Author Topic: When Nobody Wants You  (Read 4498 times)

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Whitewater

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When Nobody Wants You
« on: Nov 06, 2006, 06:29 pm »
(warning, this is a rant. This is mostly rhetorical and comes out of a purely emotional space. You have been warned)


Some days I really hate the fact that I'm NOT in a place where I can go to work every day -- wait. I think I need to define work.

See, I would be happy and fulfilled and finally where I want to be when I'm the resident Stage Manager working under an Equity contract for a professional, largeish (ie, more than 500 seats) house, where I don't have to worry about paying rent every month, where I don't have to choose, like right now, between food and meds, where I have one or two house ASM's that I can count on and work with, where I don't have to be constantly looking for work.

And while I know this dream of mine is not unique to me, because there are a gazillion SM's out there who have the same dream, nevertheless it is MY dream. Might not make it special and I don't know whether or not it's attainable but you know what? Right now I don't think I'm ever going to get a chance to get anywhere even within spitting distance of my dream. So everybody else who has the same dream I do, don't worry. It's still out there for everybody else.

Because I am still trying to make contacts (howcome it's so much easier for actors?) from people who don't remember me even though we worked intimately with each other, and it's really not working. I feel like I'm drowning in a sea on anonymity. Nobody knows me here. It's been 15 years, and directors have no idea who I am, though I've been doing multiple shows every year for those last 15 years.

And since August I've been trying to actively network and make contacts (nothing quite like closing the barn doors after the horses are gone, but hey, better late than never, or so they tell me) and while the potential job pool has opened up quite a bit, the number of rejections has also gone up.

I've been rejected for an avarage of a show a week for the last six weeks. I don't even get to the interview stage anymore. The nicer folks send a letter or an email back saying that for some reason or other they don't want me. Usually it's because the position has already been filled. So now, I'm totally behind the curve and coming out of the gate a lot later than everybody else.

I'm so discouraged right now. And scared, too. I mean, if I can't get a summer job that pays a gas stipend in community theatre in Minneapolis, what the heck kind of chances do I have of *ever* actually working in New York? And sure, there are stages, and steps, and ladders and things. But if I can't get to rung one, how am I going to get to rung 3? Or 7? Or 14? How am I to take the first step when I can't get the experience I need? I really hate vicious cycles. I need experience. I apply for positions. Nobody hires me. Which means no experience. So I apply again. And the cycle continues. And my parents crow about how they knew that my being in the arts for a career was a bad thing and how they are right and I ought to go into being a teacher or some other 'safe' profession, or perhaps a receptionist wouldn't be such a bad life?

*sigh*


I am sick to death of spending money on getting photos to send out with the copies of my resume, of paying postage and taking the time to compose opening letters, of desperately searching want ads and websites and email lists and forums like this one -- all for absolutely nothing. Or worse than nothing, actually . . .some folks don't even bother replying to me.

And now, I have to start to wonder. Is it me? Do people hate me and not want to have me there because they've heard about me through the grapevine that I can't get into? Is there something about me that's personally repulsive?

Sometimes I hate people.

I just want to do my job. I want to be a stage manager in actuality instead of in potentia. I want to utilize my skills. I want to gain experience.

Forget work. I just want a job. And I can't get one! And I'm depressed and frustrated and worried to death about the fact that I can't get one. I'm trying everything I know to get a show and nothing is coming through, so I'm afraid that I'm doomed to do this for the rest of my life. I'm 32. How much longer can I wait to get my career to take off?

And in the meantime I need to do something else to keep a roof over my head and food in my mouth. Which begs the eternal question. How do you manage to do a show as a SM with daytime rehearsals if you have a day job? And right now for me the only jobs open are box officing during the evening, or ushering, or working at our local theatre supplier in their retail store during the day. So how do you do rehearsal at all if you're an usher? Or working at the box office? Or selling makeup? I hate to seem whiny, but dang, how all circumstances do inform against me. How do I break out of this cycle?

If theatre was easy, everybody would do it. But does it really have to be THIS tough?


Whitewater, the frustrated
Current: Trail of Terror, Evil Clown

Next: ???? (resumes are sent out!)

www.mybackstagelife.net

MatthewShiner

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Re: When Nobody Wants You
« Reply #1 on: Nov 06, 2006, 10:42 pm »
Wow.

There is a lot issues your brought up; lots of broad, emotional, and comlicated issues and emotions.  My first bit of advice is talk to other stage managers you work with or who work in the area.  I know this can be hard, since often we work singularly and then we are competition for jobs with the other stage managers.  But, I think once you start talking to other SMs, expecially those who are in the same job market as you will help bring things in perspective.  Also, if they know you and your work style, they maybe able to offer some specific advice.

Here's my advice . . . take it or leave it . . . and if you do take, take it with a grain salt.  You don't know me, and I don't know you . . . but it seems like you are looking for some advice . . .

First, don't assume you will be happy and fulfilled when you have a specific job - there will always be something wanting and unfulfilled.   It’s an attainable goal, but it will here’s the thing, it will always going to be some element of chance and luck – that’s this business.  There is no direct path to advancement.  (Unlike my brother who graduated, got a job, a company car, business cards, and a very clear path for advancement.)

