No Rest For The Wicked

(…and I’m not talking about our green friend over at the Gershwin!)

January 2 - March 10:

  • 67 Days

  • 3 Days Off, working 7 Days/Week

  • 2 Shows as Musical Director (Bring It On, Legally Blonde) and starting a Third (Rent)

  • 5 Casts (Bring It On) over 2 weekends

  • 70+ Cast Members (Legally Blonde)

  • 33 Weekly Voice Lessons and 3 Classes (regular work schedule)

  • I Repeat - 3 Days Off

March 11 - April 14:

  • 34 Days

  • 5 Days Off, working 6 Days/Week

  • 1 Show as Musical Director (Rent)

  • 2 Casts over 1 weekend

  • 33 Weekly Voice Lessons and 3 Classes (still)

  • I Repeat - 5 Days Off

For those of you playing at home, that means in the first 101 days of 2019, I am scheduled to work for 93 of them with a total of 8 off days.

We need to discuss work and overwork in the artistic world.

File Jan 18, 11 23 03 AM.jpeg

Oh Boy, Here It Comes…

But Michael…

You chose this!”

At least it’s in your field!”

You’re doing what you love, so it can’t feel like work!”

Actually, it can. And it does. Because it is.

These are the types of responses I get from people when I talk about my winter/spring schedule each year. And let’s be clear, I don’t talk about this often. I’m not the type of person who goes around telling everyone how busy I am and how overworked I feel (not that there is anything wrong with that - you do what you need to!). Instead, these are the types of conversations that arise when people say/ask:

You look tired. Why?”

I haven’t heard from you lately! What’s up?”

You don’t seem as energized as normal.”

I’ve noticed you’ve been drinking more coffee lately.”


Now, I will not go into detail about how there is a right way and a wrong way to approach someone who seems run down without insulting them or condescension, particularly in public settings - though there certainly is and you should check out the best ways to be polite! (Science of People has some great tips) But more importantly, I would like to emphasize that the conversations about my crazy schedule (and it is crazy) come from other people noticing a physical and emotional change in me during this period of time.

Is this okay? Should this happen? Is this normal?


“Then Why Do You Do It?”

Let’s begin with the Why.

As much as I enjoy Musical Directing passionate young people, this schedule of overwork is not something I would choose if it weren’t a necessity for me. Ultimately, what does it come down to? Like most everything in life: money.

My regular work schedule at the studio (5 Days/Week, 30-35 Voice Lessons, & 3 Classes) is great for most of the year, but we are an educational institution and therefore adhere to a school calendar schedule. Unlike universities, schools, and other like institutions, my work is freelance. So when our studio is closed due to Holidays, Long Breaks, Snow Days, and Summer, I am off of work without pay. Most of these breaks hit during the winter and springtime, which is why I have signed on for extra work opportunities based on my skill sets (Musical Direction) to supplement my income. To afford living where I live. To afford keeping my survival job.

It’s not a great set up in terms of schedule, but it’s what I have to work with.

(For those unfamiliar with the standard NYS School Schedule, we are off for 1-2 weeks for the Holiday Season through New Years, then have a week-long break in mid-February, and another week-long break in April. It’s a lot of unpaid time off.)


“Then Why Keep This Job?”

Excellent question!

As I spoke about in a couple of my earlier posts, one of the best parts about this job is that it provides me with the time to write. Writing and Performing are my career, while Teaching and Musical Directing are my job.

In other words, without a job like the one I currently have, my career would not be moving forward. How do I know that? Because I’ve had other job set ups in the past and - for me (though everyone is different) - I was unable to create time and move my career work forward under other job circumstances.

Would it be better if I could handle the hours that come with tending bar, make a lot more money, and still have the time, energy, and motivation to write? Perhaps. Though I assume that would come with its own set of challenges.

I also haven’t even mentioned yet that in all of my lack of time in these first 101 days, I’m still working on my career. 8 days off total, but that cannot halt professional progress! Add that into the mix of number above and a picture of overwork starts to appear pretty clearly.


“This Isn’t Unique To You Though, So Why Are You Complaining?”

Ah, now here we get to the crux of it.

This is extremely true. This is not unique to me. Most of the artist friends I have and people I know are in very similar situations, whether that be during one part of the year or full year-round.

  • Actors serving late into the evening then waking up a few hours later to pound the pavement of audition season.

  • Writers blessed with a production during which they have to take large amounts of time off from their day job and are insanely busy - until it’s over that is. Then the artistic high dissipates and they return to work where they’re being given less responsibility or fewer hours due to “unreliability.”

  • Tech staff working an around-the-clock summerstock season followed by a 6-month period of only weekend concert gigs that don’t pay enough to afford rent.

And on it goes. We exhaust ourselves and justify it by saying that when we get those opportunities to do the work we want to and love to do, it’s all worth it.

But is it okay that living the artistic life means you must overwork in order to survive financially?

Personally, I don’t think so. But we’re also not the only profession at this time.

Teachers are notoriously underpaid. Commercial retail is underpaid. Even in this shutdown it has come to light just how many government workers who have excellent benefits live paycheck to paycheck. This list goes on and on. Why is this okay?


“What Do You Do Then?”

One of the moms of a voice student of mine gave me a lovely gift for the holidays: a bottle of absolutely delicious whiskey. To make the gift even better, she said:

I know your busy time is coming up, so I thought you might need this.”

She totally gets me! :-D

Now, I’m soooooo not condoning using alcohol as a coping solution, to be clear! In fact, the reason I’m so partial to bourbon during the winter (as I’ve discussed with her) is because with all of the teaching and dry air I tend to have a scratchy throat, which bourbon actually helps with. Huzzah!

There are many ways to handle a busy season, crazy schedule time, or overall overwork, but the best I can say is to do what is right for you. Is that naps? Great! Is that self-care at the salon or in front of Netflix or playing board games with friends or out at the bar or snuggling with a loved one? All excellent! Or even if it’s engaging in social dialogue and protesting the unfair conditions of our unbalanced capitalist system, then I so support you.

No matter what, please know that you are not alone. And most importantly, take care of yourself.