PROFESSIONALISM AND AMATEURISM HAVE LITTLE OR NOTHIING TO DO WITH MONEY, etymology notwithstanding. I’ve worked with a lot of people over the years in performance projects who were very professional or just plain amateurs regardless of whether they were paid (or, if so, how much). Likewise, I’ve tried to carry myself and behave professionally, even if I didn’t quite know what the fuck I was doing. I appreciate that in others, and it counts for a lot. It isn’t just effort for effect, it’s effort for good results.

I’ve seen just too many under-compensated, underappreciated workers carrying themselves as professionals, being productive and helpful, to have much patience for those whose asses are getting covered yet can’t be bothered to pull their heads out of their ignorance, much less lift a finger to help. Worse, amateurs like that often manage to get in the way of the rest of us and make our jobs harder simply by not co-operating. Can’t tell you how many simple tasks on my list have been made hair-pulling workarounds because someone with a title and power but limited skills, bent on maintaining order in their tiny unproductive worlds, have unilaterally changed the schedule and work environment arbitrarily and without consulting anyone else. They are selfish, incompetent, self-absorbed and shouldn’t be left alone with pointy objects.

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photo: Craig VanDerSchaegen

OFTEN, THEY’RE SUPPORTED BY PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER, and have actual chops and social skills, in search of the professional gratification they really need while they’re struggling to pay the rent in the meantime by working for idiots. The hell of it is that the work, itself, is often gratifying, and it keeps the good people, the actual professionals, from moving on as they should. Nevermind that the money isn’t paying the bills and the boss is an immature micromanager, some good workers will keep coming back to make the art, partly because they’ve had “real jobs” and are afraid it’s either this or that.

Whether our choices are that limited is a topic for elsewhere. For now, my rant is in support of the professionals I meet and get to work with all the time while railing against the airheaded and petty amateurs under whom many of them work. Every once in awhile, I’ve told somebody, “If you ever need a recommendation, email me.” It’s cheap talk, really. I’d much rather be able to hire them. That, too, is cheap talk. Best I can do, usually, is let them know I get it, and I appreciate it. As an experienced outsider rolling into their house to do my thang for awhile with their support and then hit the road again buh-bye, I’m hoping a token of my perspective is helpful, that it, at the very least, reminds them they’re not completely nuts.

Regular positions in theatre can be a bit isolated, depending upon whether the organization’s definition of outreach is developing relationships in its community or merely shaking more money out of people. Once, I asked an artistic director whether the theatre was in touch with a similarly low-budgeted, plucky organization in the neighborhood and I was told “We’re not in touch with anyone”. Right. Actors, however, always itinerant, commonly keep on top of the broader performance scene in a variety of theatres, and even at the bar. They don’t become isolated and lose perspective that easily. They’re always moving around. Production people from several theatres might benefit from post-show boozing together. Just a thought. Apparently, this has long since been addressed in Manhattan with the Broadway bowling league (which, I found out while there, includes Off-Broadway and then some). Fringe Festival kind of goes there, too. Beats staff meetings.

High school students, volunteers at community theatres, minimum wage multitaskers doing three people’s jobs in neglected and run-down venues… Pros can be found anywhere. Since I end up working just about anywhere, it’s good to know that.