Advice talking to our theatre director

carsonld

Active Member
Joined
Jan 26, 2013
Location
United States
Okay hoping you guys can help and give some advice on this situation. I have been the Performing Arts Center Manager at a high school for three years now. I’m 22 and in college graduating this May. I love my job. It’s amazing. I love getting to work and design these show. But I truly love running the facility. Making sure it’s being taken care of and is in tip top shape for anyone coming in. However, I am starting to get fed up and quite frankly, dread coming into work. I hate it. I even had a former student ask me why I wasn’t so excited for this really cool number in the show. And truth be told, it’s because I don’t care anymore. I don’t care if these shows look good or not. The theatre department mostly occupies the space from August to March. They do a one act, play, and a musical. The director (also a friend) hires me to be the TD for the shows. Considering the occupy the space for MOST of the school year, I expect them to clean things up. But things like:
- shop and it’s tools not getting cleaned every night
- tools being left out constantly
- sewing land not being cleaned up (and it’s in the emergency exit)
- they were painting in the auditorium on the carpet and got paint on the carpet
- they get paint all over the concrete floor in the crossover and the floor on the stage because they don’t buy paint tarps and don’t use them
- help themselves to many auditorium supplies
- this was my favorite, got paint on the damn sound board because they were using it for dance warm ups
The list can go on and on and on. I’m so fed up because I work my ass off to bring in private rentals to raise money for upgrades. I put in so much time and effort to make sure this facility looks brand new. I’m tired of them coming in and not taking care of stuff. I even helped reorganize the entire prop room and built shelf’s for the large pieces to be stored on. The room is already a mess because of the lack of supervision and accountability. Hell, I even did all the work to get her a $3,000 saw stop table saw and it’s barely taken care of. I guess my main issues are the fact the there is a lack of accountability and care when using this facility. This is not the theatre department’s. You are renting the space. I’m also tired of her not teaching this kids. Flats are constantly being built wrong and luan isn’t being squared up. I get it’s a high school, but these are common knowledge things that should be taught. But that’s one of the issues, she uses the stagecraft class as a class to build sets rather than to teach them basic stagecraft. I’m all for them building, but shouldn’t we take that first month to TRAIN them? Additionally, if you hire me as the TD why not let me actually be it? I will tell the kids one thing and she will tell them another thing. It creates confusion with the kids, things being built incorrectly, and most of the time, a little retaliation against me as it always looks like I fucked up.


Today was the day I found the paint on the carpet that was tracked through the space and was truly where I just lost it. I got to the point where I just ignored these things and was planning to talk to her all about it after musical but this just pushed me over the edge.

Is there any advice that you all might be able to offer? I think I’m going to require a little training session at the beginning of each semester where I come in and teach a small PowerPoint (2-3 days) of basic theatre terminology, rules of the pac, basic safety, etc. and a more in depth one for stage craft. And do a project that incorporates using the table saw, jig saw, chop saw, squaring items up, etc. But what should I do right now? Just bite my tongue and wait for the show to be over? Am I being over dramatic? Because this and the overwhelming stress of “what the fark am I going to do when I graduate? do I really want to be here” is starting to kick in.
Thanks for the advice y’all! I apologize for the long message and the couple of curse words. I just really had to get this out and hopefully get some advice on how to handle this situation.
 

Attachments

Van

CBMod
CB Mods
Premium Member
Joined
Jul 27, 2006
Location
Portland, Or.
Request some sit down time with her. Define the parameters of you duties, responsibilities AND Authorities. The "this is OUR space" is very prevalent in theatre/drama dept.s you need to make sure the boundaries are clearly defined and that they realize you are a servant to many not just the drama dept. If that doesn't work, put a work request in to have maintenance replace those carpet squares. When they ask why tell them. stuff will get handled from above.
 

macsound

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jun 15, 2018
Location
San Francisco, CA
I'd say definitely there needs to be ground rules created by the school and not you.
#1 - general respect of the space.
#2 - it's a school and kids should be taught and expected to learn the right way to do things which includes respecting the space.

Beyond that, there has to be some assumption that things will get messy. In reality, schools take advantage of the captive audience they have by allowing kids to work as hard and as long as they can and at the end of the day, their parent honks from the parking lot and the kid rushes out. If all the work could have gotten done within a reasonable amount of time, they could've been instructed to clean up.

Speaking from personal experience at my day job - there's not enough staff, time or space to keep our workspaces clean. There's crap everywhere. The floor looks like that everyday. The admin schedules a clean-up once a quarter for the actual junk to be cleaned out and there's a janitor that comes in every night to clean up all the fabric and pins and paint that gets everywhere. And my job isn't even producing products, it's just conceptual.

tldr;
Kids should be responsible
Kids shouldn't have to stay even longer after they've already been at school for 10 hours to clean up.
 

RonHebbard

Well-Known Member
Premium Member
Joined
Jun 12, 2004
Location
Waterdown, ON, CA
I'd say definitely there needs to be ground rules created by the school and not you.
#1 - general respect of the space.
Kids should be responsible
The garbage (and supplies) you don't drop on the floor is / are the garbage and supplies you don't need to pick up. (in a perfect world.)
Toodleoo!
Ron Hebbard
 

Ben Stiegler

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 3, 2017
Location
Sf Bay Area
The HS students I work with clean up the space after every tech session... because expectations are set from day 1, and because the auditorium is shared space. If it's not usable for their assembly or student body meeting the next day ... it affects them. Tech build time is 330 to 630pm 2 afternoons a week. Work stops around 610 so the snacks, bolts, sawdust, paint, etc can be put away, brushes washed, etc. there is always an adult teacher present for leadership and safety.

