I found this fabulous article on the California Community Theatre website titled "What California Community Theatre Folks Do For Day Jobs" written by Liz Lydic. This article talks about what some artistic directors and/or producers at California based community theaters do to pay the bills. While the focus was on California community theaters, I think this article could apply to artistic and professional personnel at community theaters nationwide. The individuals that were interviewed, Leira V. Satlof from Ferndale Repertory Theatre, Gary Daigneault from Theatre 29 in Twentynine Palms, Ken Getz from Sierra Stages in Nevada City, and Gregory Cohen who works with a variety of theaters in the Southern California region, either had day jobs that were closely related to theatre or a day job that allowed them to pursue their passion for theatre.
This article was a real eye opener for me. While I have been so fortunate and blessed to be able to make a living working in the theatre industry full time, that wasn’t always the case. For many years, I was a Claims Examiner for Employers Insurance, a private workers compensation insurance carrier. At first, I kept my theatrical endeavors a secret for fear that I would be fired. But when the company found out that I had an interest in theatre, their reactions surprised me. My manager, supervisor, and several of my co-workers asked me about my experience and several even admitted that they loved going to live theatre. Our Chief Legal Officer played the song “One” from A Chorus Line at a staff meeting, and was excited to hear that I was a performer. He too had a passion for musical theatre and, even though he was not a performer, he would often attend several musical theatre events in the Reno, NV area (where the corporate office was based out of), and often listened to showtunes during his commute to work.
When I announced to my manager, supervisor, and several of my co-workers that I was performing in the local theatre company’s production of West Side Story, the response I got was overwhelming. I immediately had several co-workers ask me for tickets, and before I knew it, there was a group of 20 people from my work coming to see me in the show. My boss even offered to adjust my work schedule during tech week so that I would have an opportunity to rest before I went to rehearsal (usually, I went to rehearsal immediately after work). The Monday after my co-workers saw the show, I arrived at work to a huge bouquet of flowers with a hand written note congratulating me on a great performance. Several of my co-workers stopped by my desk to congratulate me in person and to advise me that they wanted to come back and see the show with their families. I was filled with joy. I mean, I worked in insurance, which is the polar opposite of theatre. I never thought my co-workers or the Chief Legal Officer would have any interest in theatre nor encourage me as much as they did to pursue my interest.
My boss explained the reason why the company was so supportive of my theatrical endeavors. “Pursuing outside interests can prevent burn- out since it helps to create a work/life balance,” She explained. “When employees can focus on activities outside of their job, they have an easier time leaving their job at the door when they clock out. This increases employee productivity and enables employees to have a more positive outlook on their work during the work day .”