Author Topic: Starting the business later in life: Hi from the deep South....  (Read 2875 times)

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Shannon

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I am a high school English/Drama/Speech/Video Production teacher and volunteer stage manager/design props/occasionally act in Mobile's community theatres. I looked around one day and decided that my ability to do 15 million things at once (I sponsor 5+ activities at school and have 4 different preps) makes me an ideal candidate for ASM/SM-ing, which I have loved these past two years. Plus, I'm ready to leave the South and to begin working with adults and artists full time.

I'm unique b/c I'm looking for apprenticeships at the age of 32 rather than being fresh out of school (I double majored in English/Theatre but went straight to education), and this is a second career for me. I am currently searching the internet for different programs and seasonal opportunities starting in late July of this year.

Blanket opinions welcome...do you find apprentices of this age to be an asset to your program(s) if you are AEA, or do you think it's a hindrance? Obviously when a 32 yr old has been in leadership roles for ten years there is the concern of hiring someone who must start from the bottom and be willing to take orders rather than give them. I feel like my experiences in the real world and my practical application of organizing events w/teens--from booking hotel reservations and chartered buses to coaching mime artists for state theatre festivals is something that could be a true help to any company.

Thoughts?  Can any of you relate to the experience of starting in this business later in life and how it unfolded for you?

Shannon
« Last Edit: Feb 26, 2008, 02:30 am by zayit shachor »

Rebbe

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Re: Hi from the deep South....
« Reply #1 on: Jan 02, 2007, 01:26 am »
I've had positive experiences with “older” crew members. At 32, you’re a spring chicken compared to those that come to my mind; one was 37 when we first worked together, the other in her late 40s.  I’ve also had two terrific 35ish board ops.

The forty-something was exploring new career options, and took a resident non-equity ASM position with an SPT theater for a season.  I crewed a show with her, and everyone appreciated her calm, responsibility, and drama-free-ness.  The SM trusted her enough to let her take the costumes home each night to launder them there rather than at the theater.  The thirty-something and I became friends as well as frequent co-workers; she’s great at making actors feel welcome and comfortable, and I think a lot of that comes from her own self-confidence, something many of us only gain over time.   She’s not intimidated by intense Artistic Directors or discouraged by emotional actors, and can always be counted on to deal with problems professionally rather than taking them personally. 

The most important quality I noticed in the above folks was an eagerness to learn, whether the lessons came from someone with decades of experience in the theater, or from a stage manager who was more than 10 years their junior. 

So go for it…Choose Theater!  It sounds like you have a lot to bring to the table.  Just make sure you’re truly OK with taking direction from those who are younger than you, since there’s a good chance you'll end up in that situation. 
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)

OldeWolf

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Re: Hi from the deep South....
« Reply #2 on: Jan 03, 2007, 07:57 pm »
You go for it, Shannon. If you're old, then at 55 I'm DIRT, and I've only been at this for 2 years. I went back to community college and immediately started translating skills I'd brought with me into the theatre. After two years, I'm a stage manager, costumer, props carpenter, stage electrician, projections/media coordinator, and board op. I've SM'd three major shows, several smaller ones. In all I've been intimately involved in 11 plays in two years. What I lack in knowledge I make up for in attitude, willingness and dedication. What I do know, I've applied in exciting ways. Having a little age on us makes it easier to get a cast's attention sometimes, as long as we show them due respect and model good behavior. I've now trained two ASMs and left them to grow into full stage managers as I move out of the academic and into the community realm to work. You'll do great.

Owen
Santa Cruz, CA
All the world's a Stage...

malewen

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Re: Hi from the deep South....
« Reply #3 on: Jan 04, 2007, 03:11 am »
Hi there, I'm an Equity stage manager that works in a theatre with an active apprentice/intern program.  I don't think that your age will be a hindrance in getting an internship.  When the SM staff looks through the applications for the program we often are looking for maturity in the candidates.  As long as you realize that almost all internships involve hard work (mostly in the lower skill kind of work like making the coffee or doing a lot of xeroxing) you'll be fine.  I am guessing that you understand this from your post. 

I would try to find a copy of ArtSearch (which is published by the Theatre Communications Group or TCG) because it has a section on internships/apprenticeships.  You could then look to see if there is a theatre near you or in a part of the country that you'd like to be in.  Choose a few programs that interest you and check out each theatre's web site - many give a pretty clear indication of the requirements and if there are any perks (like housing) or if they pay.  There is a surprising range of benefits offered with some programs offering basically nothing and others offering all kinds of things.

I think you should go for it - there's a lot that you can learn from doing an internship about how other stage managers work -all that it requires is concentration and a good attitude.  Good luck in your search.

OldeWolf

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Re: Hi from the deep South....
« Reply #4 on: Jan 06, 2007, 02:15 pm »
Thanks for the encouragement and advice.

Yes, I'm aware of the nature of most internships<g>, and have no problem with it. Starting from the bottom, building a good foundation, is a tried and true method of getting to the top. I'm the kind of person who gets in to a position, gives it 110%, is curious, cheerful and resourceful, knows his limits, and isn't afraid of trying something new. I'm quiet, but always looking for ways to help move the process along. The people I end up working for usally take notice and soon I'm being offered opportunities to use the many higher-level skills I bring with me. It's how I got in to the theater, and SM'ing, in the first place.

See you around the callboard.

Owen
All the world's a Stage...

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