Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Skill Set... not what they're looking for


I have been putting in some long hours at the theater lately. We are in tech this week for Gem of the Ocean. It's a production that has had a few bumps, there was a sick child so we lost the stage manager, sick mother, lost an actor, family death so actor missed some rehearsal. We have a new stage manager who has never done this before, our assistant stage managers are 14 year old girls, new actor learning his lines two weeks before the show, one actor still reading her lines from the book. The list goes on. The props are endless and hard to find. There was living room furniture to find, kitchen furniture, a table that has to hold a 6'2" man that has died, a cast iron wood stove-heavy! They eat, they drink, they need guns- so hard to find. But this is my wheel house, I am good at this.

Through all of it, the director keeps chanting his mantra: adapt and overcome. This phrase has stuck in my head. The kindness and understanding of the monks has stayed in my head. And so I am trying to practice these things. I have had my moments, immature and negative comments, the producer was unhappy with me for a minute because I have no filter anymore, my thoughts pour out of my mouth and my eyes before I know it.  I'm tired.

Mostly I am extremely frustrated with my situation. I LOVE doing theater. I love making art. Neither of them pay me for the hours I put in. I mean, it is beyond reason how little money I make for the labor and hard work involved. Yesterday, I went and bought collard greens, apple juice for the whiskey bottles, because the actors didn't want the tea I brought the day before, searched for a fountain pen and a proper ink well, gathered things in my house, made a penal code book, typed a letter to Solomon, made an arrest warrant. Then I went to the theater, unloaded all the props, helped paint the set, helped move wall flats, set up the prop table, set all the props, dressed the set, painted more, swept the floor, plugged in the lamps, washed out the paint brushes and rollers, organized all of that for the volunteers for today. Forgot to eat all day. Came home, drank a beer, ate some pasta and went to bed at 7:30. Tonight is dress rehearsal. More painting today, more props......

I cried a lot yesterday. If I want to make art, I have to spend money. I don't have any. If I want to work in the theater, I have to take the tiny little checks they give me and listen to Gerry complain about how hard I work and how he pays a freelancer in one day what I make for working a couple of months on a show.

The worst part is, if I even wanted to get a "real" job, I have the most unusable skill set there is for "real" work. Here is what I can do well:

I can paint a room in about a second, I can find a rubber frog and make it look real, make a corn cob pipe smoke, create old love letters, create bloody rags from gunshot wounds, find amazing period props and furniture with only $400 to spend, make fake food..... I can make things look really damn good, I can do a lot of things that no one really needs done in a 9-5 job.

I can make pretty nice pottery. I can weave. I can knit. I can make jewelry.
I can nourish a family. I can clean a house, wash clothes, garden, cook three meals a day, wash dishes, shop for groceries, write thank you notes, help mend broken hearts, listen to job woes, solve problems other than my own, help friends when they need me, help family when they need me.

So how does a woman over fifty find her way in a world that doesn't pay an artist for their worth and doesn't hire a woman based on the skills she has developed in twenty years of taking care of a family.
I was just curiously looking at job postings and there was actually a job that said, "sexy young barista wanted". Of fuck! are you kidding me? how is this still going on! I did see one job for food prep that looked interesting, I can prep food. I could work for a maid service, I can do all that. How is it, I am smart and talented but I don't qualify for one damn job posting on the internet?

So the quandry. I have either got to suck it up and bust my ass for little pay, or apply to be a food prepper. My skill set does not fit any job description I have seen out there.........


My view most nights this week, the set is coming along......

14 comments:

cookingwithgas said...

I know- we are sinking like a stone over here and trying to figure out how to apply for jobs- it sucks.

Tracey Broome said...

We should start a support group for artists over 50 looking for work, haha!
I just don't what the answer is....... Work your ass off, make a dollar or two.......

June Perry said...

So true Tracey. Men over 50 have the same problem finding good paying jobs.
Of course some women use those cleaning and/or cooking skills to make $15-$20 an hour or so to clean other peoples houses, or do custom dinner parties, etc. Some of those ladies may be making over %30,000 a year or more if they have enough clients.
Teaching pottery and custom firing pottery may bring in more money than actually making pots. It's a hard, economic world out there for artists and any one over 50.

