Hey Everyone! My name is Rose Hamill, I’m a freelance Production Manager and Arts Administrator in Chicago. I also serve as the Managing Director for Broken Nose Theatre. I met Chelsea through USITT, through the Stage Management Mentorship Program, and I’m your guest blogger today! I’m going to be talking a little bit about career pivots, or as I call it “I’m now doing a job that I didn’t think I’d be doing!” or “What happens when your own expectations surprise you.”
Shockingly being a stage manager was always my plan. My parents were all working in theatre at one point so I was familiar with it. I officially started stage managing in high school and when it came time to look for colleges I didn’t really consider any other option besides art school. I ended up at Columbia College Chicago where I graduated with a BA in Technical Theatre with Minors in Arts Administration and as a Teaching Artist. The goal was to be a resident stage manager somewhere, but the more I looked at the path to get there the more it seemed...off. While I applied for the Steppenwolf apprenticeship and a couple other things after graduating, I ran into a major issue; I wasn’t willing to move away from Chicago for work. Not even for a summer. I also found the idea of going on tour completely unappealing. (I spent a LOT of time growing up moving, and as a result I want to be in one place.) I ended up staying in the city, working on short 3 month, stipend type contracts for various Chicago theatres. Chicago has over 200 companies actively producing, and sites like The League of Chicago jobs board made it applications easy enough. I worked on so many fun and challenging projects. Period pieces, immersive theatre. I learned a ton of new practices, tips & tricks, and met so many wonderful humans.
About a year after I graduated, sometime during 2017, I joined Broken Nose Theatre as a company member. I had worked with them a couple times and really felt connected to the mission and the stories they chose to tell. They were looking for a Production Manager for the upcoming show. I was in between projects and I was familiar with most of the job duties because Columbia taught a general management approach to theatre. So scheduling events and running meetings I was comfortable with. It was my time ever as a full Production Manager, annnnnnndd it was rough. Really rough. My confidence took a serious hit, but I learned a TON. Mostly about setting up expectations and how to gently send reminders and communicate deadlines.It was shortly after this first production that I started serving as Broken Nose’s company manager as well, which meant even more scheduling events and running meetings. And a surprising amount of reminding people to answer emails.
In 2018, after a little over a year with Broken Nose, Elise Marie Davis (another company member) and myself stepped into leadership roles in the company, as Artistic Director and Managing Director. This new role was much less of a “oh I’ve done this before” and far more of a “I’ve seen other people do this, I’ll figure it out.” kind of thing. The truly mind-bending part was that instead of coming in on a process that someone else had set up, I was now one of the people setting it up from the beginning. Managing what someone else gave me turned into creating things from the beginning. Fortunately Elise is a fantastic co-leader and work-wife, so I’m never alone in getting things done. One of the major ways I find confidence in this position is being able to go to Elise and say “Here’s what I’m thinking, tell me if it makes sense.” She gives honest and specific feedback, and from there I can adjust what I’m doing and/or explain myself better.
Even though I was enjoying PMing and being Managing Director, there was always a nagging sensation in the back of my mind that I was on a detour. That I should be getting back to stage managing. Which is not a helpful thought to have while you’re trying to build a company. After a lot of looking over my planner, talking with friends and colleagues, and soul searching I realized I wasn’t really at home in stage management anymore. There were certainly things I missed! The thrill of calling a complicated sequence. Developing relationships with the cast over the course of a process. But nothing that justified taking time away from PMing and MDing. I came to the decision that my current show would probably be the last in which I was in the SM seat long term. Short festivals or stepping in to cover someone, absolutely still down for it. But I need to prioritize my time, and being a Managing Director and freelance Production Manager already takes up enough.
This recent realization is still shaping my plans for the future. It’s become clear that while I’ve done a lot from my Arts Admin minor, googling, and asking for help, I am in need of more formal training. Though grad school is not an option at the moment (I can’t do more student loans) I am looking at a certificate program in Chicago that focuses on non-profit management.
Photo Credit Austin D. Oie
I’m also hoping that this additional training will help with the imposter syndrome that pops up from time to time. I’m better at not letting it get the best of me, but it’s been hard at some points. I sometimes have to remind myself that no news can be good news sometimes. If things are running smoothly I’m less likely to hear from people in general. I ask specific feedback questions to those I trust to be honest with me. Everyone needs reassurance sometimes. And 9 times out of ten, if I don’t know the answer I know someone who does and they’re a text away. The biggest thing I’ve learned is to take stock of your wins. What went well, if someone said thank you.
When we’re in the moment of “I don’t know if I can do this.” we forget how many things we’ve already done. Don’t let that happen.
So that’s where I’m at! 16 year-old Rose would be very confused, but ultimately I’m more excited for what my next steps are. I love administration, and while it takes me out of the rehearsal room, it puts me in other rooms and I’m still there for the art and the purpose. If you’d like to follow my #AdventuresInCompanyLeadership my personal instagram is @RoseHamill. And you can see what we’re doing at Broken Nose at @BrokenNoseTheatre or https://brokennosetheatre.com/. See y’all around!