Author Topic: Dear Abby: Is there life after Equity?  (Read 1326 times)

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PSMKay

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Dear Abby: Is there life after Equity?
« on: Oct 28, 2016, 09:38 pm »
From time to time the SMNetwork staff posts on behalf of members who wish to remain anonymous. I received the following from one such person:

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For various reasons, including family/relationship issues, NYC burn-out and wanting more financial stability for a while, I'm thinking about moving back to my hometown. I'm a newish member of Equity and while my southeast hometown is fairly large, there's only one AEA house in town, and I know I'm very unlikely to get frequent/any work there-- I wouldn't have joined if I thought I was going to be going back, but life happens. So basically I have two questions

1) This is a big one that I'm struggling with. What jobs can I do that aren't theatre? Since college I've been lucky enough to make pretty much all of my work from theatre whether it was SMing or not, and while I know I can work as an office admin or something, I'm having a hard time focusing on what will make use of my skills.

2) Has anyone made...I guess I should say a return from non-theatre jobs? What was that transition back like? I still love theatre and am scared of not working even for a little while while I get settled.
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maximillionx

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Re: Dear Abby: Is there life after Equity?
« Reply #1 on: Oct 29, 2016, 02:33 pm »
This is something I started - and frankly still do - to worry about ever since choosing to go to college for theatre....whether I would want to transition out of theatre into a "more mainstream profession" at some point in my life.

Theatre people are lucky in that we have to have a diverse set of skills in order to do our jobs effectively. For instance: you've achieved Equity status, yay! Think about what went into that...organizational skills, time management, effective communication, problem solving, being great under pressure, being a Macgyver at times. These are traits that can be applied to any professional environment.

Ask your close theatre acquaintances and friends what their side jobs are, if any. See what your old college theatre friends do (if applicable). Analyze your own set of skills, realistically, and take a chance on something. Or, branch out by taking classes or asking for advice and professional development help. Don't worry about your current skills since they always are changing, improving or adapting depending on the environment.

We all have theatre people who are great at a variety of different things. Just off the top of my heads: Head Naval Recruiter, Head of Marketing at an international corporation, teachers, independent artists, small-business entrepreneurs.

I am still working in theatre, albeit not in a way I thought I would be merely a few years ago, nor could I have foreseen how my career got here or how it's changing as we speak. I also teach, do small odd jobs for friends and family, and take a side gig lighting or designing every once in a while. I'm thinking about starting to make mixed-media art for galleries, and starting a podcast. Choose something that makes you happy and will help you grow.

If you want to stay in theatre and aren't afraid of admin work, see if that local union house you mentioned has any job openings in their PR, education or grant-writing departments. Or maybe their executive/artistic director is really looking for an assistant?

Remember...theatre people are awesome. We can do anything.

Hope this helps and sorry if I rambled a bit. Good luck!

megf

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Re: Dear Abby: Is there life after Equity?
« Reply #2 on: Oct 30, 2016, 07:02 pm »
It can't hurt to go on informational interviews, with people in your immediate network or people a couple steps removed. Coffee with a current or former SM who lives in this southeast market might yield some surprising tips. By the same token, if you have a network of any kind in this area, quick phone calls or in-person chats with people you know might help, even if they have no obvious, direct connection to theater or the arts at all. If these folks have lived in the area a long time, it is likely that they will have AMAZING personal networks. One of the best things my husband did when he was changing careers was talk to an uncle with whom he had never, ever discussed career matters. Two days later, he had a phone number, and the resulting call led to some well-paid gigs and skills training.

Also, looking at the other responses... maximillionx's response reminded me of a recent interview experience. During the second round of interviews for a job, the person guiding the conversation said "So, other than being organized and responsive to deadlines, what are you really great at?" And... I was flabbergasted. So much of what SMs tend to cultivate, especially early in our careers, can be boiled down to just that: organized and responsive to deadlines. It's worth brainstorming a compelling response to this, if you haven't already!

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loebtmc

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Re: Dear Abby: Is there life after Equity?
« Reply #3 on: Oct 31, 2016, 12:54 am »
Here is something really important - while you are making your decision, you can take a formal leave/honorable withdrawal from AEA if you don't think you will work under union jurisdiction for a while. If/when you decide to reactivate, you pay a small administrative fee and the current cycle's basic dues. It means you sit in limbo for a bit, but it also means you have options.

DeeCap

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Re: Dear Abby: Is there life after Equity?
« Reply #4 on: Oct 31, 2016, 11:00 am »
Yes. There is. It depends on what you want to do and if you are willing to take lower pay for a bit to do it.

I left theatre to work as a "stage manager" for a music department at a University. I called Equity to become inactive and as long as your dues are up to date, it's easy.
When I wanted to moonlight as an Equity stage manager, I called again and I paid an administrative fee over the phone, and it was activated.
Then I wanted to leave theatre/arts altogether, and began looking for admin assistant work/receptionist work/secretarial work. I updated my resume to highlight my administrative skills (meaning what computer software I use, you would be surprised what we use) dependability, organization skills, etc

Where I sold myself was my cover letters. These days you cannot send out a generic one. You have to put more of yourself in it and why you want to work for the company. I said that although I enjoyed working in the arts, I was looking for stability, and your position would be a great fit. Because I was lacking in certain areas (bookkeeping for example) I really had to write an amazing cover letter every single time. I used a few templates when I googled "cover letter"

And the calls for interviews came. What's great is that we work in an unique industry that people are always interested in what we do, so they would want to talk about it. I was play up that I am able to meet deadlines (opening night is a deadline) and multi task, as well as handle conflict (that's a big one).

