Thankless And Tedious Theatre Work

Much of the work I’ve done in the theatre this term (and many other terms) falls into the category of thankless and tedious. I can get enthusiastic about things that people dread. And even when other people do it, it’s often half-assed and with a negative attitude. Not that I’m don’t fall prey to such behavior patterns. But, for the most part, I do the job happy and well because I feel happy and well about what I’m doing.

For a number of reasons. One being, I know how much others don’t want to do the job, and how much it needs to get done, and I’m not one of those self-absorbed theatre people that doesn’t care about any other aspect of the theater than what I myself am doing. I see it all. Big Picture kind of thing. The vital importance of all theater work, however degrading or “low skill” (a term which is deeply offensive and classist, but I won’t go into that right now).

The other reason is: I like it! I honestly like doing a lot of the tedious/thankless grunt work. For me, any involvement in theatre is usually enough to make me happy. Being involved in a creative process- even if it’s just padding and paving the way for others’ creativity- really does it for me. When I’m in the zone- which I usually am when I’m doing theatre- there’s no other place I’d rather be.

I often prefer doing the tedious/thankless tech/behind-the-scenes work in theatre to performing. I feel more a part of it, somehow. Being one such worker is like belonging to a unorganized, unspoken-of union. Like a club. (Maybe a cult would be more honest.)

Maybe in part because it’s thankless. It’s this hidden thing. We all know- all us techies and backstage people- how much we rock. The audience doesn’t, usually. Often the performers don’t even know what goes on, just how much work is involved. And so, it’s a secret thing and we all appreciate and support each other. We form a community. Of techie theatre nerds. Isn’t that cute?

The community we form amongst ourselves supports us as individuals and workers as well as supporting the whole vision of the theatre piece. It gives a buffer to the directors and performers, allowing their creative juices to flow way more effectively than if we weren’t there, than if they had to do what we do. In a way we spoil them but honestly, if something creative and beautiful and inspiring and amazing comes out of it, I couldn’t care less about padding the performer’s ego. Because theatre, ultimately, isn’t about the individual. It’s about the collective. The whole. The whole of the people involved and the whole of the audience. Together, we make a whole. We represent humanity. The givers and the receivers, the creative and the analytical, the right-brained and the left-brained, the talkers and the listeners, the inspiring and the inspired. The lines between these are often blurred. Because they are not opposites. They are beautifully complementary of one another. Yin and yang and all that. They cannot exist without each other. If one becomes damaged, the other suffers just as much. Support is absolutely vital. Compared to it, nothing else matters.

I have always felt that, in order to do good theatre, you should know what’s going on in every aspect of the process. I ultimately wish to write and direct, but have done much more than just things that would directly support those. I often have to force myself to, doing things I wouldn’t normally want to do. I want the experience. For my own personal comfort. To become a more well-rounded theatre practitioner. And also, to support the theatre community as best I can, by being hyper-aware of every facet of it. Every facet, as they are all just as important as one another.

And besides, the more voices heard collectively and individually within a theatre piece, the more people it will reach and touch. And that is the goal, at least of the theatre that I do and plan to continue to do. None of this naval gazing bollocks. But theatre for the people.


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