Author Topic: Being new during tough times...  (Read 4049 times)

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Being new during tough times...
« on: Feb 08, 2009, 08:06 pm »
I've decided to write this post because I'm allowing myself to be consumed with current situations that are being created due to the tough economic times that we're all going through.

I am a young stage manager, late 20's, and have been working since I was out of school.  In the past 2-3 years, it turned into a full-time position for me, and I was hired on at a prominent regional theater.  First I got 1 show, then there was about 6 months off, and I got another show, and then 3 more following that.  I was working continually (and am right now) and felt very happy.

I've learned that in the coming season, there are going to be major production cutbacks, and I will have only 1 show in the season.  Our staff is hired on shows by seniority and I, along with 1 other person, fall at the bottom since I'm new.  It does seem that this other person is going to get quite a bit more work, I believe because of their age and that they had a few side projects with the company while I was working in other theaters during the initial 6 month layoff.  It's hard for me to accept that this gives this person seniority, but I guess I have to.

The reason I'm writing is more about how to handle the stress and sadness that goes along with what I'm going through.  I feel very let down that I am not going to have work with the company in the coming season.  I was handed some very difficult tasks, and did well with them, and have received incredibly positive feedback from supervisors, production staff and actors.

I feel a sense of failure for not having a full season next year, especially when this other person may indeed have one.  I know that I'm not a failure, but it feels that way.

I don't know what I want in response from this post.  As I'm feeling more and more consumed by the anger, pain and loss with this, I felt that writing it and sharing it may benefit me, and hopefully allow others to know that they are not alone.  Maybe someone has insight... I don't know.


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Re: Being new during tough times...
« Reply #1 on: Feb 08, 2009, 11:04 pm »
It's hard to realize that theatre isn't a one-way job progression.  Everyone takes side trips.  You've been very lucky so far - even in the best economy of the late nineties/early 2000's few people could say that they'd been working consistently since school.

Don't tie your self-esteem to any one company.  What does this circumstance open up for you?  Have you ever considered re-locating?  Want to try to design, or direct, at a smaller theatre?  Want to mount a production yourself?

Who have you networked with, outside of your home theatre?  Are there any past directors who have moved to other theatres and know of stage management openings?

It's always been true, but especially in today's economy, you can't just wait for theatre jobs to be offered to you.  You have to go out and get them, or as a last resort, create them.

Good luck.
Heath Belden

"I'm not good, I'm not nice, I'm just right." - Sondheim


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Re: Being new during tough times...
« Reply #2 on: Feb 08, 2009, 11:08 pm »
The lack of work is not your fault.  In tough financial times a company often has to make difficult decisions and seniority is an impersonal way of handling letting people go.  Since that is an accepted practice in business it makes the decision easier for the person having to make it (they are human too) and neither side has control over the fact of the original date of hire.  By the sound of it you did your job to the best of your ability and were quite successful at it.  The company even found a place for you next season, albeit less than you hoped.  Since you do have good feedback ask them to be references for you in your search, maybe they know other companies to apply to (whether or not they have open positions).  You may even search outside of theatre for work that uses your talents (being organized is useful and not as common as you might think).  If you think your talents are lacking for some reason ask your supervisor what, if any, areas you can improve on.  It may be there are none and the company just can't afford to produce on the same scale as before.  They didn't have a choice about that either.
Point is, some things you just don't have control over and you cannot beat yourself up for those.  Instead focus on what you CAN control, like how well you do your job, how many resumes you send out, your talents will speak for themselves.  And no, you are not alone.


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Re: Being new during tough times...
« Reply #3 on: Feb 09, 2009, 01:32 pm »
I'm sorry that this happened to you.

Realize that it is nothing personal. They are trying to stay afloat.

Even in good economies, it's a full time job getting a job. Like others have said, you may have to look outside of theatre to get a job to pay the bills.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: This too, shall pass.


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Re: Being new during tough times...
« Reply #4 on: Feb 09, 2009, 03:19 pm »
I can completely relate, and agree it's a sucky situation.

That being said, in this situation I'd do one of two things:
1) If being part of that specific company is especially important, do what you can to become indispensable to them, meaning work for them as a PA, ASM, in the box office, (as long as you can afford it) anything they may be needing support in. They'll always remember the people who didn't desert them when times were tough. 

2)Look at this as an opportunity to get out there and meet new companies, directors, etc and widen your base. If you're able to relocate temporarily consider the plethora of summer stock coming up, where you're likely to get a lot of experience in a short amount of time, and meet ton of new people.

Just remember, everyone goes through lulls in their career, what may differ is how each of us chooses to react to the situation.
"First, I honor life, and with it my life in theatre." -- Jacques Burdick


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Re: Being new during tough times...
« Reply #5 on: Feb 11, 2009, 06:19 pm »
I really feel for you. I'm so sorry you are going through a rough time now.

It is totally understandable to have an emotional response to today's down market realities. Especially for people who work in theatre and other professions where we really give our hearts in our work. I hope you can come to terms with the fact that the company did not dismiss you for personal reasons - it's strictly business. You know you're still an excellent SM, and they do to. When things are back on track, I hope a good relationship can still be there.

If you've never gone through a period of unemployment as an SM, then good for you! You have been lucky. Even the best SMs go through downtime, especially early in their careers. And lots of great SMs will be out of work in the next few years. Having gone through periods (mostly short, thankfully) without steady work, I just want to give you a few pieces of advice:

- Stay busy, and stay on a schedule. Whether you get temp work, wait tables, or work at a coffee shop, get something to do most days. If you can't get part time work, volunteer. This is a great time to give back to our communities, and there is certainly need in so many areas. But the bottom line is, keep a bit of a schedule or else you'll go out of your mind. Even setting a firm time for household chores is a good first step.
- Keep track of your finances, but not to the penny. Reconsider expenses so you aren't in too much debt later. Maybe it's time to take a roommate. Maybe you could do without your gym membership. Evaluate your cash and your savings and keep yourself on a budget roadmap. It is important to live your life, to buy treats for yourself, and not to torture yourself counting every penny. But have the big picture clearly in your head.
- Job search as a part-time job. Spend structured time each day looking for jobs. But I personally recommend spending no more than four hours a day on job searching if you are fully unemployed. You'll drive yourself crazy and feel really hopeless after about two weeks. Spend a serious bit of time on it each day, and then go do other things. Spend time networking, too, at least once a week and much more if possible. This will often lead to jobs more quickly than sending out cold resumes.
- Take time to do what makes you happy. See your without-work spell as a gift. Go on a trip you've always wanted to take. Visit family. Do something creative you never had time to do - paint, write, go for long runs. Seize the moment and use it to grow your spirit. You'll look back on this time as a great opportunity instead of a black hole. To me, the most challenging part of being unemployed is dealing with the self-esteem issues that come up. It is essential to stay positive.

As others have said, this will pass. You will be hired again and you will work on fabulous shows. But this is a really challenging time for the national economy, and the arts are getting hit extremely hard. We will not be out of the woods for a while yet.