Saturday, October 07, 2006

From the Trenches: Crazy Theater People (Part I)

I'm picking up a thread I began several months ago, here and here. You might want to go back and read these bad boss stories first, but you don't need to have read them to read this one.

I need to say, first, that this is going to need more time than one entry will allow. There is just too much to say about my time at Loony Rep.

All right - so let's back up. When we left our heroine - me - I was 24 and had just been forced to quit a job and move back home with my parents. This was about two and a half years after my graduation from college, so it wasn't exactly the choice I would have made had I not needed someplace to stay rent-free. My then-fiance had moved out of our apartment the month prior in order to start grad school nine hours away, so I had no roommate and no job prospects.

(I really should blog sometime about living with my parents - and my angry brother - again. But, as much as I love them and as well as we get along now, I'm not entirely sure I can do that without having an aneurysm.)

I started temping. I found a decent, several-week-long appointment at Science College, working in the Physics Department as a secretary of some sort. I went from designing, writing and managing large direct mail projects to light word processing, filing, answering the phone, and making coffee in one of those ginormous metal thingies that no one ever cleaned (I finally did because it was disgusting and smelled awful). The job was ok. Mostly, what I liked about it was that I didn't really have any important responsibilities. My experience in fundraising had been so devastating to my self-esteem and confidence that I had become extremely anxious about taking on any large responsibilities, so answering the phone was just about right for me. Though even my ability to do that was tested: one weird little man, a physicist, made a big show of pointing out to me that I had transposed two numbers in a phone message, causing him to dial the wrong number. He *lectured* me on being more careful, then waddled away in a fog of self-importance and assholishness. I was pretty sure that he had dialed the number incorrectly all by himself - if he even did dial it, and not just fabricate the whole thing in order have an excuse to put me down - because the other secretaries told me that he made sure to abuse the employees every now and then.

And, for real, if I was transposing numbers on a regular basis, I could see speaking to me about it, but to say something after just one time? He's lucky - you should never piss off the person who makes the coffee, is all I can say. Especially as we had to fill the huge metal canisters in the women's bathroom.

Meanwhile, I was looking for more permanent work. I did get a couple of interviews in alumni relations and college admissions-type positions, but the colleges kept hiring their own alumni for such jobs. A small, local repertory company - Loony Rep - was looking for someone to do pretty much what I had done at my old job from hell, and out of desperation, I applied. It was a part-time position, so I was fairly confident that I wouldn't be asked to take on more than I could handle. Otherwise, I don't know that I would have had the guts to even send the application letter. Have I mentioned that my forced exit from fundraising had really destroyed me?

I have to first say something about my interview. The only thing I remember, other than having a vague idea of what I was wearing (navy pumps, cute navy patterned skirt, lavendar shell, navy "designer" blazer), was my meeting with the Artistic Director. I have worked in theaters before, and my impression of Artistic Directors and actors is that they are frequently very annoying people. Tech and design people are, in contrast, often wonderful, friendly people - eccentric and difficult, yes, but generally kind souls who are very talented and who, bless their hearts, really believe in the adage, "the show must go on," and would never think of accidentally mislaying an annoying prima donna's prop or not noticing a missing button on a costume. Actors and directors, however, have - to put it mildly - an inflated sense of their own worth. If you meet them at a vulnerable moment, at a time when they need you, and if you can help, they will love you tons, BFF, and all the rest of it. If, however, you don't, oh, I don't know, DRESS THEM quickly enough - yes, this really happened, though thankfully it wasn't my job - they are horrible, horrible people to be around and they will abuse you to the full extent of their capabilities.

If you have an ego of your own, you will not enjoy working with actors or directors. But you will have a great time hanging out with the crew.

So anyway, I had an "interview" with the Artistic Director (AD). AD was a guy who was used to "carrying on" with his ingenues. Perhaps for this reason, his Crazy Wife (CW) insisted on being cast in his productions as the ingenue, even though she was about forty and looked it. My meeting with AD went like this:

"Plainsfeminist, this is AD. AD, Plainsfeminist is our candidate for the Development position."

Me: "Hello, AD. It's very nice to meet you."

AD: "Helloooo." (Looking me up and down.)
"You're definitely a verrrry attractive candidate for this position. Very. Attractive."

Just in case you were wondering, I should mention at this point that AD, while not physically repugnant, managed nonetheless to give off skeevy vibes. He sort of had the manner of a man who spent large portions of his day hanging out at strip clubs. I remember his handshake being limp, clammy, and flabby, though I suspect that this is an embellishment that my subconscious added to this memory after I got to know him. So my immediate reaction to our meeting was an internal, "ugh."

But I got the job.

To Be Continued.

(NOTE: Some of you have noticed that I never did follow through on my promise to write about my reunion. Well, my "real" reunion is coming up in a couple of months, so I think I'll wait for that, when I'm sure to have more material. Otherwise, you'd just be reading about how everyone looked great and we had a lot of fun.)


Sean said...

As a theatre person, I can completely back up your descriptions of tech people vs. artistic people. Bingo.

Kelsey said...

Ditto. With one modification: costumers are often crazy.

Before he ended up with me, Royce had a bad habit of dating costumers and I had to deal with a pretty crazy ex for a good year after they broke up. Pretty scary stuff.

When he worked at the Guthrie, they put the painters and the carpenters in a building off by themselves, across town from the theater, and I think everyone was pretty happy with that arrangement:)