Lori Buff said...

You could try getting a job in an art gallery...okay, never mind, at least you laughed.

handstories said...

Can I join your group? I'm singing the same song over here, some of the words are different, but it's the same story. I've spent the last two days wallowing in it.

Dennis Allen said...

Go ahead and apply to be a sexy young barista if that's what you want to do.You could charm your way into it. As far as the theater, break somebody's leg. Opening night has a way of coming together.

Dennis Allen said...

Seriously,with your design skills I would pay you for booth design and set up tips. Your stuff always looks so good.

Vicki said...

Oh Tracey! On the same wavelength here.
We mothers are professionals with exceptional skills. Sadly, without a "qualification", those skills aren't even considered.
It's the same over here, and is bullshit. Sexy young things (male and female) are always preferred in hospitality now.
I'm 51 this month, and the doors are not opening. It's so competitive, that getting to the short listed interviews is almost impossible.
I don't have "the necessary papers" or, letters after my name. And, after years of selling my art at markets and running a household, I'm no longer considered "viable" in the workplace.
They are very ageist over here.
I also spent ten years in the graphics and sign industry, but today - again - they only hire young things with big, bright ideas fresh out of school.
I spoke to an employment agent a few months ago. After our chat, her only suggestions for me were, "try applying for a spruiking job outside stores". When I let out an expletive under my breath, she looked horrified and said, "scrap that, you wouldn't be hired if you might swear".
Her other suggestion was, "a sampler - standing at the end of shop aisles and tempting people who go past with their shopping trolleys to taste and buy".
Or, "clean toilets".

Sigh.

Scott Garrett said...

Hey Tracey, that's depressing reading. Why are we not valuing these skills. What's happened to our societies? We value people who shuffle other peoples money around (do we really?) whilst ignoring these real skills that enhance peoples lives. How did it all get so fucked up, so (relatively) quickly? I'm definitely not made for these times, i just don't get how everything works and feel further adrift with each passing year (and i'm 'only' 43!!) I wish i had a wise solution for you... but Dennis has a point, you do make everything always look so good. There must be work styling things for others without the skill and eye for it.... especially in this visual digital age. The people with the pens, paper, facts and figures might not want you, but all of us with hearts and souls do x (yeah, if only we paid!)

Schnee said...

The piece of advice I can give is to network with people who do the things you do and others you meet along the way. You never know who around you might have a job available and is looking for qualified candidates and is having a hard time finding people with the right drive and skills to just get things done. LinkedIn is also a good networking tool to put yourself out there and highlight your skillsets. It's also good for reconnecting with people you have worked with or known in the past.

The economy is showing some improvement...keep at it. You could also try temp agencies to get your foot in the door somewhere and show them what you can do. The job search and finding qualified candidates is really changing these days...much of it is becoming internet based. Persistence is the key.

I am potentially losing my job due to a merger and I have been exploring my network connections and searching company websites careers pages for jobs listed. I'm not over 50 yet, but in my 40s. My field is shrinking due to company mergers and consolidation, so I am looking for the next job to be something that can crossover into another field. Good Luck!

Laura Farrow said...

I'm clinging to my job with both fists! so appreciative to have it. I empathize with your dilemma! xo

littlemancat said...

Wish I had some way to help or ideas to give, but I'm at a loss. It's so bad when creative and thoughtful people like you have to work so hard for so little. Yep, our sport loving, money making society - sometimes you have to wonder...
Sending you a hug, and remember the lessons from your monk sons-
how are they? Heard anything from them lately?
Mary

Shannon said...

Hey Tracey,just cruising through enjoying the rich photographs, lovely singing and catching up on your life. Congrats to Wesley and congrats to you and Gerry for a child well done. xo

Sandy miller said...

OMG! I cannot believe you wrote this! I am on the skids......... ok we have got to do something about this. I said out loud this week ...... my sanity is directly dependent on my bank account. When a check comes in I am having a good day. We all have skills, now what the hell do we do with them? I have not posted for a couple days because I am not in a state to post anything!

Honestly we should meet up somewhere and try to figure this crap out! Our numbers are large!