Quick aside: This post is less about playwriting and more about my life, in general. So if you come to this blog specifically for playwriting tidbits, skip this one.
In 2015, after attending a conference, I was offered a teaching job out of state. It was an adjunct position and I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to survive on an adjunct salary. So I turned it down and became an adjunct in Northwest Arkansas instead. So same salary, really. Oh, also, I didn’t apply for this job. It was just offered to me.
In 2016, I started applying for other jobs because an adjunct salary wasn’t enough. I applied to be a lit assistant at a theatre company I really loved. I got the job. But moving freaked me out. I took a job at a community arts center instead here in Northwest Arkansas.
In 2017, while on the phone with a different theatre company, I mentioned that I had worked as a SM before I was a playwright. Turns out, they were looking for a stage manager for one of their upcoming shows. They offered me the position. But since it was just one show and out of state, I turned it down. Later that year, after my boss threw a desk in frustration (not the boss who hired me, a new one) I put in two-weeks at the community theatre and interviewed for a position at social justice community-based theatre.
In 2018, I applied for a job to be a company manager at a different theatre company. I got the job. I turned it down because leaving Josh was too heavy and my job at the social justice company wasn’t that bad, yet. I told myself it wasn’t enough money to blow my life up. Later that year, I applied to a different job after a series of events that showed me the type of people attracted most to community-based social justice work aren’t always in it for the right reasons. I got a different job at major presenting house, still in town.
In 2019, oh boy. Well, first pretty much as soon as the new year came in, I was offered a job to be a contract AD at the community theatre I left in 2017. It was in town and seemed like a dream come true. It was finally a way to stay! I could do the kind of work I am most passionate about. Finally, a good turn. So I quit the commercial presenting theatre and decided to be a playwright and AD.
Well. In spring of 2019, a company offered me a job to do community outreach (again, a job I didn’t apply for). I was already working with the community and it would’ve been an amazing job. Literally, simultaneously, the ED of the community theatre told me we couldn’t program The Christians by Lucas Hnath because the title was….racist. Yup. You read that right. He asked me if we could change the title. If I, a playwright, would be comfortable changing the title of another playwright’s play. What. The. Fuck.
I convinced myself I had to turn down the community outreach job because I was meant to fight the good fight at this small community theatre. Literally, two months later, I was urged to quit and told that if I didn’t quit, I’d be fired.
Later in 2019, literally early December 2019, I was offered a job at the University of Wisconsin, Madison as an Associate Artist, with the working title of Production Coordinator. And I had 48 hours to decide if I was going to take it.
I went into a full on panic. Is it my dream job? No. But could I really turn down another job? For what? I had already turned down five jobs to stay in Arkansas and to fight the good fight. To fight the gatekeepers and actually try to make something really special happen here.
And it was a fight I was losing.
How is it that I had three job offers out of state without ever applying while simultaneously barely making a living here in Arkansas?
Many of the jobs I’ve had here made me feel like I needed to list my qualifications because they made me feel like I wasn’t worth anything. So, here we go again. I’m only 30 years old. I have an undergraduate degree from University of Notre Dame and a MFA from University of Arkansas. I have taught on the collegiate level and I’ve worked in pretty much every kind of theatre there is. I’ve acted, directed, designed, programmed. I’ve been a company manager, production manager, stage manager. I’m a playwright whose national profile just keeps growing and yet…
When I said all this to my boss, two bosses ago, (a man who had ZERO experience working in the arts but somehow was now the ED of an arts center), he said “No one cares.”
It was one of the worst days of 2019 for me. Here I was, trying to convince myself I needed to stay in Arkansas, that this was the next best choice. And all I got back was “No one cares.”
I thought about all of this while I stared at the window at my current job, trying to decide if I would take the Madison job.
People don’t like to talk about money and I get why but I also think it’s important to say since entering the “workforce” in Arkansas, I have not been paid more than $34k/year. Not once. If it wasn’t for playwriting kicking off (thank God) and for Josh making more money, I literally would not have been able to afford to live here.
“No one cares.”
If no one cares, why am I staying up at night? Passing out after going out with friends? Why am I not eating? Why am I struggling to make this decision? It’s obvious, isn’t it?
I have to say that my current job has been the best job I’ve had in the region. I think it’s why the decision caused me to have multiple panic attacks. I love my co-workers. I love working with artists. The people there are brilliant and when the building opens, it’s going to be the coolest place in Northwest Arkansas. And that’s why this decision was so hard because I finally had a job where I wasn’t worried my boss would yell at me, call me an entitled brat, just for asking who the programming was for (actually happened).
At a certain point, I had to face myself. I’m not from Arkansas. My family is a hundred miles away. Why am I sacrificing everything to stay here for “No one cares”?
I was shaking when I accepted the new job offer. I was shaking when I wrote my resignation letter.
When I told one of my friends that I was going to take the Madison job, she said “You used to be the bravest person I know. I’m glad you’re rediscovering yourself.”
And honestly, I love the midwest. I love Chicago and Minneapolis. And I love Madison. I grew up in LA but I’m a Midwest girl. I’ve always known this. And if it turns out that this is the biggest mistake of my life, it’s a mistake I absolutely have to make.
Besides, this news can’t be that surprising. I warned y’all. I’m just trying to do the next right thing.
*PS Arkansas is not the midwest. The culture is sooo southern. Y’all are literally in the Bible belt. It’s the south.