Annie Paladino needs to organize her hat collection.
I’m one of those people that everyone tells you not to be. It says so right at the bottom of this post: “Annie Paladino is an actor, director, producer, and stage manager.” I’m a wearer of many hats—and I refuse to specialize.
Particularly in the small/indie/fringe/DIY/experimental/whatever-you-want-to-call-it theater community, we all try on different hats from time to time. Some fit well but maybe we hate the weird feather sticking out of the top. Some are totally absurd and fall over our eyes and we trip and stub our toes. Sometimes we’ll find one that we love, and we add it to our permanent collection.
Well, I’ve got a large and very poorly compartmentalized permanent collection. I tend to have all hats readily available, so I can swap them out at a moment’s notice. And sometimes they all look the same in the dark, and I’ll later realize I’m wearing a different hat than I thought I had grabbed.
Before this admittedly awful metaphor gets away from me entirely, let’s talk about my current hat-crisis. Which is really just the latest iteration of one of the most reliably recurrent crisis of my career as a theater artist.
It concerns my two favorite (and most well-worn) hats: Actor and Stage Manager. As I’ve been telling anyone who will listen this week, it boils down to this: When I’m an actor, I love the rehearsal process. But as soon as it gets to tech week, I instantly wish I were stage managing. And the converse is true too: I don’t really like stage managing throughout a rehearsal process, but as soon as tech week hits, I’m in fucking heaven.
The unfortunate result of this is that as an actor in tech week, I can get…intense. What I absolutely love about stage managing is having control—I want all mistakes to be only my fault, and all solutions to be of my devising. And so I try my best to find little things that I can have some amount of control over. Trying to figure out a prop transition? Done. Need to eat a cupcake onstage in <20 seconds? Awesome—I’ll spend my morning off baking gluten-free, pink, spongy cupcakes. There’s going to be a weird butoh-esque makeup design? I am all OVER that shit. (And there’s another hat…)
Last night in the 30 minutes between our first full run with tech and our first preview, one of my Time Sensitive castmates suggested that what I’m really missing when I’m not stage managing is the thrill of solving unforeseen problems. She’s 100% right—I’d just never realized it so clearly before. I LOVE being presented with a problem, particularly a problem with no apparent solution, and one that must be solved NOW.
I know that there are lots of other hat-hoarders in the Bay Area, and I’ll turn it over to you (you know who you are) in the comments: do you have a hard time choosing between your favorites? Tales of hat-related existential angst? Have at it, dapper folks.
As for me, a little over a year ago, I made a conscious decision to step away from stage managing for awhile. I had been stage managing almost continuously for a couple years, and while I continued to enjoy it, I found myself deeply missing the artistic fulfillment of acting or directing. I am glad I made that decision, but reliably, every time tech week rolls around, you can find me looking longingly at the lightboard, or maybe quietly checking off my own personal preset list back stage (likely to the annoyance of the actual stage manager).
PS. Time Sensitive opens Thursday—check out www.raggedwing.org for tickets and more details.
Annie Paladino is an actor, director, producer, and stage manager. She doesn’t like wearing actual hats. Find her on Twitter @anniepaladino.