10 Pet Peeves… About Non-Theatre People

10 Pet Peeves… About Non-Theatre People

Brad Pontius

Let’s talk about Non-Theatre People. I’ve already written an article describing why I describe non-thespians as "Muggles" (go read it, you beautiful person!) and frankly… After thinking about it? Let’s talk about why some of their habits are so weirdly annoying! It’s not like we can’t/won’t live alongside them, we do it every day, but… They’re just so weird! But normal weird, not us weird.

1.)    Sports.

I know there are thespians who are into sports. But I think in our industry we all know at least one thespian (probably many) who has absolutely no clue what happens on a basketball court or football field. I mean it’s the polar opposite of what we do. It’s still in the same category of ‘entertainment’, but… It’s just so foreign to a lot of us. We live for the story, the glamor, the ‘pizazz’ of a good story and amazing physical magic. Sports… Are… It’s a guy holding a ball and charging across an open space or some variation. I’m sorry, I just can’t see the draw. What’s their motivation? Did the goalie murder their father and they seek to avenge the throne of Denmark? Who do I root for?!

2.)    The Work Hours?

Professional actors and crew members have work hours similar to a non-theatre people. But still, it’s weird to know (after you experience an Equity-level rehearsal) that many people have a strictly 9 – 5 work day. Not because we work less, but because a Thespian never stops working. If you’re an actor, then your mind gets consumed with memorizing lines and finding your character at home. If you’re a techie then maybe you can set your work down at home, but you still have to go about designing outside of a rehearsal space. Our work doesn’t stop after we clock out, we take it around with us everywhere we go until it’s done. Speaking of work…

3.)    The Work Mentality

Some Non-Theatre People do love their jobs and what they do. But I’ve yet to meet one who can’t stop complaining about it either. Their boss sucks, or they’re fighting with the office secretary, it’s always something. But thespians don’t get to really experience that – or if we do, then it’s in relatively short bursts. A show never lasts forever (except Phantom…), and you never have to be in the same production for years at a time. The run is usually short enough that, if it’s awful (Hello, Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark!), it’ll be done soon. We don’t have the same mentality as someone in, say, an office, where they have to endure it and try to climb the proverbial ladder. Even when it’s exhausting we are just so thrilled to be apart of it – because we know that, deep down, we can be replaced if we’re not humble enough. We value our time with our jobs, and that’s just something that you never really see in a normal workspace.

4.)    They Don’t Get Our Jokes…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “What if he’s your Romeo, but you’re not his Juliet?” See if you get why that’s a funny thing to say… You’ve actually read the goddamn play. We make a ton of references that are hilarious to people in our profession. Usually those jokes are just inserting a lyric from our favorite showtune into an otherwise mundane sentence. Non-Thespians, however, unless they happen to have seen the show tend to give us weird looks for it. On some level I believe most or all Thespians find this more than a little irksome.

5.)    “Why don’t you get a real job?”

Oh, here we go again. You’re at a family function (maybe Thanksgiving, Christmas, something where you get to see more distant relatives) and you get to inevitably answer the question of what’s going on in your life. Maybe you’re lucky and have a lot of relatives who think your theatrical career is fabulous and they support it. For the rest of us, there’s always that uncle or aunt or grandparent. They’ll stare at you for a moment as you describe your recent exciting audition and follow up with the question “Well, that’s great… When will you work on getting a real job?” The question is usually sugar-coated, but that’s the gist of it. Because they’re usually part of an older generation and they’ve probably had to work really hard to become their own version of financially and socially stable. It is especially true for relatives who might be old enough to have gone through The Great Depression, World War 2, or the Hippy Movement. For them, they’ve experienced a totally different society from what you get to be part of today and many of them just don’t understand it. But that doesn’t make that uncomfortable situation any less annoying.

6.)    “Mom, Dad… I’m a Thespian.”

