Alandra Hileman is probably gonna lose her “Crotchety Curmudgeon” merit badge for this.
Like all dyed-in-the-wool theatre folks who have decided they want to try to make some sort of career in this crazy field, I also spend a disproportionate amount of time bitching about all the things I hate about theatre. This week alone has included half a dozen rants with and about other theatre folks, some of which have become so ubiquitous in the circles I travel that even one of my professors greeted me with “So, I hear you’re having a hard time with that thing.” Additionally, a combination of my messed-up brain chemistry, some crappy life-events, and my ongoing attempt to win “Introvert of the Year” has made all the things I hate about theatre and people and theatre people feel a million times more terrible than any of them actually are, so I’ve been staying pretty far off the grid lately.
However, were it not for a large number of folks within my theatre circles closing ranks to help me out, I probably wouldn’t even be functional to write an article for today. So, in a pretense at the spirit of the season, this article is actually NOT going to be a bitch-fest. (Sorry, I know y’all were excited.) Today, I’m gonna write about why I do still love theatre and the people in it, even when I kinda wanna strangle them and myself.
The Inappropriate Conversations. I am a creepy, morbid, foul-mouthed individual who knows a lot of random facts about generally disturbing things. Thankfully, in theatre I have found people who not only will not judge me for having in-depth strange ways to murder people, the mechanics of an orgy, the Victorian cult of mourning, or alternate uses for MaxiPads (kneepads! wound dressing! cleaning up any spilled liquid!), but will gladly participate, usually with their own crazy dramaturgical insights. Some days, nothing brings be more joy than knowing I have an entire Facebook full of people who will respond to questions like “Which serial killer’s life would make the best theoretical musical?” with thoughtful, clever answers. (Feel free to toss in your bid in the comments.)
The Magical Kits. Every theatre person I know has a Mary Poppins bag/box/car trunk full of random stuff that we will always share to help each other out. I have had to make requests for anything from the mundane (ibuprofen, lighter, band-aids) to the specialized (razor, Leatherman tool) to stuff you normally don’t just carry with you (rubber gloves, wood glue) and had someone seemingly materialize it out of nowhere, no questions asked. More than one I have seen people take off the black socks they were wearing and hand them to an actor or technician who needed them in a pinch, which is kinda gross, but also a testament to how cool the theatre community can be about helping each other out.
The Underground Network. I like to joke that every stage manager in the SF Bay Area knows all the others, but that’s not too far from the truth. If/when I get asked to work a gig that I’m unavailable for, I have a list of close to a dozen names I can recommend, unless of course one of those folks is already the one who recommended me. I know finding SMs and PAs is one of the most important but also hardest parts of any production, so I love that all of us who work in those fields try to keep each other employed and the companies we know staffed by sharing contacts.
The Empowerment. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am insanely insecure about basically everything I do in my life. I have always had a really hard time saying that’s I’m good at anything with two exceptions: reading (seriously, I’m baller at both speed and comprehension), and organizing for theatre. I still want business cards with the tagline “I will organize the shit out of your show,” except that’s not really professional to say, although given the above comments about inappropriate conversation I could probably get away with it in certain circles. But really, theatre is one of the few areas where I, and many other young women I know, have not only felt like we are good at what we do, but also that we’re allowed to be the best. I’m still learning how to say it out loud, but the support is there.
The Solidarity. Look, I’ll be vulnerable for a second here: The real reason I didn’t get my article up last month was because I was in the middle of such a bad depressive down-swing that I was barely making to classes or the show I was stage managing, and I definitely wasn’t getting anything extra-curricular done, and then my fur-baby very suddenly got sick and died. So, I panicked and sent emails to every “boss” I work under at the various small theatres I’m involved with and basically said I was going off the grid. And every single one of them wrote back immediately with reassurance that it wasn’t just me and to do what I needed to do and let them know if they could help. And, unlike most other communities I’ve been around in my life, I knew they meant it. I’ve finally started getting back into the swing of things, having meetings and writing again, and generally getting back to my normal mode of operations. But I couldn’t have done that without the community of equally depressed, messed-up, weirdos who were there when I needed them.
So that’s my sappy thank you to the all the theatre folks out there. Now get off the lawn; it’s part of the set.
If you need visual proof-of-life, Alandra Hileman will be at Olympians on Wednesday night to see her play and rest of the glorious Crew finally assembled; get tickets and info at www.SFOlympians.com.