By Dale Albright
| TBA program director Dale Albright.
Time. It’s the one thing that I hear, over and over again, that artists wish they knew how to deal with better. It is the nature of our lives as artists that we, arguably more than many outside of our world, need to be masters of juggling numerous commitments in order to do and support our work. Other obligations to work, family, laundry, dishes, pets, health, sanity and many other factors too numerous to mention are all plates being tossed in the air hoping not to be the one to drop crashing to the ground.
As I write this, I am feeling that pain—I am in tech week for a show I am directing at the Douglas Morrison Theatre in Hayward (Lanford Wilson’s Book of Days, starting May 19). As my plates spin and I juggle many of the things listed above, I can’t help but observe my own struggles and those of the artists around me. My first interchange at every tech has been with our lighting designer and with our technical director, who compare notes on whose two-year-old woke them up first that morning. One of our actors, a single mom commuting from San Francisco to the show in Hayward, often gets to bring her (wonderful!) daughter to rehearsal. Another actor is losing hours daily, constantly fighting what sounds like one of the worst commutes I have ever heard of: from work in the North Bay to rehearsal in Hayward, then back home to SF. Three other actors, who commute from the South Bay, are also launching their own theatre project (not to mention other theatre- and non-theatre-related jobs) at the same time that they are getting this show off the ground. The list goes on and on.
People often ask me how I manage to juggle my work at Theatre Bay Area with outside artistic projects, but I look at these examples (and many others I hear), and know how lucky I am. Not only do I have a full-time job, but it’s incredibly supportive to boot. This job allows me take vacation during tech week—although, of course, I am writing this note in the middle of said “vacation.” I have a sympathetic partner at home. The theatre at which I’m currently working is a two-minute drive from my house.
But you know what else has been incredibly helpful to me? The kind of thinking taught in Theatre Bay Area’s ATLAS career development program, which I have administered for a number of years. For example: when I take on an outside artistic project, I know why I am doing it—the part it plays in what I want to accomplish in terms of my larger life and work goals. I know which things in my life come first. I limit the number of projects I do each year. I know to plan ahead as best I can to see when I need to take time off—and when I need a dog-sitter to help out. I have examined my own work (and distraction) patterns to have a better idea of how to formulate my day for maximum effectiveness. And I don’t beat myself up for taking some time to make sure my DVR doesn’t explode or to just take a nap. And it works.
If this kind of clarity sounds good to you, check out our career guide, ATLAS: Charting an Artist’s Career Map—especially the chapter on time management! The ATLAS manual is also available as part of the enhanced student membership, available now through June 30, perfect for the theatre majors and grads in your life.
Plates will still spin and—such is life—some will undoubtedly drop…hopefully no more than once in a while. We’re only human. But we do what needs to be done. The show (and life) must go on!
Dale Albright is program director for Theatre Bay Area, as well as an actor and freelance director.