Lack of Resources- Financial Accessibility in Theatre
One of the biggest issues I personally have with the American theatre system is accessibility.
For me, it started in college. I’m sure that for many folks it didn’t take nearly as long to feel the pain of the lack of theatre accessibility. If you weren't aware, I did not get into the theatre program at JMU the first time around. I took a general education theatre course to "get my foot in the door" (it worked). As part of the class we were required to see a certain number of productions the program put on that semester.
No students-whether they were in the program or not-got a free ticket. Sure, there were options to usher, or you could beg a friend if they had a comp ticket, but nine times out of ten you were paying for a student-rate ticket.
You were required to take the class for a general education credit and then you had to pay for a ticket.
Did this prevent students from taking the class over a different general education arts course?
I don't know, but maybe.
A couple years later, when I was the returning mentee for SMMP, I had a similar realization. I was having a conversation with my mentor about how the program could improve.
And it again boiled down to accessibility.
SMMP gets free conference registration.
However, that still doesn't eliminate the financial burden of travel and hotel costs to attend the conference.
SMMP also has a $15 nonrefundable application fee.
When I was a student, it was much easier to go to conference financially because both my university and department provided grants to our student chapter (which was then divided evenly between students attending conference).
But when I was the returning mentee, I didn't have the same access to these grants. I found out in December that I was chosen and I was balling on an intern budget of $150 a week. I was very lucky to have the financial support of my family to assist with a hotel (which I then ended up splitting with 3 other mentees) as well as a flight.
Additionally, because of the late notice our hotel was further out and we all had to pay for a Lyft to the convention center every morning and every evening.
Conferences were how I built my career in the beginning though.
Also one of the most critical parts of the industry is networking, which costs money as well. Sure, you could go to the bar and order a water-but that can get in your head too.
"Oh, I don't have enough money for a drink."
"I'm not cool enough for a drink. "
"I'm not tipsy enough to network correctly."
But the thing is, being at the bar with these people is a privilege in and of itself.
We have to do better.
One of the main reasons I originally created this blog was because I saw a need for a resource which hadn't existed before. If you search the internet you will find hundreds of blogs for actors and only a few for technical theatre/stage management.
I wanted to create a resource I wish I had growing up- a place where young technical theatre artists could go and learn about what they don't teach you in school. I also wanted it to be authentic. I was sick of the narrative around stage managers not having a personality. I was hoping people could learn from my shortcomings.
But mostly, I wanted it to be free.
I have been extremely privileged to have the opportunities I have had- from going to a four year university to attending every theatre conference known to humanity for many years.
This blog was meant to be a resource for all technical theatre artists-but primarily for those who can't afford to attend conferences or have a terrible high school theatre program and want more information.
And as this blog has grown from my friends and family to a larger audience, I have recognized that it has strayed from the original intention.
Based on my Instagram insights, a majority of my following (20%) is based in New York with the rest being in the Harrisonburg/NOVA/DC area (with a few LA stragglers as well).
67% of my following identifies as a woman and 33% identifies as a male (based on the options Instagram gives).
However, 46% of my following is between the ages of 25-34; 38% between 18-24 and only 0.6 % is between the ages of 13-17.
Clearly my demographic isn't the high school kid with a shitty theatre program.
However, as I look to grow and start monetizing my blog I do not want to stray from my original intention.
Here are some steps I will be taking in order to create a more inclusive and accessible platform:
Including pronouns in my bio
Following back community members regardless of my followers/following count
Diversifying my feed of who I follow and sharing it with my followers
Attend online trainings
Supporting BIPOC owned businesses
Continuing to offer primarily free resources even if/when I begin to offer paid resources
Offering payment plans and pay what you can options
Compensating and crediting creators who provide work for my account
Using my contacts and connections to continue hacking away at the lack of accessibility in technical theatre so we can come back stronger and better than ever
Let's take a long hard look at our industry and strive to make it inclusive and accessible. We must continue to find ways to make it so that people don't feel they aren't good enough for this industry because of a lack of resources or finances.
Much love always,