While the lockdown drags on and we in the theatre and live events world are still left without answers about our futures, it is difficult to witness those in other industries beginning to prepare for the return to work.
Friends in other sectors are starting to move towards a semblance of normality. Of course, the circumstances under which they are returning are still unclear, and that is concerning, but it’s a start.
I don’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to take control of their futures once more. But, as is always the way, it’s hard to be the ones left behind.
It would seem fairly appealing then, to consider a career change. Theatre folks have the benefit of being multi-talented people with a variety or skills and a breadth of experiences most people never get close to. That makes us very employable.
However, last week a family friend’s daughter emailed me. She had been studying an academic subject at a university. She was not enjoying her course or university life and from what she was describing it was plain to me that she was ‘getting the itch’. We in theatre know this itch – the one that can’t be scratched by the prospect of nice holidays and big houses and expensive shoes.
The high level of commitment expected of stage management is non-negotiable – but there are so many wonderful benefits to a life and career in theatre
She said she had an interest in prop making but also wanted to know about technical theatre in general and stage management in particular. What did my job involve? How did I get into it? What were the highs and lows of the role? I started my response email with the usual warnings about stage management: long hours, lots of pressure, no job security, being held responsible for things going wrong and so on.
I wanted to make it clear to her that there is a high level of commitment expected of stage management, which is non-negotiable. But I also wanted to make clear to her that there are so many wonderful benefits to a life and career in theatre.
As I wrote, I thought of all the people I have met throughout my career – the people I’ve bonded with more quickly and firmly than I ever thought possible, the people I call my brothers and sisters, who have cried in my arms. And as I’ve held them, I’ve thought about the number of times they’ve done the same for me.
The front-of-house cafes, and airport departure lounges and hotel breakfast bars that I have walked into and never felt alone, or far from home, or lost because there was always a colleague by my side who I was lucky enough to call a friend.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder. And right now, I’m about as fond of my theatre family as is possible. So I will encourage that young girl who emailed me to pursue a career in theatre.
And I will encourage myself to stick with mine. Because I would rather be unsure of when I do my job than unsure of why I do my job.