What does it all mean?!?

Every now and then I take the time to sit and re-evaluate what the hell it is that I’m doing. Not out of some horrible quarter-life crisis desperation, but just because it’s nice to have my priorities straight in a world that tries to tell me what I should be feeling.

Years ago I was working at a summer camp for the performing arts. Over something like 8 weeks we did 6 shows in two theatres, which were dressed up barns, pretty much. It was hard, at times it was HELL. People quit or got fired. The kids were overly dramatic. Days were long and the pay was terrible.  However, sometimes you could look at the audience and realize what it was worth.

There was a show the stage manager had just phoned it in on. She didn’t care anymore. This was her last show before she gave up life in theater for the life of a student in psychology. She didn’t call cues in the right place, didn’t even know what some cues did (??!?!?!). Just trying to get the show to go right was difficult and frustrating. The chain of command dictated that the SM was higher on the totem pole, the one runnin’ the joint. When things got fucked up, the lighting wasn’t her fault. She called the cue, right?  I’m fairly sure she wasn’t even watching the same show that anyone else was. Then one night after a particularly bad performance (not the kids – they were great) she turned to me and said, “Well I know that the cues that were late were me and the ones that were early were you!” as if we’d both think it was funny. I put down my headset and bolted.

A friend caught up with me heading up the hill, livid. He asked me what was wrong.

I said, “This is what we do for a living! How can she just not care?”

I said, “We spend so long in rehearsals just for these nights. All that work is for nothing if she doesn’t even pay attention to what she’s doing!

I said, “And then she tells me that I’m screwing everything up!”

He listened to me. And then he said, “It’s not about us. It’s about the audience. And the audience loved it.”

From then on, I made sure to keep that in mind. The audience is much bigger now. They aren’t related to the performers and spouting unconditional goodwill anymore. But people do see the show and walk away with their jaws dropped. They are inspired by what we do. That is very important to me. Very important.

Many of my co-workers are blase about the job. 10 shows a week every week. The same show. The bull-shit that goes along with being in the workforce in general they seem to feel is So Much Worse here. But it’s not. It’s really not. They just don’t care about what they’re doing, and can’t see why it matters. But I spend shows where I can see the audience. And I can see that it matters very much.

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~ by jesstracey on November 26, 2011.

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