I found out I was getting laid off about six weeks ago. It wasn’t something that was totally unexpected, but my bosses admitted that they’d made a mistake and needed to hire somebody with more experience who they didn’t need to teach advanced digital marketing to. They were eliminating my position entirely. Okay, fine. I got it and I was kind of relieved. I’d been stressed out and working my ass off to try to get to the level they needed.

Then I freaked out. The first thought was: I needed to find another job, and quickly. The second thought to pop into my head: do I really want to stay working in theatre? I wasn’t positive, but part of me was saying no. I was tired of working for what felt like zero dollars and feeling like the whole world was crashing down around my colleagues and I whenever the smallest mistake was made. To be blunt: there was never an instance where what we were doing was saving lives. Ever. Period. Yet I always found myself being stressed as fuck about my work load. (As per usual in theatre, we had about 14 times as much work as we could handle.) 

We were selling tickets to Broadway shows. That’s IT. I thought about why I worked in theatre and it was because I liked the fun work environment and the free tickets. But the more I thought about it I admitted that the work environment wasn’t that fun and I could afford to buy TDF tickets to shows (and I still have a valid student ID too!) if I had a job that paid me what I was worth. And while it’s fun to get comps to shows, it’s more fun to love your job and be good at it.

But just for the hell of it, I still applied for a few theatre jobs here and there. Through a reference I got an interview right away at a very small general management company who needed a new bookkeeper. The woman I interviewed with was disheveled and said she thought her current bookkeeper was an idiot because she asked questions. I knew right there that this wasn’t the boss for me. She also looked at my address on my resume and asked, “Whoa. Are you rich?” Excuse me?. She said she paid her current bookkeeper $30k but could maybe offer me $35k but no benefits. HAHA. Nope. Sorry. Like I said, I was done undervaluing myself and this woman was batshit insane.

The next gem of a person that I ran into at an interview was a woman that couldn’t even be bothered to meet me in person. She was a seasoned talent agent who was striking out on her own and she needed an assistant. We were on a phone call and towards the end when I asked about benefits, she said, “Oh no, I don’t. There are a lot of people out there who would really want this job and they’re on Obamacare. I have to run my business as I feel comfortable.” This is also known as an internship, or slave labor. 

This is common practice on Broadway. There are so many people wanting to work for these companies that they don’t need to offer benefits or a livable salary. During my hunt, I was talking to a good friend who’s a pretty successful company manager, and occasional general manager, and he said, “You know I used to think that people who left working in theatre couldn’t hack it but then I just realized they’d just smartened up to it.” And another friend who occasionally raises money for shows told me, “Broadway will always be there. You can always go back.”

In the end I found a company that really excites me and a role within that company that utilizes my skill set. It’s not theatre, but it’s all about promoting culture in the city. The workspace and people are awesome. And I’m making a way better salary than I would’ve been elsewhere. The photo above is the view right behind where I sit. Not too shabby.

So I’d love to hear about your experiences working in theatre. Let me know!?

Here’s a proposal!

image

Hear me out. But know that I wrote this in a moment of utter disappointment and despair earlier this evening:

I don’t think there’s an industry that pays worse than entertainment, specifically theatre. I make a decent salary but no where near where I would be doing the same thing in another industry. I’m frustrated because I began realizing today that the opportunity to make Real Living Wage is getting smaller and smaller (and it’s probably my shrunk fractionally by the time you’ve finished reading this sentence).  You know why this is? Supply is low and demand is way. too. high. I’ve known people to take assistant jobs starting at $18k.

People, friends, colleagues: we are worth more than that.

Anyone see how high ticket prices are nowadays? $400+ for a premium seat? If the stage hand gets to earn $500 whenever he mops the stage, surely the industry can afford to pay the “little guys” more too.

The only way to really bring about change is if they couldn’t find anyone to work for $25k-$30k. What could we all do in the meantime? Work at jobs that paid a lot more and didn’t require a 60 hour week, so we’d have the time (and, uh, money) to express ourselves creatively outside work and eventually (hopefully) parlay that into a full time job that we love.

Is this a fantasy? Yes. Probably. No one would ever leave their full time (highly underpaid) job in theatre for a job in something like a job in finance to prove a point. Not in this city. I just wanted to plant a seed.