Theater Around The Bay: The Fantasy And The Reality of a Non-Profit Office

An undisclosed intern talks about her first few weeks working at a major Bay Area theater company.

About a month ago, I started working for one of the Bay Area’s LORT theaters. My hope was that I’d be able to marry my previous 4 years’ experience in corporate America with my love for theater. I took the job with the hope that it would illuminate for me the Next Big Step in my career; that I would walk into the administrative offices of this theater company and find a pastoral scene of happy, passionate, like-minded people, ready to talk at the drop of a hat about their favorite experience in the theater; that I would feel the click of a puzzle piece finally set into place.

But would I be writing this article if that’s what I found?

Instead, my experience has been much more like Gisele entering Manhattan a la Enchanted. Things that I have long taken for granted are not in place here: we have a shared server but not collaborative editing functionality, so people are forever saving over one another’s edits or referring to outdated files. My department’s database of core information is questionably reliable and difficult to pull information from, putting a fog over everything we do. My biggest project at the moment is to move our department over to a digital filing system — we are still using paper files. There is quite literally a ton of paper to shed.

All that is like moving through molasses, but it’s potentially fixable over time. The thing that really shocked me, really burst my bubble, was the energy of the people around me.

I erroneously assumed that the offices of a non-profit — and in particular of a theater company — would be humming with the energy of doing something lasting and great. (Blame it on The West Wing.) Those people exist in pockets here, and some departments are more humming than others, but mine feels disappointingly like any other company. There is bickering, there is discord, there is apathy. I don’t know if I’m naive or courageous for expecting more.

But despite the initial disappointments, I’m grateful for the chance to see this reality. And I’m grateful for my time at a well-run Internet company, even if it wasn’t my ultimate passion, because it gave me something to compare to. I’m thrilled to sit at my desk here, listening to snippets of the Artistic Director’s jovially curse-laden conversation. I get to hear the Casting Director brainstorm with her team about which men to bring in for next winter’s piece.

And perhaps most thrilling of all, when I watch the directors of my own department, I feel very strongly the sense that I could do that. I could have that job, and be great at it. To someone who has been walking in the dark towards God-knows-what for almost 6 years, barely seeing 3 feet in front of her, it’s terribly comforting to feel like there’s some light, somewhere, out in front of me.

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