Thursday, February 14, 2008

Gratitude

The sort of theatre that I have done most of is classified as "Downtown Theatre." Most of the participants are unpaid, the budgets are somewhere between minimal and nonexistent and the required commitment level is high. People do this kind of theatre because they love it, because it's something they have to do, not because they want to be famous or rich or sometimes even happy.

In situations like this tensions run high. Things are done according to the communist model, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." Except that the from part is usually more like "From each according to his abilities plus between 10 and 50% according to the needs of the show." You learn a lot but it's rough. Watch phrases are "Hot Quick and Dirty" "Cheap, Fast and Good (you can have any two in combination but never all three)" and "Just do your job." (tm. Zelda). The people who succeed at this level, who produce work consistently, are comfortable asking everyone to give, and then asking them to give more, whatever it takes to get the show done. Often there is an assumption that everyone is as committed to the project as the initiator and therefore is happy, nay raring, to sacrifice all for the cause.

If you're some combination of shrewd and lucky you work with people who are talented on a number of levels. I have been very lucky.

Back in the day when I was first learning about all of this (and still able to live on 4-5 hours of sleep per night) I was occasionally treated pretty poorly. Early on, though, I met Kristie while she was in the process of forming her own theatre company with a group of friends. Part of her personal mission for the company was to be certain to appreciate the worth of the people with whom they worked. She dreamt of humane Downtown Theatre. She was careful to reimburse people for money they spent for shows and as soon as they were able they paid people, even nominally, for their work. Before they were able to pay anyone, though, she paid us in gratitude. She made it her habit to be sure that the last thing one heard as one left the theatre (at 1am on a school night with classes starting at 8 and a 6pm call to the theatre the next day) was "thank you."

I make that my habit now. I, too, dream of humane downtown theatre. Man, people were good tonight. Pony Express was in fine form gently nudging people into being their best selves. The theatre's Technical Director, who is only contracted to sit around and make sure we don't fuck up her space, moved sets and spiked (marked where it should go) furniture and made a progress chart for Jessica who will be our stagehand for the weekend but won't be there until tomorrow. It was glorious to finally hear Mimi really sing and Jennica is doing some really important work I'm so enjoying being in on the ground floor of.

I'm excited. Thank you doesn't really even begin to cover it.

4 comments:

  1. Rock it out! Tomorrow is stealth internet day at work...read: boss in office all day, so take this late-night drunk-ass word-token...
    Do what you do...Love it, and I am assured others will, too.
    So, so, so wish I could have been a part...
    Miss Piggy Kiss---MWAH!

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  2. Gotta tell you, I love this post... not only am I psyched that last night went well, but I really liked your mix of passion and gratitude and history and current events and explanation and declaration.

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  3. I'm so very, very excited for you. I'm going to be thinking of you all day long, and wishing you well. I had really hoped to be there in body, but we're going to have to settle for "in spirit" this time. No matter; the love is the same...

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  4. The words "Thank you" always motivate me to do more, especially when they are sincere.
    Great post! Go get 'em girlfriend!

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