Thursday, November 6, 2014

NaBloPoMo Day 6: Please do not ask me if I act

The single most common response to the "What do you do?" "I'm the [Insert Arts Admin title here] of this theater" exchange is:
"Oh. Do you act, too?"
I loathe* this question. For three reasons.

1. It stems from a baseline assumption that there is nothing else of value worth doing in a theater except for being on stage. Whether this assumption is rational or is simply inherent from years of mass media infused celebrity and bad sitcoms, it doesn't really matter.

2. It also questions whether I have enough work tasks to fill my day. Like, I must not have enough to do running the business aspects of the organization. (NOTE: this does not negate the idea of 168 hours and that one couldn't theoretically have acting as a side gig or hobby.)

Me: College Freshman,
Assistant Stage Manager. 
3. It stops the conversation. ALWAYS. Yes, I have a pat, gracious response I give, but most people do not know what to say after that. I don't fall into the presumed role of "if I'm standing in a theater I'm one of two people: an actor or an audience member." If I'm lucky, the conversant may follow up with, "well how did you get into this job/field/position?" as one would with any small-talk conversation. But once it's clarified that 1) I'm not pining to move to NYC and 2) I don't know any Broadway/Hollywood/Local television stars, that's pretty much the end of it.

Maybe it's a front line thing. Nearly everyone I know in theater management that deals with audiences as some portion of their job (so, like 99%) get this, too. I think it goes back to our troubled dramatic (no pun intended) high school days when the drama kids on stage were all vaunted but the techie folks were left, quite literally, in the dark.

I imagine there are a lot of arts administrators who got into their work position directly because of a love of doing the art form (fine arts museum director who paints or sculpts, for example). But I'd lay even odds that for every one do-er manager, there is someone else like me, who got into it because we were passionate about supporting the art form.

Am I being sensitive? Or does this question hit a nerve with you, too?

*No, I do not use the word lightly.
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  1. Le Sigh... I have started explaining to people off the bat that I do not act about one sentence after I say I work in theater. Not that there is anything wrong with acting, I just have horrid self conscious attacks of nerves when I get up and talk in front of people. There is no way I could perform, nightly, using the same words every night. I had the shakes for a good twenty minutes after my presentations this week

  2. It's not like actors get asked "do you design/direct/admin?" That'd be nice.