Something people ask me a lot when I explain I studied theater in college- “Ohhh theater? That’s so interesting! So, what are you doing now?”
Now up until maybe.. Last year… I would have taken offense to this question, but it took me quite of a bit of perspective to get to a point where I could really empathize with this question, rather than looking at it as a “dig” at my career choice.
I will always understand a person’s fascination with a career in the theater. It’s an extremely mystical, magical business. Most people think that there are two components to the thea ter: acting and “backstage work.”
In reality, there are so many more facets to the theater that many others wouldn't necessarily think of- but honestly, that’s the case with most careers, isn’t it? I used to think investment banking and “hedge-funding” were basically the same thing. Of course I knew that there would be nuances to each position, but I grouped them together in my mind as the same kind of career, because they were both a “finance” position. We really tend to label things in our minds so that they are easier to understand. Most of the time, we label the “types” of people that we come across. I still consider myself to be an artist, but I consider myself a multi-facited artist: Producer, educator, administrator, and actor.
Where I grew up, it was extremely unusual for anybody to go to school to study acting. Most people thought my decision to do so was fairly indulgent, to study something that wouldn't’ necessarily yield a net positive result in the long run. (monetarily, I mean) I was recently at a dinner party with a few of my friends and their parents, and the conversation that unfolded went something like this:
We were at a gargantuan sized dinner table made of beautiful reclaimed wood and some kind of galvanized metal. It was summertime, and we had just come back from a day at the beach. The dinner table was surrounded with 5 girls, 24-25, and 6 adults, between the ages of 45-60. The first thing they wanted to know was what we all “did.” So we all took turns, going around the table, trying to make sure each of our stories were a little more impressive than the one before us. I was the last one to go, obviously.
“So a degree in the theater… how does that work?”
“So a degree in the theater… how does that work?”
I always feel a little bit defensive about my career choices. I went to school for theater, but now I work in marketing/education and I am a producer of theater as well. There’s always a back story when you ask an artist what they’re doing, because, let’s face it- if you’re auditioning you’re working one or two other jobs, and if you’re working in entertainment in general, a lot of the work is rarely consistent, and you often go from project to project, with time in between each one.
The truth is, I am constantly working toward where I want to be in my career, and I felt so alone in that respect for a while. Here’s the thing- I know I’m not alone in that. Everyone else is doing that too! Everyone is trying to get somewhere in their career,and a lot of the time it takes years and years to be where you want to eventually get to! That’s what they don’t tell you when you graduate. If you’re content with where you are, maybe you won’t grow as much as when you have to work your way up. My foray into producing, for example, came out of a long journey of trying new challenges in this industry- and the need was there.
The day after graduating NYU, I moved home to, and started my career as an actor. The first show I did was a production of “Damn Yankees” at a theater in White Plains, while continuing to audition for everything under the sun. When summer came to an end, I realized that I needed a job that wasn’t just babysitting a couple of times/week, so that I could actually put away money to put down on an apartment in NYC. I was lucky enough to have some incredible mentors at the Children’s theater I was a member of in high school, that asked me to come on as an Assistant Director, and they were the ones who really encouraged me to follow my ambition to be a leader. They taught me to use my leadership skills in a way that were similar to acting, but did not involve performing directly. They taught me that you could be just as creative implementing your vision of art , as much as performing it.
Through my years of directing, I realized that my strengths lay in my ability to translate vision into reality. Directing, acting, working as an administrator and in marketing lead to my ultimate love of Producing. Being a producer means you must be a translator. Each show I have produced has required a unique approach; but the main function as a Lead Producer of a production is to act as as a Liaison between the cast, director, playwright, and production team. In my mind, a producer is a “translator.” Every artist you work with on a production- the actors, the director, the playwright.. They all speak slightly different dialects, and it’s your job, as producer, to facilitate this communication, interpret, and finally, to implement to collaborative vision.. My job is to ensure all forms of communication and messaging go smoothly, and that all members of the creative team are on the same page throughout the entire rehearsal process.