Hi-Ho, the Glamorous Life: An Introduction

Marissa Skudlarek, one of our favorite gals-about-town in the SF Theater scene, kicks off her regular guest spot on the SF Theater Pub blog. 

If you are raised, as I was, on a steady diet of old-fashioned Broadway musicals and Fred & Ginger movies, you will come to believe that the theater is the most glamorous profession in the world.  Producers lavish money on glittering costumes, huge orchestras, and shiny Art Deco scenery. Both onstage and backstage, charismatic performers speak with wit and behave with flair. And you can go out a chorus girl, but come back a star.

Even after I grew up, learned how hard it is to make a living as an artist, and resigned myself to the reality that no one wears gowns or tuxedos to opening nights, the theater still retained a residual glamor. I remember two years ago, when Theater Pub was just starting and I was making my first tentative forays into the San Francisco theater community. I’d meet people like Theater Pub founders Stuart Bousel and Ben Fisher and marvel at how they seemed to know everyone, be everywhere, and work on a million projects at once.  This was, I thought, a real-world kind of glamor: these men were busy, talked-about, in-demand. I wondered whether I would ever be in the same position.

Well, now it’s two years later and I’ve become one of those perpetually overscheduled theater people. In the last week alone, I’ve done the following:

  • Helped organize, and spent an evening at, a fundraiser for the Bay One Acts (BOA) Kickstarter campaign
  • Edited and posted several interviews with BOA playwrights on the BOA blog (bayoneacts.org)
  • Copy-edited the BOA program
  • Copy-edited the final proof of a forthcoming book of plays from the San Francisco Olympians Festival
  • Attended an Olympians writers’ meeting and realized I should completely overhaul the play I am working on
  • Figured out how to use Twitter
  • Got an email from an actor I used to know, asking for my help with French pronunciation for an audition
  • Saw three plays at major Bay Area theaters

And that doesn’t include the non-theater stuff I’ve had to deal with this week (hectic times at my day job; finding a roommate; taxes).  Nor does it include writing this column. Which I am doing at midnight, in my pajamas, after seeing a three-hour Tom Stoppard play about Russian intellectuals. Last night I fell asleep with the light on and woke up with pain in my jaw.

In times like these, the song “The Glamorous Life,” from Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, comes to mind. The heroine of the show, Desiree Armfeldt, is a famous actress in turn-of-the-century Sweden.  “Desiree Armfeldt! I just know she’ll wear the most glamorous gowns,” exclaims Anne, a naïve younger character.  Well, Desiree may be soignée, but she’s also a single mother who spends most of her time on tour in the provinces.  In “The Glamorous Life,” Desiree and the chorus wryly comment on the life of a theater professional: “Run for the carriage, la-la-la / Wolf down the sandwich, la-la-la / Which town is this one, la-la-la / Hi-ho, the glamorous life.”

So when Stuart Bousel asked if I would write a twice-monthly column about the San Francisco indie-theater lifestyle for the Theater Pub blog, I knew that I wanted the assignment and that I wanted to title the column “Hi-ho, the Glamorous Life.”

In upcoming columns, I hope to investigate, explain, praise, and critique different aspects of independent theater in the Bay Area.  If you’re a fellow theater artist, I want to find the words to describe our experiences, and if you’re not a theater-maker, I want to acquaint you with my world.

This world can be cash-strapped. It can be competitive. It forces you to spend more time than you’d like in seedy neighborhoods. It requires lots of humdrum behind-the-scenes effort to bring even a small black-box show to life.  But it’s busy and fast-paced and challenging. It values hard work and strong opinions. It has made me happy beyond measure. And yes, it is glamorous.

Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright, dramaturg, and arts writer. Find her at marissabidilla.blogspot.com and on Twitter @MarissaSkud.

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