Overcoming Challenges in Theatre

Jennifer Butler

  • OnStage Columnist 

When working on theater productions, I find that there are many challenges one can end up facing.

My initial challenge was to get up enough nerve to contact the theater company to inquire if I could be a part of the next productionby helping in some way.

The next challenge I faced was gaining the confidence to talk to people that I had never met before. My nature is to be shy and I would shake in my shoes at the thought of having to introduce myself to a stranger. I wanted to make sure I did everything right so that I did not cause anyone to be upset with me. I would always get anxious when I entered a room full of people that I did not know. It was so hard to gain the courage to talk to those people but I knew that I had to do it.  A production team member, whom I have worked with on a lot of my shows, challenged me to talk to at least one new person, at an opening night reception or cast party.  A year and half ago when she offered me this challenge, I honestly was questioning why she was making me do this, but I am grateful she did because now, I can actually do it without getting too nervous.  My social skills have improved so much over time because of what she had me do, instead of me trying to hide in a corner. Today I am still quite shy but I am less likely to respond with ‘What did I do wrong?” when someone asks if they can talk to me.

However, many of my show related challenges came into play when I became a prop designer. It was something I had never done before.  It all started when the producer asked me if I was interested in working on props and I said “sure” with a smile, but in my head I started wondering what I had gotten myself into.  Some of the prop challenges I have faced have included making a fabric fire, removing the glass from a mirror, making a remote control device from 1936 and finding period appropriate weapons.  But I would say the biggest prop challenge was having to create a giant hypodermic needle out of PVC pipe for a production of the “Rocky Horror Show” that I worked on last fall.

My current challenge is choreographing a Tango for 6 actors in a rehearsal space that is smaller than our performance space!  It’s hard to figure out timing and space when you only have a rough idea of where the furniture will be placed on the set and how many steps it will take to get the actors to end up where you want them to be for the scene.

Each challenge I have faced has been a little different, but I have taken on each one determined to succeed. I accomplished those challenges by asking the right questions about what the director wanted for results and seeking out advice from those who had been designers before.

With every challenge completed I feel I have become a stronger person. The more challenges that I accept and successfully complete, the more willing I am to take on new challenges and opportunities that come my way. Working with theater has helped me to develop my self- confidence, whether I am venturing out to work with a new theater company or using the skills I have acquired to apply for a job in the real world.

With everything I have learned from my theater experience, I have come to realize that a challenge in real life is not necessarily a bad thing. Although I still get anxious when trying to figure out how I will complete some of the challenges that I face, I can deal with it better now having had numerous successful experiences in the field of theater. I don’t know what upcoming challenges I will face, but with the support of friends I have made at the theater and the lessons that I have learned from it, I feel like I can take on the world!