Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How to Support Your Weird Artist-y Friends

I had quite the interesting conversation with my mother on my way to work yesterday.

I am currently stage managing for a production of Shakespeare's Richard III. Stage managing isn't all that different from babysitting in some ways...except that the actors never try to redecorate the bathroom with poop. At least, not yet.

Before you ask, no, I don't get paid. Not in money.

Also, that's not really any of your business (but I am getting to my point in a minute, I swear).

So why do anything -- if not for the money?

A million reasons. Job experience. Internship credit. Because I love the theater (and Richard III). Because it gets me out of the house this summer, even though it's not a paying job. Because I can put it on my growing resume. Even because other opportunities for employment might come out of this, directly or indirectly? Well, yeah. All that.

But mainly because I've decided that theater is going to be my career. I am going to work in the theater in some capacity. Honestly, I don't think I would be happy otherwise.

Unsurprisingly but still disappointingly, this is a concept beyond the grasp of my parents.

Not that I need their approval. And to be fair, they do support me up to a point. After all, the only reason I had the aforementioned lovely conversation with my mother was because she was driving me to rehearsal (having refused my offer to borrow the car and pay for gas). Which is nice and lovely and appreciated.

And then she says something like this: "You're not an actor."

Me: *blink blink* "Yes I am."
Mom: "No you're not."
Me: "Um, yes I am actually. I may not be acting at the moment, but--"
Mom: "You're an actress."
Me: "They're used interchangeably in the U.S."
Mom: "Whatever. Anyway, you're not an actress. You're a stage manager."
Me: "Yeah, that too. At present."
Mom: *sigh* "Yeah, but what's your backup plan?"
Me: *laughs* "Stage managing!"
Mom: "Not like that pays much."
Me: "More than acting."
Mom: *knowing sigh* "You're not an actor or an actress or a stage manager. You're just a silly wittle giwl."

What do I say to that?!

Well, this silly little girl is twenty, and will be making her own little girly decisions about her own little girly life.

Enter the concept of support. Support is important. Especially for those of us who are musicians, writers, actors -- anyone whose job doesn't necessarily include a monthly paycheck. We speak in the language of contracts, gigs, and part-time waitressing jobs.

That can be scary for parents and friends outside the arts. I get it. Your 13-year-old says he wants to be an actor, fine, smile and nod. He has lots of time to change his mind, after all. But for the love of God, don't beat down his dreams out of hand. Here's a hint that your kid, friend, or family member might be serious about it: your 20-year-old says she wants to work in theater, and is actively seeking -- and finding -- job experience. It's not just a silly wittle giwl's silly wittle dweam any more.

So don't treat us like that.

Theater people need support. We need friends and family to come see our shows. To spread the word around town. To listen to our lines, our workplace drama, our audition anxieties. It's much the same with musicians. Please come to our concerts and recitals. Please don't turn up the TV when we're trying to practice scales. As for writers -- we write to be read. So read our stuff, pretty please with a cherry on top.

Maybe this is asking too much -- a tangible show of support for the people you know and care about? If that is too much, settle for other meaningful, verbal, and completely cost-free means of support. "I think what you do is cool." "It's great how you stuck to it." Or, if that's still asking too much and you just can't bear to express your support and approval, at least refrain from being judgmental and demeaning. I'm not asking for fucking compliments. A little less outright disdain would be nice, though.

And, fellow artsy people -- let's not forget to support each other.


  1. A lot of folks just don't get it, not only moms and dads. When my son was researching colleges (he wants to make movies), I came across this, which may be the kind of thing you need to show your mom: https://www.purchase.edu/Departments/CareerDevelopment/studentservices/majorsandcareers/dramastudies.aspx

    The creative arts are a different sort of career path, for sure, and require somewhat different approaches from "9 to 5" gigs (which aren't even really 9 to 5 anymore, anyway). ALSO, *nothing* is secure anymore, whether you've earned a BA, BFA, or BS.

    Anyway, as a middle-aged single mom of one who's been around the block, I take a firm stand for pursuing one's bliss. If that's banking, great. If it's engineering, dandy. If it's any of the arts, rock and roll! :-)
    Some Dark Romantic

    1. Thanks for the link; that's a great resource. I can just imagine how that email would go. "I've been thinking of our conversation from last week, and thought you might like a look at this..."

      You are quite right in that nothing is secure. Especially nowadays, when everyone has a BA, BFA, or BS and is competing in a pool of other overqualified people. I understand backup plans and all that, but that doesn't mean I'm going to put my "real" plans on hold. *continues to rock and roll* :)

  2. Wow. It's hard to imagine a rational person saying something like that to their own daughter under any circumstances. I know part raising a child is ensuring their job prospects, but if I were a parent (and I am) I'd be thinking about the future, when your kids might let you rot unvisited in a nursing home because of conversations like that.

    Or, if your kid is bilingual they may move to another continent and never come back.

    When I told my dad I wanted to be a writer he said good and suggested I also look into peripheral stuff like publishing, editing, teaching, etc., while I wait for the writing to pay off.

    I'm still waiting, but at least I work in publishing and I never had my parents shit all over my dreams. I hope when my daughter tells me she wants to do something creative with her life I can be at least as supportive as my dad was.

    1. Wow. You have no idea how much I lol'd over your awesome comment. Thanks.

      The funny thing is, I *am * bilingual. I could move to Spain. Or Mexico. Or Peru. Or any other Spanish-speaking country.

      On the dedication page of my future memoir, I will be sure to thank my parents for shitting all over my dreams. XD

  3. Rob Hampton (@sillynotabsurd)Wed Aug 08, 08:06:00 PM CDT

    Don't forget my favorite interpretation of Richard III :)



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