Rant • It Takes A Company
The company of the first national tour of Memphis is made up of actors, dancers, singers, instrumentalists, carpenters, prop men, lighting and video technicians, sound engineers, hair and makeup artists, dressers and wardrobe supervisors, stage managers, company managers, and merchandise coordinators and sales staff. We are not, as some would have you believe, a family (though sometimes familes do spring up from theatrical companies) but we really are a company and we travel and work together. This thing we do is a team sport.
In my better moments I believe that, whether they intellectually know it or not, the audience instinctively understands that the bright box of light and movement and sound that they are staring at and listening to for the evening is the tip of an iceberg. A HUGE FREAKING ICEBERG! That, though they may see only twenty-odd folks up there on stage, it feels to them that there are at least fifty people making this all happen. And that's not counting the local hires. That's fifty in the company of Memphis. The company that works and travels together.
Sometimes, and it is blessedly rare these days, there comes a person who stands between us—the company—and the audience. A self-styled Gatekeeper. Someone who either doesn't get this concept of it-takes-a-village-to-make-a-theatrical-performance-happen thing or thinks it benifical to sell a different story of our art form. A fairy tale of sparkly actors who make it all happen through shear force of talent, and personality, and... I don't know, star power. "Oh, sure", they might aknowledge, if forced to, "such a thing as a crew exists, but... Wouldn't you rather talk with and about the actors?"
Pisses me off.
You think it's an honor to have the actors come out and talk with your audience after performance? The honor is to have those other folks come out and try, try to get you to comprehend what the hell it took to make you enjoy what you say you enjoyed so much. You saw what the freaking actors did with your own eyes. Some of you even got hit by our sweat or spit. It's pretty clear what we're up to up there.
And, you know what? The audience members are usually very appreciative to find out what the man (and woman) behind the curtain is up to. But the Gatekeepers, for whatever reason (self-agrandizement? vicarious actor-envy crap? ignorance?) try to make a clear upstairs/downstairs division in our group. Our company.
Have I said yet that that pisses me off?
You want to have members of our company talk to your audience? We actually do a pretty brilliant job of self-selecting to make sure you get a good mix of technians and performers. Leads and ensemble members. And, if left to our own devices, we do a pretty brilliant job of passing the Q&A ball among us. Because, we work as a team all the freaking time! Much more than anything any of us might say individually in a talkback, the real information is in how we talk as a company. The respect for each other, for what we all do to make the performance happen, shows up in how we talk about our work among ourselves and in front of your audience.
That's all. Just... Don't try to carve up our company. It pisses me off.