This can be accomplished in your school, too. But it may take a meeting with the principal, the drama teacher, and everyone in the program first to explain the new norms and expectations, why they are important, what the consequences are for not living up to them (you stay til it's clean, no matter if mommy is honking in the parking lot). Perhaps tools and materials that are misused simply disappear from the scene, and the teacher has to figure out how to mount the show without them. I think also mentioning how successful theaters and training programs operate with mutual respect between departments. If the students left the chem lab looking that way, there would be serious consequences. Your area is no different. make it clear that your job role does not include being the janitor.

Lastly ... a life lesson here is finding ways to speak up or seek support before you are so mad that your eyeballs become laser death rays. You are in the right here, but your intensity may get in the way of effectively communicating with school administration in a way that brings a constructive and sympathetic response.

Think how proud you will be if you effect a change here!

keep us posted. I'm pretty sure your courage will be rewarded.

ben
 

Dan Fischer

Member
Joined
Nov 6, 2015
Location
Rochester, NY
The HS students I work with clean up the space after every tech session... because expectations are set from day 1, and because the auditorium is shared space. If it's not usable for their assembly or student body meeting the next day ... it affects them. Tech build time is 330 to 630pm 2 afternoons a week. Work stops around 610 so the snacks, bolts, sawdust, paint, etc can be put away, brushes washed, etc. there is always an adult teacher present for leadership and safety.

This can be accomplished in your school, too. But it may take a meeting with the principal, the drama teacher, and everyone in the program first to explain the new norms and expectations, why they are important, what the consequences are for not living up to them (you stay til it's clean, no matter if mommy is honking in the parking lot). Perhaps tools and materials that are misused simply disappear from the scene, and the teacher has to figure out how to mount the show without them. I think also mentioning how successful theaters and training programs operate with mutual respect between departments. If the students left the chem lab looking that way, there would be serious consequences. Your area is no different. make it clear that your job role does not include being the janitor.

Lastly ... a life lesson here is finding ways to speak up or seek support before you are so mad that your eyeballs become laser death rays. You are in the right here, but your intensity may get in the way of effectively communicating with school administration in a way that brings a constructive and sympathetic response.

Think how proud you will be if you effect a change here!

keep us posted. I'm pretty sure your courage will be rewarded.

ben
+1 - this is exactly what we do on our shop days when we build. From day 1 the students expectation is that we will stop whatever we are doing 20-30 minutes prior to leaving to clean and organize. In our department we have a student hierarchy that we are very proud of. If you want to be an SM you have to put in time as run crew or ASM. If you want to mix sound you have to spend time as a sound apprentice, etc. It is amazing how seriously the students take that and the self worth it brings them. The students feel like its their space and they are proud of it and really work hard to maintain it. With that all being said it is high school and accidents do happen but the trick is not to panic and to have the student that spilled the paint or whatever help clean it up. They will learn quickly from their mistakes. If whoever was in charge simply said "no one is leaving until the space is clean" I promise you the students would learn instantly not to make it such a mess in the first place.

If speaking with the teacher doesn't help you have no choice but to get an administrator involved.
 

blueeyesdesigns

Active Member
Joined
Aug 4, 2010
Location
North/West Chicago Area
This all sounds very familiar, only of often in my case the perpetrators are "professionals" who should know better and/or are working at a level above their expertise. ("People rise to the level of their incompetence.") Lots of good suggestions already in this thread, so I will only add to emphasize that the conversations that need to happen need to happen when everyone involved has a clear head and is away from the stress of production. It's important to underscore the importance of maintenance of the tools especially, because a poorly maintained tool is a dangerous tool, and maintenance protects the investment that the school has made. It's easy to get admin types on board when you put it that way.
 

Spaz

Member
Joined
Apr 29, 2011
Location
Los Angeles, ca
my main issues are the fact the there is a lack of accountability and care when using this facility.
I dare say that's pretty common for school-spaces. It's likely that they feel that someone is around to clean up so they don't need to worry about it. Or, they're stressed and pressed for time so they don't think things through. From my space, this has meant:

* Overworked teacher having students pour/drink soda for a Prom scene -- that was fun cleaning up
* Overworked teacher leaving live plants + vase in a corner of the space -- smelled great after the weekend
* Principal dragging cinder blocks across the stage (used as supports for large flats with art on them)
* Unsupervised kids getting paint on the floor and splattering part of the cyc during the lead up to tech week

That in no way should be the actual Theatre Dept or the Tech Director, though. At least not with such frequency. That messy sewing station would have made me walk away for a few minutes, honestly.

I'll throw my hat in with the crowd suggesting a come together meeting so you can set expectations and policy going forward. What gets everyone's attention is reminding them of the cost of the theatre upkeep. Buying a new sound board because paint got into the house system and now a bunch of faders are nonfunctional? Losing tools because they weren't returned? Replacing damaged carpet or seat materials? That all adds up quickly.

The trick is to convey concern without anger or frustration. Make it seem like the conversation is cooperative and lead them to the conclusions you're thinking of.
 

Jay Ashworth

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2014
Location
St Pete FL USA
Lots of good material here (notably Ben's), but the underlying issue is that it's time for a Come to Jesus meeting, and Job One is defining "who's Jesus".

It sounds to me as with the other commenters that the problem is that if you *do* have authority to impose on the teacher(s), *they don't know it*, and they need to.

And if you don't... you need to decide if you can fix that, live with it... or leave.