Why Theater People Push Themselves So Far, Or at Least This One

Kathleen Vaught

It’s still dark outside when the alarm goes off at 5:40 a.m. It’s a Tuesday, so that means the song is the new David Bowie “Blackstar” and a full day ahead.

The snooze gets swiped once.

The next alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and this time it’s Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” as a startling reminder that the day is beginning to burn bright and I must get up.

“Just five more minutes,” my brain pleads with my alarm.

Finally, at 6:20 a.m., I roll out of bed, try wake the kids (two teenagers, don’t you feel bad for me already?), let the dog out and make my coffee. Then it’s off to shower and get ready for what I like to refer to as my “daylight” career in public relations. The rest of the schedule may go something like this:

  •          7 – 7:45ish a.m. – make-up, write out notes for new sketch or to-do list for rehearsal that night, hair, email theater group reminder about rehearsal, get dressed.
  •          8ish a.m. – arrive at PR office (Yes, my commute is about 15 minutes. Living and working in the same small suburb is the best, if you can arrange it.)
  •          8:15 a.m. – make breakfast at my desk and begin daylight duties as assigned.
  •          Sometime later – get a phone call from one of parents whom I help as they age.
  •          Noon – meet several members of theater troupe for lunch to discuss various duties as needing assignment.
  •          2 p.m. – back to the PR office and work as efficiently as possible on more daylight duties as assigned.
  •          Sometime later – try to make arrangements for whatever it was my parents called about.
  •          5 p.m. – bolt out the daylight door, drive home (again, less than 15 minutes away), pickup female teenage child and drive her to ballet class.
  •          5:30 p.m. – back to the PR office because I took a two-hour lunch, so there are still daylight duties as assigned to finish.
  •          6 p.m. – text male teenage kid and husband to let them know I am working late but there is yet another frozen pizza in the oven. Remind the boy to feed the dog.
  •          6:45 p.m. – leave PR office, drop off prescriptions requested by parents and drive to theater troupe rehearsal.
  •          7 p.m. – rehearse with some of the most dedicated, talented and giving humans, who have most likely had very similar days, on a show filled with original works, improv, music and dance. Laugh. Laugh a lot.
  •          9 p.m. – leave rehearsal, go pick up daughter from ballet and bring her back to rehearsal where she does homework (aka, Snapchat with friends). More laughter.
  •          10 p.m. – drive home.
  •          10:15 p.m. – crash into bed.
  •          10:16 – 11ish – lay there thinking of all the better ways to improvise scene work from earlier where the prompt was cat litter.
  •          Sometime later – wake up suddenly with the perfect idea for a new sketch, fumble around for pencil and paper to write it down in the dark so as not to wake the sleeping hubby. Put it by the alarm so as not to forget it was written.
  •          Sometime even later – finally fall back asleep.
  •          5:40 a.m. – it’s now Wednesday and the song is “Long Hard Times to Come” by Gangstagrass which feels appropriate for the middle of some very long weeks. Same snooze pattern as before. See strange note written in the middle of the night, have no idea what it says because it looks like it was written by a two-year old from ancient Egypt and toss it onto a pile of other scribbles to decipher later.
  •          Lather
  •          Rinse
  •          Repeat

If you are reading this and are a theater person, you are probably thinking, “And?”

For theater-folk, this daily routine may be typical. There are so many more of us with full-time “day jobs” that pay for our homes, cars and kids, than there are those who have made it in the city where if you make it there you can make it anywhere.

That’s not who I am talking to.

If you read this and think, “What the hell is she doing that for?! If she didn’t do that extra theater stuff, she might not have to hit the snooze twice every morning.”

And, they would be right.

But here’s the truth. If I didn’t stay involved in theater, I probably wouldn’t want to wake up at all.

My daylight career would suffer without the oddball interactions and fantastical alternative universes where I choose to play or write about. I cannot even count the number of daylight problems I’ve been able to solve, projects I’ve completed in record time and out-of-the-box successful ideas I bring to the table because of my theater training and experience.

My children would never know the creative side of their goofy mom and possibly not explore that within themselves. They would just think I’m weird and cry at the drop of a hat for no reason. As it is, they at least know I’m weird and cry at the drop of a hat because of my expert dramatic training.

My husband would be married to a veritable grouch in a suit. A boring brown suit with boring brown hair and boring brown discussions about how to pay for our kids’ college or why I haven’t done the dishes. Because he helped me develop the theater troupe, we laugh more, interact with other humans with the same interests and respect each others’ creative wardrobe choices like partridge family pants, Anchorman-mustache t-shirts and open-toed pink crocs with socks.

Most of of all, I would perpetuate the myth of never being able to attain work-life balance. That assumes work and life are somehow separate and need to be “evened” out. Semantics not needed – the reality is there is no separation. It’s all life.

I know this because the creative energy and deep inner fulfillment generated from even this minuscule connection to theater keeps my inner drive active and in good operating order. It reinforces my belief in theater as a crucial human art form to share our story from generation to generation and to bring joy to others.

That makes it all worth it.

There’s also the applause.


Photo: Clackamas Repertory Theatre