Ever since college, I have heavily believed in the idea of community over competition.
In total, there were nine stage managers in the class of 2017 alone. And despite the insane amount of productions JMU put on, there were not always enough stage management opportunities to go around.
*cue the college theatre program drama*
But I chose to take the higher road. I chose to see it as an opportunity.
I knew going into the "real world" jobs would be tough and I would not be given every opportunity I wanted. Why should college be any different? I know other people will strongly disagree with me, including some of my best friends. You are paying to go to school, so to not get those opportunities is BS. And I don't completely disagree. But the situation was what it was and who was to say I deserved opportunities more than someone else.
The only thing I could do was:
1. Work my booty off so I was ready for the opportunities when I received them
2. To make opportunities when SM'ing wasn't an option (i.e. ASM'ing in our studio theatre even though I had already SM'd on the mainstage)
In total, I only stage managed (not including ASM'ing) three shows in college.
Three shows. In four years.
But this didn't hurt my employment opportunities.
Up until COVID, I have been making my "living" solely in theatre since graduating in 2017.
Many people question if in such a "selfish" industry, one can truly believe in community over competition.
And I believe you can.
After all once the job is booked, it's an entire team working together to make a production the best it can be.
So why can't we all be a team before that?
Here are four tips on how to adopt a community over competition mindset.
Stop comparing yourself to others.
I could write an entire blog post on comparison. In theatre, we are constantly being looked at in relationship to other people, even as technicians. But you have to take other people out of the equation because you can't control them.
You have to look at yourself and what you can control. Did you rush to finish your cover letter? Did you clam up during your interview? These are things you can work on. Stop getting wrapped in other people and focus on being the best you can be.
Get over it.
Rejection sucks. And the amount of rejection we face in theatre is astronomical, especially when compared to "normal" careers. But one of my biggest tips is to suck it up. I know that might seem harsh, but it's the truth. Take the hit, be upset, and then move on. Some hits are going to be harder than others, but it's all going to be okay.
Someone once told me, we are not curing cancer, we are playing pretend for a living.
And this has stuck with me to this day. Take a breath and keep going.
Celebrate your friend's successes and invest in their future.
So now that you've stopped comparing yourself to other's (eliminating the idea of "competition), it's time to build a community. Just kidding -you already have a community- you just have to strengthen it.
When your friend books a job, you have to celebrate them.
Even when, scratch that, especially when, you were also up for the same gig.
And honestly- it might seem fake at first to you and them. But trust me- the more you do it the better you get at it and you will genuinely mean it as time goes on.
Once you've nailed this it's time to start investing in their future. See a job posting they'd be perfect for? Send it to them and encourage them to apply. Or offer to look over their resume or cover letter.
Not only is building relationships a key part of this industry, it's a key part of life. Beyond the jobs, most of these people you are viewing as competition have the potential to be life-long friends. And as much as I love theatre, I love the people more.
Reframe your mindset.
Adopting into the idea of community over competition, essentially boils down to mindset. You have to train your brain AGAINST what you were initially taught. You have to stop comparing yourself to others and think of every rejection as something that is for you.
All this to say, it isn't easy to adopt this mindset. While I feel like some of this is in my nature, a lot of it has grown over time with self development work.
I believe you are only as strong as the weakest member of your team so in order to truly be at the top of our game we have to be working alongside people who are
at the top of their game.
Keep lifting each other up- now more than ever- so our industry can come back stronger than ever.
Much love always,