You mention that you have worked for 15 years and no DIRECTORS know you name; forget directors – in the end you need to impress production managers – production managers are always going to be one to hire you, and if you impress the production manager, he or she will get you back in the theatre.  (Especially if you are eyeing yourself for a resident stage management position.)  In the end, if you are a resident stage manager, you are going to be an extension of production management.

This business is built on rejection – there were times I was sending out 10-20 resumes a week; either applying to specific jobs, blind resume sends, or just sending my resume to stage managers just to make a connection.  My two longest gigs, 3 years each, came from a blind resume send to a theatre half-way across the nation.

You ask a very important question . . . is it you?  Is there something about you that makes you not hirable?  Who knows?  Talk to people . . . someone has to know why?  Maybe there are areas in stage management you need to improve . . . we all do; hell, I know part of my day off today was to make a list of 5 things I want to do improve my style of stage management.  This is where it is hard to give a person advice on how to improve themselves . . . I know nothing about you. When I felt like I hit a ceiling and had NO idea of how to make the next move, I chose to grad school – 3 years focusing on my job, making connections at a level I never thought I would make, and 3 years IMPROVING myself.  I know nothing about you to know if this is the right move for you, but if you have doubts about the skills you posses to be competitive in the job market you are in.

As far as balancing a day job and a show, there have been some recent posts about this – do a quick look around.

This career is frustrating at times, even we have the job, and when you have to work so hard to FIND a gig, it just makes it hard.  If stage management is something you truly love – and in some ways, it is a calling - then you will do everything you can to make it work and make it work on your own terms. 

If you just need someone to talk to, send me a private message, and this conversation can continue.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

Whitewater

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Re: When Nobody Wants You
« Reply #2 on: Nov 06, 2006, 11:27 pm »
Heh, thanks. You managed to reply without being patronizing or creating even more awkwardness. For the record, I wasn't asking for advice, but again, for the record, I don't turn down advice I'm given :) Generally there's always something worth listening to! As in this case.

It helps to know that I'm not the only one who's visited this mental place before.

As for whether or not this is right for me. . . I've already decided that theatre is my calling, my life, my Purpose . . . it's just that for some reason right now it's all getting to me.

Thanks for responding, though I wasn't going for responses necessarily either! 


Whitewater
Current: Trail of Terror, Evil Clown

Next: ???? (resumes are sent out!)

www.mybackstagelife.net

stagemonkey

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Re: When Nobody Wants You
« Reply #3 on: Nov 07, 2006, 12:02 am »
You posted something so someone is lible to respond.  All I'm gonna say is I've been there, and while I have some stuff lined up through spring i realized the other day I need to start looking into whats to come after that.  I just hope what I have going now helps the resume a bunch.

DeeCap

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Re: When Nobody Wants You
« Reply #4 on: Nov 10, 2006, 03:17 pm »
I think Matthew gave you some great advice.
The only thing I would like to add is that you are not alone.

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roscoe76

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Re: When Nobody Wants You
« Reply #5 on: Dec 01, 2006, 12:56 am »
the first thing that struck me about your post is how familiar it all sounds. and i do live in nyc, where it seems like one should be tripping over opportunities, but often i feel like i may never work again. but the replies are true too. in a job where i tend to work alone, it is easy to forget that i'm not. none of us are, and one just has to remember that there are places like this, and other sm's that are struggling just as much.

the only thing i don't quite agree with is the assertion that directors don't hire sm's. they do. often. in my experience, i've been hired by the director as often, if not more often. sometimes because there isn't a pm, sometimes despite the fact that there is a pm. and some directors have rehired, or asked that i be hired for other shows, and some have said wonderful things, never to heard from again, for no apparent reason. but all you can do is keep moving forward, keep putting yourself out there, and trust that it won't always feel so desparate or desolate.


JenniferEver

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Re: When Nobody Wants You
« Reply #6 on: Dec 07, 2006, 10:20 am »
Just some *hugs* for you. It's not always an easy business at all.

I just have to second the thought about whether or not you're making a good impression on people when you do work with them? And what of the 14 years where you did not try to make contacts? Even if you don't actively try to make contacts, you will in this business. But you should actively try. What I mean is 14 years wasn't necessarily a waste if you were making a good impression. I've had a lot of people say how wonderful I was or this or that, and they honestly had NO idea of what my job was, what I did or how I did it. I know they liked me because of my demeanor and disposition.

Maybe you're giving off a negative vibe because you're not enjoying the moment, and you're always waiting for that resident job.

I live in NY, and I've gotten most of my jobs from word of mouth. From actors, directors, producers who knew me from before and call me. I've turned down as many jobs as I've taken. I don't think this makes me a better SM than anyone else at all. But I'm saying if you have a smile for everyone and you say hello, and you write everyone a nice card at the end, it can really make a difference in how you're remembered.

My first show was a showcase in a summer festival here in NY. I was right out of college and had NO idea what I was doing. But I pretended I did, always smiled, stayed calm, and I've gotten many job offers from that one show when I had NO idea what I was doing.

I'm not saying you ARE doing something wrong. I don't know what the scene is like in Minneapolis. It may be a lot more crowded than NY, especially if you're a 15 year SM and not getting interviews. Part of it is just the nature of the beast, but part of it may be the little extra you need to project. Let's face it, most producers and managers don't *really* know what we're doing on a daily basis. They only know if there's a problem. If there are no problems and you appear clam and happy, they assume it's going great. I started as an actor, and i think that has definitely heloed my SM career in that way. Break a leg.

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