Speaking of relatives. Immediate family can be difficult to deal with when it comes to your chosen profession too. I distinctly remember the day that I confessed my desire to become an actor and both of my parents were… well perplexed. Don’t get me wrong, I was lucky enough to have parents that understood and supported me, but the initial reaction was still super uncomfortable. I’ve also heard horror stories from friends of their own parents who reacted a lot more drastically. This is usually just because they want their children to have a stable life - a happy one that doesn’t require as much worrying about finances or where your next job will be. And they’re not totally wrong – The show never lasts forever, the contract isn’t for life. Thespians probably change jobs the most frequently in the workplace. Hopefully, the parents don’t become the ones who keep asking about ‘real jobs’, but either way it’s a tiresome conversation to open up.

7.)    Their Awful Music!

I might be alone on this, but I truly… truly hate listening to music that isn’t a showtune after being ensconced in Musical Theatre for so long. Maybe it’s just because I know that to have a good showtune isn’t just about the quality of the composed music – it’s about the STORY. You don’t sing in a musical because the character just felt like singing. In that moment it is the ONLY way to possibly convey what they’re feeling. They have to sing, because if they don’t they’re just gonna explode! It’s an emotional release. Conversely, their music is specifically designed to bring about emotions by the sound rather than the lyric. Which is why, I believe, so many people are surprised when they actually read the lyrics and end up saying “Wait, that’s what he said in that song?” Give me a song about Mormons tap-dancing any day.

8.)    They Assume an Awful Lot About Us…

Okay, might be a touchy subject: But let’s talk about stereotyping. As Theatre Folk it’s kind of our job to make snap decisions about people in the moment. If someone walks into an audition room we have to categorize them. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just for casting and deciding what our typecast is. So we’re ‘guilty’ of making judgements too… But if you say something about stage work to a non-theatre people and they will always jump to “Gay and/or Jewish.” I mean they’re not totally wrong, especially in New York City. But then they also leap to the conclusion that we’re all starving artists. Or that we’re into really weird street art and all that. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with any of these assumptions – but it’s annoying to be thrown into a category before they actually get to know you and they aren’t offering you a job for that judgement.

9.)    They Aren’t Dramatic Enough!

Okay but seriously. Theatre folk have heightened senses of emotion and empathy. Part of our work in the Theatre is to walk in so many different shoes, and we can be oh so loud (because dammit that little old lady will hear how awesome I am in the back row.) How do they act so… normal? Where’s their sense of camaraderie after shows? What do they do after rehearsals? Why don’t they know every single line of Defying Gravity? How can they suffer going through life without a collection of Playbills! But no, in all seriousness it’s really weird to me that they can never seem to react to exciting things or awful news the way we can (with big hand gestures, shouting, abnormally excited crying or laughing, etc.)

10.)  They’re Just… So… Dull…

I won’t lie; I’m biased. I am and I know it. But Gods of the Stage help me, I can never hold an interesting conversation with a non-theatre person. It’s always about politics, finances, drama at the cubicles, football, it’s always something that people talk about every day in a subdued attempt to make sure they aren’t stepping on anyone’s toes. Kind of connected to #9, but at least Theatre folk always have something interesting to say. Because we’re so crazy—I mean eccentric. You walk into any cast party, be it a High School one or a Broadway one and there are people acting out crazy things that happened to them, or swapping Theatre War Stories about that time someone dropped a line or forgot a prop. Theatre people make some of the most inane and boring events really mean something. They make you feel invested in their story; either because they’re just natural storytellers or because they’re so disgustingly charismatic. Strike up a conversation with someone around audition spaces and you’re bound to pick up a new friend in seconds. Normal people never get that and it’s… so so dull.

So there are my top ten pet peeves with normal people. Anything that Non-Theatre People do that irks you that I missed? Feel free to discuss it in the comments, we LOVE seeing people get into discussions about Theatre and Thespians’ lives!

Photo: Chad Batka

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