By: Sally Henry
In my experience with the theatre world, I have been on multiple sides of the theatrical process. I started out acting, I’ve tried out the stage crew thing a bit, and now of course I’ve discovered everyone’s favorite piece of the puzzle: the critics. As much as we want to say “Every part of this creative process is important; the PA holding the back door is just as vital as the ingénue,” the truth is that the actors are the ones everyone cares about. Let me clarify, they are the ones that those outside of the entertainment industry care about.
It’s true though!
For instance, following the Oscar nominations announcement this year, I saw multiple posts on social media in which people stated there were no African Americans nominated for Oscars… Yeah, not true at all. What they meant, of course, was that there were no African American actors nominated.
Likewise, since Broadway actress/goddess Audra McDonald won her sixth Tony Award last year, setting the record for the performer with the most Tonys, multiple theatre fans keep going around reciting a false statistic. That is, they keep claiming that McDonald has the most Tony Awards of all time, to which I’m fairly certain producer/director Hal Prince utters a condescending “LOL, that’s cute,” as he polishes Tony #21.
So to industry outsiders, acting seems to be the be all and end all of the entertainment world. Thus, I have found that people often assume that anyone working in theatre or film must wish he or she were an actor. Granted, there are definitely some people in that situation, but believe it or not, others would genuinely rather run wardrobe crew than be on stage.
When I tell people about my Broadway journalism aspirations, they consistently mishear me, and it gets awkward really fast. Somehow by the time the phrase, “I want to write about Broadway,” gets to their ears, it has transformed into, “I’m going to act on Broadway.” And bless their hearts, my friends are so supportive of this new future they have envisioned for me! But then I have to say, “No… I mean… I want to write about Broadway news,” and they take a second to think about it, and then they feebly say something like, “Oh, yeah that’s great too…”
So here is a quick public service announcement to all laymen: when conversing with a theatre person about their future…
- Be slow to assume– When you hear the word “Broadway” or “TV,” carefully consider if the word “actor” was actually involved, or if it was just your imagination. Then continue the conversation from there.
- Tread carefully– Some non-actors are weird about your assuming that just because they’re in theatre they act. If you do get in that situation, try to casually slip in words like “gaff tape” and “gobo” so you at least seem like you know what you’re talking about.