Theatre Kid Survival Kit: The Non-Theatrical Workplace

Liz Lydic

I was at a disaster training when it happened again. The irony of being in a disaster training but without protocol for....that other disaster. The one, you know it. That feeling that comes on when you are out of place, but shouldn't be. The moment when every sign on earth points to you being the center, placing you right at the right time but the worst place. I was a theatre kid in a theatre scenario with non-theatre people. 

The disaster training included a video with reenactment. Some attendees of the training class snickered because of the dialogue, or maybe because they were uncomfortable with the sensitive subject matter. Or maybe they were restless because of being forced to attend disaster training that included videos, and because, by the last hour, we were down to just (blueberry) bagel nubs and decaf coffee. 

Me? I was concerned too, weary of what was happening, clutching my desk in desperation. Because...I was watching the worst acting on heaven and earth in those videos. I wanted to get up and yell, "I can do better than that! I'll SHOW you a possible shooting victim who can run for her life to the stairwell! And that woman earlier who had to play 'confused' during the earthquake?? I could have won the Academy Award if I was cast in that role!" 

I couldn't yell those things, I couldn't say them, I couldn't even mutter "That's some bad acting, huh?" to a neighbor. I was alone. I was the only theatre kid in the room. 

Being the only theatre kid in the (non-theatre) workplace has become a trickier sea to navigate lately. I figured I would do better if I armed myself and showed up each day a little more prepared. This is my own personal disaster preparedness. 

  • Headphones. No, no one else will ever want to listen to musicals with you on your computer. I'm so, so very sorry, but no. You will have to listen to them alone, on your headphones. You won't be able to share them, and there will be little appropriate time and place to sing along, or even to mouth along. Your best bet if you must quietly (and I mean very quietly) belt or dance is going to be a handicap bathroom stall. If your bathroom is highly populated, you always have the walk from your car to your office building. Get it all out of your system before you sit at your desk and turn on your monitor.
  • A stress squeeze ball. This tool I find handy for when a co-worker mentions going to see a play or musical I couldn't afford to go to if I sold my first-born, and when I start quoting it, they don't immediately (or ever) get the reference. Squeeze that stress ball. Squeeze it hard. 
  • A sick day, to be used the Monday after the Oscars. Because I can't take another year of post-Oscar small talk, where I have to finish the titles of movies, correct the pronunciation or attempts at guessing of actors' names, better-describe the movie plot (because, no, it' is not JUST 'about a room filling up with water and a lady having sex with a fish') and overhear dispassionate reviews of movies such as "It was ok....I guess..." I can't take it anymore!
  • Your fully charged-phone on Halloween. The opposite of the 'Call out the day after the Oscars' is the 'Don't miss Halloween' rule to stick by. You're going to win any contest your workplace holds. If you work somewhere that the holiday is completely ignored or unweighted, ready yourself to be a shining light, leading the spirit and excitement of the day. You'll be on your own but that's ok. If your workplace does a Halloween contest or event, you will stand out with not only your costume but your commitment to the character within. Get ready to take a bunch of pictures of your triumphant made-on-your-own-not-bought-on-Amazon costume-because-no,-a-Tshirt-that-just-says-what-you-are-or-has-a-symbol-on-it-is-NOT-a-costume, and don't discount the street cred you'll earn amongst your co-workers (who may or may not know about your creative tendencies) until at least Thanksgiving.
  • Tupperware: You are well-prepared to enlist this disaster relief item. Every opening night party, cast party, and paid-for-by-the-director pizza bash has set you up to sniff out a free food opportunity. And step right up, because the office life is full of 'em. As long as you are ok about (mostly) junk food, bring on your appetite. Commiserating with co-workers about unhealthy eating and habitual fitness voids seems to nicely complement the smorgasbord of pastries, donuts, bagels, cookies, and, of course, BIRTHDAY CAKE that are vital to your non-theatre work life place. And, best of all, most of your co-workers don't take seconds. They are too self-conscious, they get "full", or they say weird stuff like 'If I take the rest of that home, I'll just eat it.' For us theatre kids, that's exactly the point - you get to take it home and eat it. Bring your snapware, bring your ziplocks, and bring your fervor for finding something you need for FREE! 

I'm not concerned about being a theatre kid in a real-life disaster in the non-theatre workplace. I spend most of my time observing everyone and their behavior as I have done my whole life, and at my cubicle, it's no different. I am always aware of my surroundings. I have a great voice for yelling. I can navigate in the dark, I can hang in tight spaces. I have empathy and am not afraid to cry if I'm scared. I can make people laugh under stress. I can also whisper and be still. I don't hope for 'the role of a lifetime' to be in the form of a disaster at work, but my survival kit is pretty well-stocked. Plus, I can always remember what I learned in that video.