The School of Hard Knocks Reunion

There’s a viral meme floating around the theatrenet asking us to speak about some lessons we’ve been taught the hard way, and then to pass it on to three others. This is a fine and worthy exercise, as those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, so I will proudly throw my hat in the ring. For my local readers, it’s worth your time to track back through the links to read what the rest of the crew has to say about this, starting with the two guys who tagged me (double-teamed, thanks guys); Tony and Ian over at Scott’s site. Ahem…

1. Just because people find your battle cry inspirational, it doesn’t mean they’ll follow you over the hill. – I tried and tried and tried for years to get a tribe together. Spent hundreds of hours and dollars on drinks preaching the gospel of DIY theatre, setting up readings and scene study groups, decrying the dearth of good indie theatre in Vancouver. There are so many talkers and so few doers out there, especially with something that takes so much work with such small financial remuneration, that finding the tribe to begin with is a wearying exercise in tenacity. But finally, inevitably, someone listened to my sermon and said “great, sounds good. How’s tomorrow to get this started?” The snowball’s been rolling ever since.

2. Other’s ideas on your work just might be better than yours. – This was a hard pill to swallow when I first started working in true collaboration with other artists on my originals. As a young playwright you tend to hold on to every word and plot device like it was your preciousesss, and every minor criticism or “that doesn’t really make sense right here” comment landed like a personal insult. Fortunately I worked with very smart and talented people with sound instincts, and they helped me to realize how useless ego is in pursuit of the true story. Now I can honestly say not one word I write is unchangeably precious. It also helped that we could fight with each other-really fight-without it affecting our relationships outside of the room. That’s the tricky part.

3. The Stage Manager never pays for drinks. – On the load-in day for our very first production we showed up early at our rented theatre with everything loaded into a one-ton U-Haul, except a stage manager. To this day I have no idea what we thought we were going to do about that little element-we were learning on the job-but to my eternal gratitude my business partner at the time stepped up to the plate and ran the entire run. Ever since then I have considered the SM the most important person in the room. As a bonus, it was around then that I realized that there is no problem without a solution in the world of the theatre, and I have been a much more relaxed person ever since.

Psst…pass it on. Adam, because he loves jumping into a fray, Mike, because his is my wife’s new favourite theatre blog, and Heather, ’cause she’s just cool.


  1. Glad to hear I’m someone’s favorite theater blog. I accept the tag, and will get up a “lessons learned” post on ecoTheater as soon as I can (what with a load-in coming up on Monday, I’m a bit fried at the moment).

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