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The Theatre Hierarchy Trap

September 13, 2013

Ever heard the term “office hot”? Its used when a girl you work with at the office is a 10 in the work environment…and a 5 when you leave the work environment. This is because she’s the only girl in an office full of men or the only girl in the office under the age of 60. Either way, this girl appears hot as hell completely based on relativity and the fact that she’s the only moderately attractive girl that you see 5 days out of the week. As off topic as this may seem in a theatre blog, its more relevant to performers than you may think.

I work in theme parks. A lot of performers in California who crave steady paychecks choose theme parks…………………..and waste the best years of their life there. Say you hire into a theme park as a dancer in a parade. Now five days a week you walk through a 100 acre lot jam-packed with other performers in other shows. You are now unknowingly shoved into a world of oppressive theatre hierarchy, enforced and validated by the most outspoken and overbearing people in the world: theatre people. You hear nonstop banter about the shows that are higher quality, have more impressive songs, are higher paying, give more hours, have a nicer theatre, etc, etc, etc. You’re surrounded by people just itching to “move up” in the company and advance their careers here. You cant help but walk by the different shows on the way to your break room and covet the expensive costumes that other performers get to wear or the greater number of seats in their theatre.

Soon, you too become obsessed with cross training into other shows and becoming a swing like all the “best” performers in the park are. You’re brown nosing every manager and grilling every current cast member for suggestions. Wait, wait, wait. Were you this impressed with the shows before you started working here? Did you previously have this searing desire to spend the next decade working in the same theme park? Do you really think your career will change that drastically with another show here? No. You thought these shows were a 5 when you first saw them…they have become a 10 after you spent weeks in the break room hearing the shows talked up like they were a spectacle of Broadway caliber! No. You never even gave these shows a second thought until everyone around you started to talk about them. No. Your career will likely stay exactly the same if you continue to work for the same company in the same theme park.

Personally, I love working in theme parks. Consistent work, close to home, that involves high budget productions is hard to pass up. Plus the environment is usually fun and friendly while the people are usually close like a tight-knit family. That being said, I have fallen into the theatre hierarchy trap more than once and highly caution against it. I try to think of theme park work as a sort of day job while I try to audition for bigger and better things concurrently. Then suddenly, I find myself focusing more on cross training into other shows within the park rather than furthering my career outside of it, simply because I’m spending five days a week confined to an environment that tells me this is what I should be doing…after all, that’s what everyone else is doing.

I’m not sure I entirely understand the way this hierarchy works; why some roles are so much more prestigious and desirable than others. More over, I’m not sure I like the constant feeling of being in a “race” of who can get cast in the most roles. I do understand that actors have to eat, and when you’re in a company, ya might as well milk it for all its worth and get as much work that you can out of it. But don’t give up 5 days of your week simply to prove to the other theme park employees that you were good enough to cross train from Mickey’s Magical Parade into Mickey’s Magical Dance show. Don’t be swayed by the opinions and pressures of others only to forget the goals you first set your sights on.

You are a product of your environment, don’t let that environment get the best of you. It’s hard to transcend the tiny bubble that the theatre world can cram us into. Do your best to keep your head on straight, focus on your goals, and quit comparing yourself to those in the immediate proximity around you.

The Reckless Artist sig

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Jack Schultz permalink
    September 13, 2013 5:52 pm

    Such wise words!!!! Comparing yourself to other actors is the worst. Thanks for the post!!!

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