Since I’m off Facebook for now, I wanted to write a quick blog post to explain some things I said on that platform last week. I announced that I would no longer be pursuing a career as a theater director and professor because I needed to get a “real job.”
Though some people may have been offended, I attach no moral judgment attached to this phrase. All I mean by “real job” is one that pays you. Those of you who are getting paid to do creative work, more power to you. That is most certainly a real job. But in my 16 years as a director, I have never been paid to direct a professional production. That means, for me, that directing has never been a real job. It doesn’t mean directing (or acting or writing) is not work (trust me it is), and it doesn’t mean that those of you who do it for money are not doing real jobs.
As a theater professor, I went from three years as a Full Professor, tenure track, to Visiting Assistant Professor to Visiting Lecturer to teaching/directing once a year as an adjunct. Though when I was employed to teach full time (the three positions I mentioned above) I was being paid a salary with benefits, adjuncting once a year makes me about $6500 with no benefits. My health insurance alone is more than $500/month. Unless I can eliminate absolutely all of my other expenses, that’s not a tenable situation. Those of you making a real living teaching (whether in a full-time appointment or through multiple adjuncting positions per semester) are obviously working real jobs. Again, congratulations and more power to you. It is not working for me, and that is not a diss on you.
I have been encouraged to hear from person after person, all from different points in my life, who have stopped putting themselves through the torturous life of making art without getting paid and who are really, really happy about it. Those of you who are really, really happy doing what you’re doing and can afford to keep doing it, more power to you. In December, I lost half of my income and was forced to assume new expenses well beyond my means, so I can’t afford to give it away for free or less than a livable wage anymore. That doesn’t mean I’m judging you negatively for doing absolutely whatever you want with your career, life, job, art, and/or work. (Well, if you were CEO of Countrywide, I’m judging you a little.)
As for my denigration of black box theater in general – a term I use loosely to describe the spaces in which people make art without being paid – I hereby charge everyone doing it with the task of spending one week with people who’ve never done it and don’t go see it. (If you have trouble finding someone that meets that description, your world is too small). Ask them what they are interested in, what they think about, what their jobs are like, and what they do for entertainment or artistic fulfillment instead of going to see theater in basements and storefronts. Spend several days with them in a row. Do what they do. You will quickly realize that what happens in 99% of black boxes is not just isolated but genuinely disconnected from the cultural, political, economic and social concerns of our world. If you take this challenge and you find otherwise, please let me know. It’s always fun to have someone try to prove me wrong.
(Btw, the art is not bad because of the people making it. The art is bad because the people making it haven’t slept for four days because they work a night job in addition to their day job in addition to spending 5 hours a day in a basement. It’s not irrelevant because the people are irrelevant, it’s irrelevant because measured as a percentage of the population, no one goes to see it. And it’s not disconnected because the people are, it’s disconnected because the concerns of the contemporary world are being dealt with on the internet, and theater, as an inherently live act, is therefore ENTIRELY ABSENT from that dialogue. And yes, I’ve read HowlRound. But no one who doesn’t do theater has.)
Finally, though I won’t be writing regularly on this blog anymore, during the time I’m off Facebook (another thing you should all try – it’s fantastic), I will use it to let my wonderful friends and family across the country know what I’m up to. I never thought I’d be at the point in my life I’m at today: never thought my marriage would end, never thought I’d be stuck in a city I didn’t chose to move to with nothing to do, never thought I’d work my ass off for 16 years doing my favorite thing in the world without making any career progress. But since these things have happened, I have been continuously touched, surprised, comforted, warmed, reaffirmed, and strengthened by my friendships with all of you. I hope you will subscribe to this blog (you won’t get notifications of new posts on FB for a while). You can do so in the top of the right-hand column via RSS, or scroll down for email subscriptions. And I hope you’ll use the comments section or email to tell me what I’m missing that’s going on with you!
I’ll be back on FB eventually, but I think it’s important for me to spend some time looking closely at my compulsion to share absolutely everything I’m experiencing the moment I experience it. I hope thereby to learn to trust my thoughts and feelings with or without external validation.
I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂
All my love,