But then again, that’s why I chose theatre, isn’t it. So today’s post goes to those that are thinking about theatre as a profession. These are the high school kids and college students have have dabbled in our fabulous world, and thought to themselves, “Theatre, yep, that’s what I want to do for a living.” Well, let me start you off with a little quote that was told to me once:
If you can do anything else, DON’T DO THEATRE.
Now the questions comes. Hey Terry, you’re a theatre professor. Your goal is to train the next generation of theatre practitioners. Why would you tell people not to do theatre? Well, truth be told, there is a second part of the quote:
But if you cannot do anything else, and theatre is your passion, then push yourself to the limits, and become as successful as you can.
Oh, alright, so I added a bit onto the second part of the quotation. But understand, it is the complete truth. Now, let me share a short story. There was a time that I was not a theatre professional. Day in and day out I labored away as a 911 operator and police dispatcher. Truth be told, I loved the job, and many of the people I worked with. This was shortly after I graduated college. At the time, I felt that theatre had nothing to offer me. I had bought into the idea that it was a dead end major, and I would end up being that homeless man on the street, sleeping on friend’s couches, with no way to actually earn a living. So for over a year I worked. And made good money. And enjoyed my time in Virginia Beach. But as the year wore on, it felt as if something was missing. Something to push me, challenge me, and inspire me. I began drawing, and that’s when I realized that I couldn’t do anything else besides theatre.
And so I went back to college, and now, almost ten years after receiving my Masters of Fine Arts in Theatre, I am still doing theatre. Am I better off? In some ways, yes, other ways, no. I am financially worse off. Had I stayed with 911, my salary would be higher than it is now. But, I am happier than I ever could be. Even on the worst days, I love what I do.
So from time to time, I have been asked what it takes to make it as a theatre professional. Well, let me see if I can answer that question. With bullet points. Because I like bullet points.
- Work Ethic - As someone who has been hired and hired people, a strong work ethic is needed. A willingness to complete a job without complaining. I know this from experience. I was a whiny little brat in my first couple of summer theatre gigs. I look back now and abhor how I acted. If there is one thing I cannot stress enough, it’s that you need to have the passion to do what it takes to make a production successful. That passion will push you to the limits, but it will make you employable.
- People Skills – The theatre world is small. Really small. I saw this once again just a month ago. A touring show was coming to our college and I was asked to work as a quick changer on the wardrobe crew. I said yes. I come in the morning of the show, and who is in charge of me but none other than Kimmi Beland. Someone I had worked with 5 years previous at Illinois Shakespeare Festival. And let me tell you, it was great to work under her that day. You have to be able to not burn bridges. You need to be someone that people want to work with. I have seen extremely talented people who are atrocious when it comes to working with others. I usually don’t see them again. But if you can relate to others, and find common ground, you will find that, in the theatre world, when people like you, they will look for you to be rehired.
- Common Sense – This is a trait that many people don’t fully understand. But let’s be honest. We’ve all seen the person that doesn’t realize you cannot leave your coffee in the middle of the stage 5 minutes before house opens. They may be the most intelligent person in the world, but without that common sense, horrible things are bound to happen.
- Love of the art, not of the money – YOU WILL NOT BE RICH! You will be happy, but you will not be rich. Theatre is not for everyone. It is for those that want to produce art. It is for those that want a voice. It is for those that cannot be happy any other way. It is not for making money. Once you fully understand that, than you can be successful in theatre.
- Willingness to Travel – And this is a big one, and one I will end on. Theatre is transient. I have lived in six different states. And countless number of cities. And I’m not even 35 yet. With theatre, you go to where the work is, you do not wait for it to come to you. And you must be proactive. That is part of the fun of the profession. Just ask any of my friends who have toured. They have seen places all over this, and other, countries. It’s amazing. So be willing to travel, and you might just make it.
Now then, I don’t say any of this to scare people off. But i do say this so people will understand what it takes. So tell me, readers of the blog. What am I forgetting? Or what else do you think should be added? Help out those young minds that are looking at theatre as a career. Let’s see if we can help them out just a bit.