Devoted & Disgruntled 12: What Shall We Do About Theatre and the Performing Arts Now?
Can you be a successful playwright on evenings and weekends?
Marianne Powell - 15 January 2017
WHO WAS THERE
REPORT DETAILI called the session because I wanted to talk about the practical and emotional challenges of making work alongside a full-time job.
Practical challenges: lots of opportunities for emerging artists happen on weekdays, during the day, making it harder to access them. It's really hard to make performance (as opposed to writing) outside work, too.
Emotional challenges: I fear that people don't think I'm serious about theatre, or that I treat it as a hobby because I do it outside the structures of work.
When I called the session, I thought it was more about practicality, but by the end (and coming straight out of the failture and frauds session) I realised a lot of it was about my perception, and my fear of others' perception.
Lots of people had useful perspectives. Here are some brief notes.
Two people from Fugly theatre talked about their experience of setting up a company alongside full-time work. They thought it would be possible to make performance alongside work, but had found the logistics surprisingly challenging - certainly if they wanted to get enough sleep. At one point someone in the company didn't have a job, so was able to take on more of the admin work which was helpful.
One person talked about redefining theatre and how we make work together, mentioning the US group The Postal Service who made an album from different sides of America, sending the music and lyrics between them.
Another person mentioned they had more time available than their collaborator, and raised the question of how to support people who work full time.
We talked about the possible strengths of having a day job - one person mentioned the Power of the Side Project: https://medium.com/busy-building-things/start-something-the-power-of-side-projects-648223f673af.
We talked about the nature of the work you do, and the way that can have an impact. One person mentioned that working too close to the industry (e.g. TV) had been tricky, but working in a different job had been easier. Another person talked about having to be very flexible in work ('Mary Queen of Swaps) and only over swapping shifts for theatre, not to do fun stuff.
I mentioned that I sometimes found it hard to balance the two, e.g. feeling nervous about letting colleagues know about my creative work, especially if it was more personal.
We talked about the idea of ‘double lives’ and how much to share with colleagues.
One person mentioned that they separated their social networks, making Twitter ‘professional’ and Facebook ‘personal’. They mentioned that their manager had noticed their creative work positively, and had wanted to include it in their appraisal, saying that they thought it had a good impact on their work.
I think it's fair to say that the overwhelming majority of people were positive about balancing a creative life alongside full-time work. The reality of our industry is that most people have to do more than one thing to make ends meet, and that shouldn't stop us from talking about ourselves as a writer or performer, even if we do other things.
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