Not everything in a theatre is a pleasant experience – I’m sure all of us readers and writers can agree that it’s hard work. We do it because we love the outcome — the lights, the pageantry, the costumes, maybe not the make up and not the backstage drama. There is no greater feeling than watching a show come together.
Even one that seems like it might not. I’ve been very fortunate to work with a myriad of actors who love what they do on stage and off, they make for a very supportive, nurturing and encouraging environment. I really have enjoyed my time with many of them – even when I didn’t enjoy the show. Now, by the word ‘enjoy,’ I don’t mean that it wasn’t an excellent performance, fun rehearsals, laughable one-liners and great music – I mean that the experience wasn’t as enjoyable as it might have been or had been in past experiences.
For example, Anything Goes and The Drowsy Chaperone, I was in both of these shows at theatre’s that were not my home theatre. Not my overheated but somehow magical blackbox theatre. Both of these shows were in a building that was formerly a church, or some such sovereign place, and both of these shows I took one extra responsibilities. In DC, I actually had an additional responsibility of showing my new (at-the-time) partner the ropes of theatre (in general) as this was only his second performance, the first one he started from the beginning. I was fortunate the director and producer allowed me to audition on a call back evening as I was out of town (Disney, yes I know I go a lot) during the regularly scheduled times.
I flubbed. I forgot the second half of There are Worst Things I Could Do. I was so disappointed. My range, for the first time, I was completely comfortable – I hit my belt marks, I remembered to move around and be expressive with my whole body and face. Do you know how hard that is to do?? Yes, I’m sure a majority of you *do* know how hard it is. Sigh. I was gladly cast as ensemble – which every director says is one of the most important parts of any good musical, and this I agree with (topic saved for another post). I was most looking forward to working with my friends again and seeing what sort of shenanigans I could get into while learning how another theatre operates.
I like leveraging best business practices, that’s how scientific research is done and why can’t theatrical research be the same way?
Fast forward six weeks. We didn’t have props. I had just finished costuming two shows and I knew that, eventually, I wanted to get involved with directing and to do that at my blackbox theatre, I needed more extensive credentials. The director graciously accepted my offer to assist with props, my partner was working on lights, and I was learning dance choreography while learning songs and making friends. Sounds like heaven, right? It wasn’t heaven, it wasn’t hell. It was a lot of hard work. To those who don’t know: these shows don’t come together at the spur of the moment.
A director has a vision. A production staff has bought into that vision and is asked to bring it to life. I failed, in one avenue or another, with this production. It is with a large amount of sadness that I feel this show, DC, was not the best foot I could’ve put forward with a local theatre and with this production staff. Would I like to work with them all again? Sure. Hopefully after a bit of time has past and I *think* they’ve forgotten how poorly managed my time and effort was spent. My biggest regret? Not owning up to the fact that I failed. How did I fail? I was over-budget and I under-delivered. Nothing rips the heart out of a prop master more than these two things occurring.
Own your failures and learn from them. Take copious notes. I depended on my brain. If I was doing *just* props, I may have succeeded but that wasn’t the case. I don’t feel that I made as many friends during that run as I had in the past, which is hard to imagine me caring about because I really don’t like making friends (my circle is full enough), and I feel that I’ve shunned myself out of a theatre.
Learn from my mistakes, too. Not everything is going to go smoothly or be perfect, remember to have fun – that’s the part I forgot. Hope this helps a soon-to-be prop master, ’til next time.