Confessions of a Theatre Roommate
*If you are a previous roomie reading this blog post I mean no offense. Let's just say it's not you, it's me. I hope you are living a lovely happy life (as I am) with lots more room than we probably had & with someone -who isn't me- who can handle your tendencies.*
Name a bad roommate experience and I've probably gone through it.
I've had around 18 or so roommates since my freshman year of college to now and let me tell you, a majority of them have been less than ideal.
Here's the quick highlights (lowlights) reel:
Throwing a wet /used towel on my bed and leaving it there for who knows how long
Essentially kicking me out of the apartment (meanwhile saying EXTREMELY nasty things about me in the GroupMe they removed me from)
Sleeping on the floor in a 1 person bedroom with two people living in it (would've been fine if they were sleeping between the beds and not blocking the door and closet and dresser)
Threatening to steal my stuff
Screaming (&crying) at me for inviting a male friend over who I didn't want to sleep with because he had no way to get home except for her (when it was suppose to originally be a large group hangout)
Passive aggressive post it notes
Removing stuff from the trash to recycle it (when the recycling container is already overflowing because nobody bothers to take it out)
Passive aggressive whiteboard notes
Demanding I pay them $2.00 (yes two. dollars.) for a missing spoon that they could have easily lost themselves
Gossipy roommates who thought they ran the place and knew everything about everything
Really it's been a LOVELY time.
I've lived with theatre people. I lived with non-theatre people. I've lived with people for three
years and others for three weeks. I've lived in a teeny tiny two bedroom apartment with three other girls/one bathroom/ and slept on a trundle bed. So while I haven't had every roommate experience possible, I'd say I'm pretty darn close.
And part of the reason I have had so many roommates is because I work in theatre and move around constantly. Essentially, with each new job comes a new set of roommates. And if you are planning on heading out to summer stock or taking an internship, chances are you will be getting a new set of roommates too. So I figured I'd make a list of some of my best advice on being a good theatre roommate or at least how to make the most out of living with various, and sometimes loud, personalities in the smallest of spaces.
Well tbh most of this list is just how to be a good roommate 101.
Before Moving in Together
Most theatre companies who provide housing will give you the option to pick your roommate if it's a large enough company. So if you know other's working at that company, go ahead and see if you can request a person you know. Just keep in mind that friends don't always make the best roommates.
However, chances are you probably don't know anyone or it's assigned. Most company managers try not to assign people in the same department to the same housing. Because well, common sense. But if they don't, see if you can request to be with people in different departments. You will spend enough time with your department (especially if it's summer stock and if you are stage management). So try to branch out if company management doesn't do it for you.
Creep on their social media.
This is what social media was made for- kind of. Most 20-ish year old humans that you would be rooming with have one form of social media or another. (Luckily for my future roommates I have a blog too!) Look them up and find out what they are about. This doesn't change who they are or the fact that you have to live with them, but it will give you some insight on who you will be living with for however long.
Reach out to them.
If you are able to reach out to them ahead of time, do it! Sometimes they'll be super responsive and other times they won't. However, if you can strike up a conversation to figure out what they are packing (i.e. kitchen supplies) or their living tendencies ahead of time all the better. Some things to ask:
Ask about them. Don't start off with the nitty gritty questions.
Find out about their personality/what they like to do.
Early bird or night owl?
Morning or night shower-er?
Have they worked at the company before?
When do they tend to do laundry?
Move in Time
Have a wine night.
(Or a beer night) The first night you get there you should spend some time hanging out and getting to know one another if all the roomies are available. Play some get to know you games and start the roommate-ship off on a good foot! It might be a good idea to save the heavy liquor until a later time.
Set some ground rules.
Don't do this the first night (but definitely within the first week). You and all of your roommates should sit down and set some ground rules. Do you alternate who takes out the trash (personally I'm of the belief that as an adult you should just take it out when it's full but🤷🏼♀️)? Rules about having company over? Does anyone smoke or drink ? You think most of this stuff would be common sense, but you would be surprised. It's always good to try and work this stuff out now to try and prevent conflict before it arises.
When Conflict Arises
Talk it out.
And I do mean talk. Passive aggressive post it notes or messages left on a whiteboard are NOT THE WAY TO GO. Neither are novel length text messages back and forth. Grow up. Sit down and talk about the issues like the adults you are. It doesn't have to be nasty- just lay out the issues and figure out a solution. Because chances are you don't have an issue with the person (or their personhood), but just their habits/tendencies.
Again, yelling at someone while they are trying to get ready is not the way to go. Kill 'em with kindness or what have you.
Talk to someone about it.
Sometimes getting a fresh set of ears on the situation can be useful. They can tell you if you are overreacting or might offer some possible solutions. Sometimes you need a good vent session (as long as it does not become a habit).
Bring it up to company management /whoever is in charge of roommates.
As a last resort, you can always see about switching rooms or housing. You should feel safe -physically, EMOTIONALLY, and MENTALLY)- where you live. Our work is stressful enough, you should be able to come home at the end of the day and be able to unwind.
Explain what you do.
If you aren't living with a theatre person (or former theatre person) this is crucial. They need to understand to some degree what you do and why sometimes you are gone for 12 hours 2 days in a row. And why you don't have a weekend. And that you do like to wear other colors except black. While this won't solve everything, and they might not truly ever "get it", explaining it to them will definitely help the situation.
Give yourself space.
Even if you LOVE your roommates, it's important to give yourself space. Theatre is weird. We work and play and live with the same people. So you have to take a break sometimes. I know the FOMO can be real, but give yourself time to hang out with yourself.
Be the bigger person.
Maybe you've talked it out and nothing has changed. But your roommate is stubborn. Or maybe you are stubborn (I know I am). But sometimes you just have to let it go and be the bigger person. Don't stoop down to their level. Do your thing and always remember....
It's only nine months.
My roommate Kortney always use to say this and it's so true. No matter how awful your roommate or housing situation is, it's important to remember this isn't permanent. You will get through this and you will come out a better /stronger person at the end of it all. Whenever I have a roommate issue, I think back to past roommate issues I've had and remind myself: I've gotten through this before, I can do it again.
Roommates can be the worst, but they can also be some of the best friends that end up being bridesmaids in your wedding. So stay optimistic and remember at the end of the day, it's only nine months.
Much love always,