Feeble Knees

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Show Must Go On!

Today is the day to catch up on everything. You don't think I'm asking too much of myself, do you?

Looking ahead for the rest of this week, today is my one chance to wrap up my gift shopping, clean the house, get the laundry going, get the rest of the Christmas cards in the mail, make a grocery list that covers the rest of the week and Christmas dinner, and start wrapping gifts.

Ok, maybe I'm expecting a bit much of myself.

I tend to swing to extremes. I'm either an organized, efficient, super-productive manager in the extreme, or I'm a complete sloth. The trick is to keep moving and making lists. So long as I am in motion and writing things down, the only thing that can bring me down is physical exhaustion (the usual culprit). But if I start off the day with no plan and no list, chances are very good that I'll end up flitting around from one half finished random task to another with nothing to show for it at the end of the day.

My ability to be a mean, clean working machine was learned; I was not born with it. It comes from several years of studying and working in the theatre, which is a lot tougher than it may seem at first blush. It was when I first started working backstage that I really learned how to work. I'd had jobs since the age of fifteen, but nothing quite as mentally, physically and emotionally challenging as getting forty performers, twenty crew, and untold numbers of costumes, lights, sound effects, pyrotechnics, set pieces and props ready for that curtain to go up at 8:10 pm on the nose. It was one big adrenaline rush every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, plus two a day on Saturday and Sunday.

That was when I became queen of stopwatch, defender of the everlasting cue sheets, and filler of the miraculously bottomless coffee pots. There were so many things and people and times to keep track of: rehearsal calls, costume fittings, photo ops and press interviews. There were floorplans to measure and mark out, missed and dropped lines to correct, and you'd better darn well not forget to call that all-important union break every fifty-five minutes on the hour.

It was wild, and I loved it. Nothing before had ever tested me to this extreme. I was frequently exhausted, continually caffeinated, and emotionally spent at the end of a day. Ah, but when that curtain went up it was pure magic every night. In the hush of the audience and the dimness of light there was this Great Anticipation.

For some productions, that was the most enjoyable moment of the evening - the moment before the lights came up and revealed an unholy mess of a disaster that was horribly miscast and misdirected. Other times it was just the earnest expectation of the sure-fire magic that never failed to materialize when extraordinarily dedicated performers, artists, and crew pulled together and went above and beyond the call of duty because they believed the effort would be worth it, and the audience deserved nothing less.

As I sit here and shamefully procrastinate getting started on all the things I'm supposed to do today, I can't help but think of those days when we worked and labored so hard to hone and perfect the production for that special night when that big heavy curtain was opened and all was revealed to the world.

In the years following my brief stint in the arts world, I was astounded by the mismanagement, lack of cooperation and mediocrity I saw daily at my 9-7 pm desk job world. If only the business world took its work as seriously as we had in the theatre, there'd be many fewer crummy products in the world I thought, and people would be happier to go to work every day and proud to be part of something bigger than themselves.

Hm. Maybe that applies to the Church too? Just a thought...

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