Someone asked how stage managing felt right now, and I immediately had to tell them I don't know yet because CU Ballet isn't a fair meter stick. Not because the gig wasn't challenging (I'm still trying to build back up my tech stamina) or the show wasn't big (I'm dreaming of streamer cannons and automated fly systems), but because it doesn't seem fair to make such a big judgement call after spending time with a company that feels like home. It was a new piece in a theater I had never worked in before, but the camaraderie, good humor, and want to make something great while still getting to be human was all there. And in my experience, that isn't quite real life.
When I went back to school to study stage management, I remember asking a professional SM how often her job was truly fun. She told me that if you were lucky, you got one fun show a year. The rest? Well. You had to be ready to find something great about each one while accepting that they weren't going to be what made you want to keep doing the job.
That was hard to hear because, while I understand that a job isn't always going to be joyful, I couldn't imagine spending only a few days a year truly loving what I was doing.
10 years later, I get it. However, one good thing about no longer being beholden to one company for an entire season is that I can spend time truly evaluating whether or not I want to commit time to a specific company or a specific project. They're not all going to be the best thing I've ever been a part of, and sometimes I'll have to say yes to a project I'm not super psyched about in order to pay the bills, but I'm hoping that on the other end of the business shutting down, maybe it's possible to find groups of artists who are chasing it all: Making good art AND treating people like valuable humans. Bringing beautiful works to audiences AND having space to make mistakes. Tackling important issues with difficult messages AND enjoying the heck out of doing the work.
Maybe that's silly. Maybe I'll be disappointed again. Maybe I'll read this again in a few months and shake my head. But maybe not. And if nothing else, it's nice to have back a little bit of the optimism I've forgotten in the past 10 years. Maybe that's a good enough place to start.