Sometimes things take a quick turn, sometimes for the worse. I’ve been in the business long enough to gauge what is working and what will likely run off the rails. Sometimes you just have to take the money and run. And sometimes you just have to run.
No names will be provided, in order to protect both the innocent and the not-so-innocent.
While I was on the ship, a dear friend set me up with the position of accompanying compacted Broadway shows at a summer camp. It sounded like a great gig, the hours and money were right. Upon arrival, I had some doubts. My job – depending who you asked during Week One – was music director, accompanist, accompanist-coach, or piano player. Not a good sign, but the rate was right. While I was booked for 30 hours per week, I would only be needed 15 the first week – however, voice lessons were added, which I accompanied. OK. An effort was being made.
Preparing for a one-and-done performance of one show each week, with two shows concurrently rehearsing – that’s quite a bit of preparation, but that’s what I do. Come to find out, the audience was the camp – closed to the public, Saturday evening, entertainment.
I never received music for the first two shows, only a script. OK. Find my scores, make my cuts based on the script. Unusual, but OK. It’s what I do.
The next red flag was sound reinforcement. The board was brand spankin’ new. With a feedback suppressor on it. Hmmmm, not a great sign, but OK – maybe an insurance policy for the board operator. Then I saw the microphones. Four cardioids placed on mic stands on the floor, about armpit high to the actors – a fifth hung from the rafters in desperation. For those not familiar with microphones, these pick up sound that’s directly in front of them. Period. Whoa. I made inquiry about boundary (super-sensitive, on the floor, pick up everything) mics and lavalier (attached to face with body pack transmitter) mics. The facility had lavaliers, but not enough for everyone, so they were staying brand spankin’ new. I received a sound reinforcement lecture that was, politely, somewhere between suspect but closer to bogus.
Huh? Don’t mic the principals and pray that they are blocked in front of a cardioid mic? Here’s a top-of-the-line board…and this? It’s like having Lake Michigan but the infrastructure of Flint and wondering what’s wrong with the water.
The (ahem) vintage keyboard had built-in speakers and was being run through house sound during the performance, No monitors for the actors.
The rest of the facility had top-of-the-line athletic equipment, well-manicured playing fields and grounds. This just didn’t compute.
I steered the first two weekly shows without incident. Not high production value, but the actors did well and the shows were very well received.
Show three the same. Except there were changes in the schedule. That no one told me about until the last minute. This whole gig was cavalier, at best. There would be a Friday evening performance and a Saturday matinee for parents. OK.
What wasn’t OK was that my mother had been taken to the hospital on Friday with a brain hemorrhage. I saw the CT scan on Saturday morning. It was obvious that she wasn’t going to make it, losing consciousness by mid-morning. I alerted the powers-that-be that I would need preferred parking and would be making a hasty exit. All good on their end.
She slipped away on my days off and passed. (I still can’t believe it. That’s another story, not for this blog.) I alerted the director that I would accompany the next day, but would be physically unable to coach.
Of course, I arrived and was told to coach. I was dumbfounded. Second hour, I had to coach a song about becoming an orphan. On the fourth take, I threw up the white flag and requested a break. On my return, I was told by the director that a song in the second act always made her cry, so it was cut – she knew how I felt.
Let’s just compare apples to asteroids. I was not a happy camper. And I was told by the camp director to go home at lunchtime, as obviously I wasn’t ready to return….
Really? No good deed goes unpunished.
So, I thought about it for 15 minutes on the drive home. I pulled over to resign, but no one was available to take my call. So I gave it two days and finally spoke with a camp director – who blamed me. (Welcome to Crazy Town.) So I said that I couldn’t be 100 per cent, send me my check, and thank you. (Fingers crossed for the check.)
My point? Always trust your intuition. While this would have been a great annual summer gig, it needed to actually be…great. As I continue to live without the safety net of a “regular” job, I have learned that you have to be true to yourself. Don’t ever put yourself in a position where you will be judged negatively by the company that you keep. Don’t allow yourself to be demeaned. And don’t ever work for less (those jobs always require more work, just the inverse).
This gig helped with finances (leaving two weeks early did not, but it was necessary). It was a stop-gap measure. You can only try to stretch a single into triple for a very short time, with predictable results.
Don’t compromise your talent, people. Be highly employable. As performers, we are judged by the company that we keep. I am so fortunate to work with so many talented, wonderful, gracious people.
This was the summer gig with an asterisk. <SMH>