I’ve been hanging out with a few old friends this week and a common topic that comes up is the good old days.
Seriously, one of my oldest best friends and I complained about our knees for 20 minutes last night. That happened.
On the flip side, I’ve also befriended a young, new stage manager who reminds me of a hyperactive squirrel sometimes.
She’s very excited about everything and I’m pretty darn jaded and suspicious of everything.
For a few minutes I thought, dang, it would be nice to be that excited about this stuff again. Apparently 10 years of stage managing has worn me down a little.
Also, my hyperactive squirrel has a lot of energy. She’s all “I’ll run up and down the stairs 20,000 times to get things” and I’m like “stupid actor, you left your stuff upstairs? Go get it. Don’t forget things.”
So they like her better.
This is understandable.
I remember being the hyperactive squirrel myself and the more I thought about it, I realized it was because you have to be a hyperactive squirrel when you’re a recent college grad stage manager.
Everything takes you 10 times longer when you don’t actually know what you’re doing. Most of stage management is trial and error. Have you ever tried to explain your job to a friend? I’ve been doing this 10 years, I don’t even really try anymore.
I do it every day and don’t even know how to explain the nuances of the stuff that needs to happen to make a show happen:
You’re the show secretary. You keep notes on everything that happens and send them on to the higher ups.
You’re the show psychologist. You talk down performers who feel fat and get them to put on their skimpy costumes. You tell them they’re great. You kick their butt out onto the stage when necessary. You navigate the most insanely wide variety of personalities between performers, technicians, directors, designers and producers.
You’re the air traffic controller. You organize all the scene shifts, make sure the cues fire on time, coordinate any sound cues that occur and try to stop accidents from happening.
When you don’t stop accidents from happening, you’re the first responder paramedic or fire fighter. Those days are really delightful.
And when you’re 22, you have enough energy to shoot through 15 different ways of doing something wrong to find the right way to fix a problem. When you’re 31, you flip through your mental rolladex of all the ways you’ve done something wrong and find the correct answer on the first try.
Ok, maybe even now, it’s the 2nd or 3rd try, but heaven knows it’s not as difficult to figure out what’s happening as it used to be.
Also, the hyperactive squirrel has to hustle her tail off to find work and while it’s not always a slam dunk for this plodding badger of a stage manager right here, the struggle is nowhere near as real as it was 10 years ago – not to say I don’t expect periods of unemployment to crop up, but the badger network generally blows the squirrel network out of the water.
Even in emergencies, at 22 I had taken all the CPR and first aid training courses once. This is good, but having done them 5 more times means the few times I’ve needed to access that info, it’s firmly embedded.
So in this culture that promotes youth and non-achy knees, I just wanted to take a moment and appreciate that sometimes getting older does equal getting wiser.
Or at least more confident skills in faking it till you make it ;o)
Do you all find this to be true in your careers too?
*Fun Fact: I didn’t realize until I did an image search that apparently… badgers eat squirrels.