I didn't get any of them. I would be a finalist, and the reason I wouldn't get an offer is because I was lacking skills (again bookkeeping). Looking back, if I could do it I would sign up for a temp agency and "try on" various companies while gaining more skills.

I'm now back into theatre and for extra pay I substitute teach. I couldn't be happier, but if it doesn't work out I'll call a temp agency and go from there.

  I hope this helps, and I hope you don't think that you don't have any transferable skills. We all do. 



Michelle R. Wood

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Re: Dear Abby: Is there life after Equity?
« Reply #5 on: Oct 31, 2016, 06:18 pm »
I work in the southeast and have been able to get a good amount of SM work, but it took a while to build the contacts needed. Also, being willing to travel around the state is a must. I'm fortunate that I was an early computer geek and freelance as a web developer as well, so wherever I can get online with my laptop, I can work my other gig as well. I've used the website Thumbtack to bid on editing/web/computer work before (https://www.thumbtack.com), even making Word templates for a company that needed them.

Depending on the theatres in your area, look into teaching opportunities, especially summer camp; also at hire work for loadins/load outs at venues.
"Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration." -- Thomas Edison (Harper's Magazine, 1932)

KMC

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Re: Dear Abby: Is there life after Equity?
« Reply #6 on: Nov 01, 2016, 01:54 pm »
Saw this last week and between moving back home from abroad and preparing for a major life event I forgot to respond before now.  There is absolutely life after theatre (and equity). 

It's been alluded to here already, but the base skills you build as a stage manager are valuable in just about any position - working as part of a team, communication, ability to deal with personality types from A to Z, and perhaps the most underrated: the ability to think on your feet when the crap hits the fan.  You would be shocked how few people in the "real world" can react quickly and effectively to unexpected situations that would ordinarily jeopardize deadlines.  There is no greater deadline than an 8pm curtain.  "The show must go on" is of course a cliche, but it is so for a reason!

I have been out of live entertainment for about ten years now.  I project manage large entertainment technology installations for theme parks and cruise ships.  We have project managers, engineers, technicians, and programmers working for us - most have a background in theatre.  We actively recruit from universities' technical theatre and production programs.  When we were looking to hire a junior PM / project coordinator recently, the answer I gave was: hire a stage manager.

In fact, I'd bet you will be surprised by how quickly you can land a gig that will have you earning significantly more than an equity gig within a couple of years (plus novelty things like nights and weekends off). 

There are a ton of different avenues you can go.  Good luck.
« Last Edit: Nov 01, 2016, 02:06 pm by KMC »
Get action. Do things; be sane; donít fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

BayAreaSM

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Re: Dear Abby: Is there life after Equity?
« Reply #7 on: Nov 03, 2016, 09:46 pm »
I, for one, was completely heartbroken when my company went under. I was working AEA contracts during the summers and spending the rest of my season in a full time job working for an AGMA company. But with my 4 year old, I couldn't go back to the "real" AEA SM life. I felt I would end up in an entry-level job because I didn't understand how my skills could apply in non-theater life. It took a friend of mine to show me the way.


We're SM's because we have a unique skill set that allows us to multitask, remember locations of things, spot memorize, retain knowledge and problem solve in stressful situations. We're calm, collected, take lots of notes, organize calendars and can figure out logistics. We're also good with people and managing a crew. My friend, who had worked as a Sound Engineer for me years ago, knew of my skills, and when he became a VP for an A/V company and heard I was out of work - he hired me on the spot.


I'm a Director of Fulfillment, and it's nothing that I ever thought I could do. I figure out what needs to move where, I remember where inventory items are kept, I spend so much time looking at our job paperwork that I remind people that they are missing gear in a transfer. I manage warehouse teams in Los Angeles, SF and San Jose. I hire technicians; I listen to them, and I'm pulling up memories of rehearsal reports and production meetings and honing my "HR" skills. I keep calendars of information and tons of lists - and I keep everyone on track.


I figured out how to transfer my skills to this new profession, and while I'm not calling the shows (though I may be a show caller at a future event when things slow down), I've found a way to make it fun. I mean, what SM doesn't like to cross things off the To Do list and make their team happy with quick & smart solutions? And I am learning which gear does what. My company uses certain digital mixers, and when I was permitted to take 2 days off work to go SM a reading, I found that same mixer at the theater I worked at. For me, I'm not *so* far away from theater...


So, yes, we really can transfer our skills - you just have to figure out what those skills are in layman's terms and then how those skills can apply to a job. I had to learn a new software program - but who doesn't when they go into a new business? We're SMs - we're adaptable, we think on our feet, we're good with people, we know how to manage a group - and we're always learning.


As far as going back - my company is small enough, that even though I am permitted to do short-term AEA SM gigs, I still have to check in with work - so my meal breaks and post rehearsal times are spent trouble shooting via email/phone calls, etc. I want to go back to AEA work, and while I feel I should be able to transition back (since I am keeping in touch with previous employers) I'm just not ready yet.


Ps. As a side note - when I got too bogged down with my new job, I asked if I could hire an assistant. And, of course, I wanted a Stage Manager - and I got one. And now she knows how to transfer those skills to non-theater work. :)
« Last Edit: Nov 03, 2016, 09:48 pm by BayAreaSM »

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