1. Fess up - if you could do anything professionally what would it be?My dream job is to start my own theater production company, with a focus on creating advanced technology for the theater. This company would both consult for other theater companies' productions (doing things like designing and implementing the technological aspects of productions) and allow us to produce some of our own work. We'd likely also create some interactive installations, as well as performances. As part of this work, I'd be not only writing software and developing hardware for performance contexts, but also doing theatrical design, running a theater company, and even choreographing some of my own pieces.
2. What draws you to this?
- This sort of job would combine so many of the things I love to do, and challenge all of my abilities. (In a way, this is like the work I am doing right now.) I can be creative, scientific, analytical, intuitive, imaginative, logical...I solve problems in many different domains. I've always been a jack-of-many-trades, and would love to have work that challenges me on so many levels.
- In everything I do (both technical and artistic), one of my favorite aspects is progressing from the hint of an idea to something actualized, made into a reality. For an example, my process of costume design progresses from initial ideas (perhaps images that echo the desired tone of the costumes and characters), to sketches and plans, to actual, physical pieces that come into being onstage. The same is true for choreographing a dance, writing a piece of software, etc. You start with a vision, and then you get to make it into something that actually exists.
- For me, the performing arts have a strong sense of community and collaboration. I saw a piece last semester by the director Peter Brook. The three actors in the piece had been working with Brook for years -- one of them since the 1970's. I think it would be AMAZINGLY awesome to have creative collaborations for over 40 years with someone you enjoy working with!
- Along those lines, it'd be amazing to have a lot of freedom over the people I work with and the projects I work on.
- I can be a bit obsessive with work. I sometimes find the idea attractive of working at a "job" 9-5 and then having the rest of the day to drop that and do whatever else I want. But really, I'd rather work that I eat, sleep, breathe. The work that is consuming and compelling, that fills my head with visions as I'm going to bed and new ideas when I wake up. That periodically becomes my life for stretches of time. (Granted, I do want other things in my life along with work (family, friends, and whatnot), so there will have to be some kind of balance...)
- And frankly, I love the theater. I love the creation of worlds, the development of new realities and experiences. The telling of stories, the possibility to really affect people and make them see their world in a new way. I want to be part of the theater's magic-making.
3. When did you first start dreaming about this ideal?
I started having this particular vision fairly soon after I started grad school three years ago and realized that I really could combine a lot of the things that I'm interested in. I wouldn't have to choose between my more analytical/logical/"intellectual" interests and my creative passions. I'd done some work in undergrad that started heading in the direction of merging my technical and artistic interests, but when I was applying to grad school I though the theater part of things wasn't necessary, that maybe I could leave it behind. Fortunately, thanks to the research group I ended up joining, my research has been brought squarely back to the theater. I'm surprised that I ever thought I could have left it. Others in my research group have also talked about the possibility of developing a performance company together after we graduate, so I may have a team to do this with.
Me calibrating a giant musical instrument/set piece from my group's latest opera. I didn't design the set piece, but I did do the interaction design...
4. What's holding you back from going all in?Well, something that's not quite "holding me back" but is certainly limiting me is that I'm still in grad school. While my studies are hopefully preparing me for, I'm not at the point yet where I am free to start my own company (literally, my research assistant contract includes lines about how I am not allowed to have any other jobs either paid or unpaid).
Additionally, I know I'm definitely going to work through my own fears about trying to make money in the arts. As Veshoevius says in her post today on why flamenco will never be her day job, there's certainly the "fear of starvation." I'm terrified of having to support myself one project at a time...that I won't be good enough to make a living, that one really can't make a living in the arts, that no matter how hard I work it won't be enough. I hope it will be easier because I'll be coming in as someone who is also very skilled technically, and therefore in a more rarefied field (I've seen how much our group has paid some of the companies like this that we've work with!)...but I don't know. Being responsible for my own company will be a huge risk, and I'm sure plenty of times I'll be tempted to just get a regular 9-5ish job that gives me a regular salary and benefits and a steady stream of work. Who knows, I may also want to have one of these for a while as I get my feet on the ground.
5. Sometimes the first step is the hardest... what's one step you can take now on the way to realizing your dream?Realistically, I think I'm in a very good place right now in terms of progressing toward this dream. I need to make sure I take advantage of the next three years of my graduate program to do more fascinating, fun research that makes other people excited about what I can do and want to hire me for projects/work with me. I need to continue making contacts in various theater companies, getting my name and abilities out there. I should try to set up collaborations with choreographers/designers/performance-makers that I really admire, while I'm still in school and have the name of the school supporting me. I also need to progress on getting that Ph.D. Probably, that means I should finish up this post and get back to the book I'm reading about performance theory as I prepare for my general exams...
An installation that I'd done with a colleague: 400 vellum butterflies suspended above a hallway on campus.
What about you? What are your career dreams?