How to fit in really good with Theatre people
Thrift stores are a very important aspect of the theatre person’s life. Aside from the fact that all of the clothes and materials in the store are low priced, most of the crap in these stores is really out dated. In the theatre world, out-dated means vintage. And nothing is more status-worthy than vintage 1980s Nintendo T-shirts. The thrift store is hours of entertainment because one must sift through every single piece of coal in the store in order to find the diamond that is certainly there. And there is always a diamond. Purchases I’ve seen in the years 2005-2008:
A paper thin Turbo Graphix 16 shirt
A leather vest lined with fur
A full length faux fur coat
A pair of jeans with Tupac’s face airbrushed on them
A book of riddles from 1890
A pair of skis from 1970
A burgundy polyester tuxedo circa 1970
Now, all thrift store purchases are not just for vintage clothing and the bragging rights that come with them. No no no, the thrift store is a resource for something much more important. Props. It’s the first stop on the props journey. Furthermore, most theatre people think it should be the only stop and if they can’t find what they are looking for in the thrift store, they will complain heavily about having to pay retail for it. Everyone knows that thrift stores should always keep a Hitler Heiling Pigeon or a Sweeney Todd barber chair in stock.
In order to impress a theatre person, the best conversation starter in the world is:
“Oh my god, did I tell you what I found at Goodwill/Salvation Army/Arc yesterday!”
Trust me, they’ll bite. If not to hear what bargains you found, then to brag about theirs.
Theatre people love free stuff. I know, I know, one could argue that everyone loves free stuff. But no one loves free stuff like theatre people love free stuff. Here’s an example: One day in Colorado Springs, the burrito restaurant Chipotle was giving out free burritos in exchange for canned goods. The line was across the parking lot and around the building, but I stood in it. While I was in line, I called everyone that I knew and told them about the free burritos. By the time I got to the front of the line, several of my friends from around town had stopped what they were doing to come and join me. After we got our free burritos, we then proceeded to go to another Chipotle in town and wait in their line for another ninety minutes. That way we had a burrito for later. All of this line waiting, made us late for rehearsal that night. However, it was not a big deal because when we got to rehearsal, we just told the stage manager that there were free burritos at Chipotle and she was very understanding.
Why do theatre people love free stuff? Because they work for peanuts. Theatre is a job that does not pay anyone what they are worth. So if you work for 3 months on a show and you only make $500 the entire time, of course you’re gonna want what ever you can get for free.
Also, there is an unspoken free stuff contest going on among all theatre people. It is the height of awesome to brag about all of the free and ridiculously cheap stuff you got in the past week. That’s why theatre people love thrift stores.
A theatre person will pack his schedule to the very limit. The theatre day starts at 10:00am and ends at roughly 1:00am. During that time a typical theatre person will have at least 20 things to do and that includes rehearsal for at least two plays. If you find a theatre person with a free hour during the day, it’s probably because they haven’t found any way to use that hour on some kind of show or errand.
The whole point of this packed schedule is so that they can complain to their friends about how busy they are. If you don’t believe me, just find a theatre person a week after the show opens and they no longer have rehearsals, or shop hours or vocal appointments. They will be miserably bored and then they will complain about how there’s nothing to do.
In order to gain favor with the theatre person, you must give them the opportunity to complain. There are a couple of questions that you can ask to open up this can of worms:
1. How’s the show going? –This simple question will give them the chance to bitch about their co-stars, the director, the stage manager, the costumes, or anything else pertaining to the show.
2. Do you wanna have lunch? –This will give them the chance to say, “I really shouldn’t, I have so much that I need to get done. I guess I can take a half hour out to get a bite to eat.” After which they will go to a restaurant and spend two hours with you complaining about all of the stuff they should be doing.
3. How do you stay sane? — This is one of the greatest, because it includes the element of admiration that theatre people are so fond of. It lets them know that you already recognize how amazing they are to deal with the hectic schedule they’ve created for themselves, and it lets them basque in your praise. If you compliment them on how well they can do everything they complain about you’re golden.
Under no circumstances should you ever say, “Maybe you should cut back on some of your obligations.” That translates directly to “It’s your own fault that you have so much to do. Blame yourself.”
Nobody wants to hear that.
Theatre people are lost and lonely without their friends. For this reason it is important to include all of their friends in every conversation. This is achieved by standing in a circle. This way if anyone new comes up, they can just join in and become a part of the conversation.
While in these circles, it is imperative to talk about what you’re about to do. Whether everyone is about to go to a party or restaurant or everyone is about to go home and go to bed, there is no substitute for this Hamlet-esque situation. Instead of just going to the cast party that is going on that night after the show, theatre people must stand there and talk about going to that party. It doesn’t matter that these are the same people they have seen and talked to every single day for the past six weeks.
Anyone is welcome to join the circle, so if you want to garner favor with theatre people, by all means make yourself part of the circle. But do not, under any circumstances, ask why everyone is just standing around in a circle. This will identify you as an outsider.
A note for ametuers, do not assume that just because the circle breaks up it’s time to go. Oftentimes, it’s simply that someone forgot their cell phone in the dressing room or there is a new thrift shop find in someone’s car. Chances are that the circle will reconvene right outside the theatre doors. There may be up to five different circle conventions in one night, after one show, all involving the same people.
Then they’ll all go to the same place and sit in a circle.
Theatre people hate being American. They will emphasize any heritage that they can to dimish their own American-ness. Even more, they hate corporate America because it’s built on a system that does not automatically reward anyone who doesn’t want to get a real job and decides to just do plays for the rest of their life. Now at this statement, tons of theatre people will pipe up and vehemently scream “hey [acting, designing, stage managing, etc] is a real job.”
Theatre people don’t hate ALL things American, just anything that’s too American. If you want to discuss something American with a theatre person, stick with topics they like.
Here are some acceptable American things:
Playwrights (Tennessee Williams, Oscar Wilde- Irish but somehow still American)
New York — the American metropolis that is mostly influenced by other countries
Topics to avoid:
Wal-Mart — good lord, don’t mention Wal-Mart around a theatre person unless you’ve got time for a lecture
Brand Name Sneakers (Nike, Adidas, though not created in America, they’ve become mainstream)
When trying to have a conversation with theatre people, it’s best to just stick to things from other countries.
A true theatre person will always spell theatre with an “re” instead of an “er”. This allows him to identify any other true theatre person and separate themselves from imposters. If you ask a theatre person the difference they will be only too happy to tell you that “theater” is a building, while “theatre” is an artistic genre.
Furthermore, using the word theatre allows theatre people to be constantly reminded that theatre comes from Europe. This is very important because it is required in the theatre person’s handbook that they hate all things American.