Producing a Play is Like Having a Baby

[According to a person who has never, ever had a baby.  But I have watched Father of the Bride Part II multiple times.  So, I’m basically an expert.]

Let’s have a baby – The Beginning

The part when everyone is excited.  The happy couple tells everyone they know that they’re expecting and people crying and congratulating and then crying some more.  

You are a part of a small theatre company.  There’s this wonderful little play that you are all crazy about.  So everyone agrees, we should produce this play!  What a wonderful idea.  Auditions are held, designers are hired, and everyone marks their calendar.  You start to make plans, but no need to rush things.  Opening night seems really far away.  There’s plenty of time to get everything done!  Isn’t this going to be great?

The Pregnancy – The Rehearsals

Maybe being pregnant isn’t the best, but it’s not all bad.  You’re nesting and painting a nursery.  Maybe you feel a little sick sometimes and your feet are swollen….but you’ll survive.

Before you know it, it’s time to start rehearsing the play.  This is the time for everyone to buckle down and have some meetings and get a few things figured out.  You’re going to need costumes, lights, props, a set, a place to rehearse, a place to perform, a photo shoot for marketing, and money (cause that’s how you pay for all those other things).  And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  But nobody’s worried. You open in 6 weeks…you got this.  That’s lots of time.

Sure, going to rehearsals every night can get a little tiring.  Eventually you will get sick of telling your friends you have no time to go out.  You have to go to rehearsals.  And if you aren’t rehearsing, you’re working at your second job (because ‘following your dream’ meant accepting a job that couldn’t possibly support you completely).   And you are really, really tired.  Just one night you would like to get home before 11 p.m.

But you shouldn’t complain; you should be thankful.  This is what you love.  This is what you want to do for the rest of your life.  This makes you happy.  You should just think more positive.

Child Labor – Tech Rehearsals

Hold the phone!  This is awful.  Why did no one tell you about the pain?  

How did this happen!?!?!?  You have less than a week before an audience will see this production, and let me tell you: it’s a mess.  The lights look shit, the set is only partially constructed, and how did nobody know the floor needed to be painted?  Is that in the budget?  But it has to get done.  You thought you were tired before – you weren’t even in the same time zone as tired.

You’re staying at the theatre until 2 a.m. to put one more coat of paint on the set, and then going to your ‘real’ job because you still have to make money.  But sure, you’ll run by the dollar store to look for that very specific prop, and you’ll stop by Subway next door to grab your dinner.  Is it unhealthy to eat Subway for dinner 5 nights in a row?  Doesn’t matter, because your bank account couldn’t afford any other establishment.  You would bring your dinner except your fridge is empty and when are you supposed to go to the grocery store?!?!?!

And the baby is breach??  And it’s too late for an epidural??  Is it too late to change your mind?

But it gets better.  One of the designers is mad at the director, and almost the entire cast has a cold.  And every department is over budget.  And you watch rehearsals, but you doubt every decision that has been made up until this point.  Maybe this is all really dumb and no one will like it and maybe this was the wrong play to do.  Ahhh!

At some point during all of this madness, you start to wonder why you decided to be a theatre artist.  This is insanity.  Who would choose this for their life?  So, you secretly promise yourself that you won’t do this ever again.  Maybe you’ll just become a kindergarten teacher or a banker or a barista and live a normal life.

It’s a Baby! – Opening Night

But then, something kind of crazy happens.  Everything gets done, and the audience shows up.  And they seem to like the show – so maybe it’s not a mess.  And when you watch the show, you feel kind of proud.  This actually is a pretty good piece of theatre.  Wow, this production has really come a long way.  And now people are applauding!  That’s pretty awesome.

You go to the party and have a great time.  Then, you sleep for 12 hours straight.  Hmmm…what play should you work on next??

I just realized that this is really nothing like having a baby, because the baby is going to stick around for 18 years or more.  The play is over in just a few weeks (I’m pretty sure you didn’t just present the next Cats).  Oh well, you get the point.