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From Lisa – The Frog in the Boiling Water

February 22, 2016

I remember being told as a senior in college that my generation would change not just jobs but careers roughly five times throughout our professional lives. Reflecting on that bit of info which, for some reason, I retained for the last 15+ years, I consider myself quite fortunate that I found a home with one theatre company in my post-college professional life. Though, to be fair, within this company, I’ve filled many jobs: stage manager, grant writer, lighting designer, marketing coordinator, costume designer, managing director, director, special events coordinator, production manager, facilities manager, teaching artist, box office manager, etc.

Alternating between artistic and administrative roles within that list was an intentional choice. If I ordered chronologically, it would start on the artistic side and gradually shift to the administrative with little blips of artistic peppered in. A slow transition over time, like the frog that doesn’t jump out if you put it in a pot of water and gradually turn up the heat, but will if you drop it into boiling water. Perhaps not the best metaphor, but it’s kinda accurate. I remember resisting more responsibilities on the administrative side at first and then at some point, falling into them more and more and leaving the other side behind.

At an arts event last week, all the attendees were asked to put themselves into smaller groups – artist, administrator, business owner, patron – wherever they fit best. I found myself briefly wanting to go to artist, but heading towards administrator. Also last week, we kicked off our latest community-based production – a revisiting of Steelbound set for 2019 – with the six core artists at Touchstone, complete with popping the cork on a bottle of champagne and toasting to the future project. A exciting beginning to an exciting project, but when asked how I wanted to be involved artistically I could only think of development, marketing, house management, and box office. All important and often creative roles in the project, but not ones that flex my weakening theatre art muscles. And then the clincher came a couple days ago, when an email came in from Trinity Rep that read “Great Writers” in huge letters up top with “Harper Lee and James Baldwin” written smaller below next to a picture of each…and what did I read? “Grant Writers”. It took me a few seconds to realize that these two authors were, of course, not also grant writers. Why did I read it that way? Maybe because my mind lives in the administrative world and not the artistic, or maybe because I’m often moving quickly and taking in info based on my perception of things and maybe not reality (yikes, that’s a big one!), or maybe there’s an option three that I haven’t quite figured out yet.

Whatever the case, I know I’m happy to serve an arts organization I believe in whole-heartedly, through the various and sundry roles of administrator and artist. Now though, I think I owe it to myself (and the company) to be more aware of how this shift from art-focused to admin-focused has affected my work, who I am now, and how I perceive things. I also need to remember to recognize the creativity that exists in my admin work, like crafting the language for a compelling grant or orchestrating the flow of a fundraising event. And unlike the frog, I’m aware of the pot I’ve chosen to boil in and will boil on in the name of good, transformative theatre!

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