This Isn’t Exactly What I Signed Up For

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Since the summer of 2009, I’ve been the Theatre in Education Coordinator with a small, live theatre company. There are 9 full-time employees, and another 7-10 seasonal employees (our season is September-May). As I’ve mentioned, my job entails teaching acting classes and workshops, getting schools to come to the theatre, getting the theatre to go to schools, and all the administrative stuff relating to that.

(To avoid any confusion, my part time bar manager job is also at the theatre.  That job entails running the bar for evening performances.)

But my job description has changed. To echo my last post, I’m being “assigned tasks at work that don’t interest me, don’t help advance my career goals, and/or have nothing to do with what I was hired for.”

For the last 3 months, however, I’ve been teaching the Saturday morning acting classes for kids (which are normally taught by someone else). I was excited to do it – teaching DOES interest me, it DOES help advance my career goals, and it IS what I was hired to do (plus kids are adorable). I also thought that taking on this extra task would also get me out of being forced to work on a project that has nothing to do with my job stage managing the fundraiser show. But it didn’t. It just meant working 6 days a week.

I first got suckered into stage managing the theatre’s fundraiser play (which uses volunteers as actors) two years ago, before I knew how truly awful it is. I foolishly thought that getting involved with the non-office stuff would be a fun learning opportunity and help advance my career. But after experiencing it once, I was DONE… but I’m now somehow doing this for the THIRD time.

Although last year went much better then the first year, I was so desperate that I somewhat seriously contemplated faking a pregnancy to get out of ever doing it again.

(What? It worked for Lindsay Lohan in Labor Pains!)

Although I fully understand the need for it, I’m not interested in fundraising. They wouldn’t ask me to build a set, so why am I being asked to manage a fundraiser – especially when there is a fundraising coordinator and a fundraising committee?

I’m one of the oldest employees at the theatre (in terms of how long I’ve been there, not actual age) and one of the only people with an actual theatre background. Therefore, I end up doing a lot of odd jobs such as selling tickets, updating the website, dropping off posters, etc.

I don’t mind helping out when they are small, one time things. I do mind, however, when these “sundry duties as assigned” take up 20-25% of my time (or one full day a week, every week). And then another two full weeks in the spring. Stage Managing – the bane of my (working) existence. 

What’s so BAD about stage managing?

Each week, I sit in a 2.5 hour rehearsal where I SIMULTANEOUSLY have to follow the script to make sure the actors say the correct lines, have to write down every move the actors make, have to make sure the actors are ready for their cues, have to make sure the actors have the props and costumes they need, have to track the props, have to prompt the actors for their lines and/or movements if they forget or go off-book, and if someone is absent, I have to fill-in for them. (I reiterate – that is all done SIMULTANEOUSLY.)

As well, each week I have to buy and prepare fresh snacks for them (and by that I really mean for my boss who eats most of it). I am not allowed to eat said food. I have to make them coffee. I have to wash their dishes. I have to sit in production meetings where I barely say two words. I have to make sure our costume designer and props coordinator are doing their job, but I’m not allowed to direct their work. I have to phone and email the actors to make sure they show up to rehearsals (and I get the blame if they don’t). I have to use my personal cell phone so the actors can reach me whenever they need to. I have to play the messenger between the actors and the director and the costume designer and the set designer and the props coordinator, but cannot have an opinion on anything.

And that’s just the rehearsal part.

Tech week (when we first move to the stage) is worse, and I’m pretty sure breaks labour laws.

(In defense of stage managing, I should mention that I know several people who LOVE it, including two of my bestest friends and former roommies. I’m assuming their experiences have been much better than mine have been.)

The best part of my job is teaching, but since September I’ve only spent about 35 hours actually teaching. But in the last month I’ve already spent over 50 hours on stage managing. Last week I’ve also been yelled at four times, received two rude emails, been threatened with a letter in my file, and spent half hour in tears in one of the bosses’ offices over stage managing stuff.  (I’d like to note that not ONCE have I been in trouble for anything related to Education.)

I’ve talked to the bosses about it; I’ve told him how much I hate it, how much of my time it takes, and how I get so behind on my Education work because of it, but it falls on deaf ears. It’s a “fundraiser” and they need to cut costs wherever possible, even if it means exploiting their employees.  If I do get any sort of response, it’s a guilt-trip about how employees of the arts do it for the love of the arts, and for the greater good of the community, not for the money or the recognition, blah blah blah…

I used to think that saying yes at work was one of the best ways to get ahead: grow, learn, prove that I’m a valuable employee, feel valued, get raises, get promotions, be given more meaningful work, feel like my work is meaningful, and be excited to get out of bed every morning.  In this experience, the opposite has been true.  If I could go back in time to November 2010 and say NO to stage managing that first time, I would do it – no question, no regard for the butterfly effect that would follow because I can’t reasonably fathom an alternate reality that would cause me more stress, distress, and general hatred of everything than stage managing does.

Have you ever been given a big project at work that you didn’t enjoy and/or didn’t really fall under your job title?  How did you handle that situation?

Have you ever regretted saying “yes” to your boss and wish you could take it back?

About the Author
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Amanda is the owner and creator of My Life, I Guess... a personal finance and lifestyle blog that started back in 2013. She strives to keep the "person" in personal finance by writing about money, mistakes and making the most of it.


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