The Glamorous Life

It’s 11:17 pm on Thursday night and I’ve just gotten home from work.

My day began at 10:30 this morning with a two-hour paper tech for a show I’m directing.  That was followed by two different music coaching sessions, and the day finally wrapped up with a performance of the show that I’m music directing.  It’s a life in the theatre.  Meetings on stage to discuss lighting cues while the floor around you is being painted.  Playing scales, introducing repertoire, and preparing students for recitals and performances.  Costumes, makeup, and rock ‘n roll.  There is no doubt that this kind of life is invigorating.  We’re making art here!  I am so fortunate to work in a field where creativity is encouraged.  I spend my days making something out of nothing – “a hat where there never was a hat.”

People who aren’t in this business seem to think that what I do is rather glamorous.  When I tell people about the projects I’m working on, they usually respond by describing it as “fun” or “sexy” or “exciting.”  And, at its best moments, it is definitely all of those things.  In the best moments, the work isn’t “work” at all, but is play.  When the stakes are high and the on stage connections are honest, it can certainly be sexy.  And when my students remember their blocking without being prompted, it is very exciting!  It is difficult to tell people who look at what I do as something that is sheathed in mystery and vigor that, some days, it’s just a job like any other.

In today’s 12 hour work day, I traveled approximately 51 miles (Oakland, to Berkeley, back to Oakland, to Albany, to San Francisco, and finally, back to Oakland).  I ate lunch, standing at the counter in my kitchen during a ten-minute interlude in the action.  I sat in Routetraffic for 40 minutes on my way to San Francisco.  Once in San Francisco, my walk from the car to the theatre consisted of passing a screaming man on the sidewalk, witnessing a fight, and nearly stepping in poop (human or animal – we’re not sure).  I scarfed down some soup for dinner, warmed up the cast and the band, got into costume, and played rock music on a horribly out-of-tune piano that is making my tendinitis worse every day.

My guess is that I netted about $120 for the day.

Audra McDonald released a new CD this week, and she finally recorded one of my favorite songs – “The Glamorous Life” from Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.  One of the lines keeps resonating with me:

What if her broach is only glass?
And her costumes unravel?
What if her coach is second class?
She at least gets to travel.

Some days are not glamorous.  Some days are very challenging.  This is a field where great work is expected at all times, but there is very little monetary payoff.  I have this feeling that an intense 12-hour work day is a bit easier to swallow when it’s accompanied by a 6-figure salary.  So, why keep living like this?  Why not pack it in and go work in finance?  Well, it’s hard to explain, but I think it has something to do with magic.  It’s because even on the hard days when all I have are questions, the answers something always comes to me in music.  So, here’s today’s answer:

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About rachelrobinsonmusic

Rachel Robinson is a teaching artist, director, music director and performer based in San Francisco. She is a graduate of New York University’s Steinhardt School, and holds a degree in Vocal Performance. In addition to her work as a singer/actress, Rachel maintains a very busy schedule directing, music directing, and teaching. Rachel grew up in the Washington, D.C. area where she became an active performer at a very early age. She appeared many times with The Washington Opera, and she also played roles at the Adventure Theatre and with the Washington Savoyards. In 2003, Rachel moved to New York City to begin her degree at New York University. During the next four years Rachel appeared in many cabarets and productions, both at NYU and in the city. After graduating in May 2007, Rachel became the resident Music Director at Stage Left Children’s Theater in Tappan, NY. She was in residence there for three seasons. At the same time, she founded a private voice and piano studio. In September 2010, Rachel relocated to San Francisco. She began working as a music instructor at ViBO Music, Village Music School, and the San Francisco Friends School. She also was brought on as a music director at the Willows Theatre Company. In 2011-2012, Rachel spent a year as the Conservatory Director at the Willows, where she worked on developing opportunities for youth and up-and-coming theatre artists. No matter what level of student she is working with, Rachel believes in finding the student's "natural voice." Playing any instrument is a process, not an event, and her goal is to make that process as fun, productive, and insightful as possible.
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One Response to The Glamorous Life

  1. Kelvin Doo says:

    You hit it right on the head, it’s not work, it’s play. I feel your pain and share your joy. Why do we keep doing this? It’s like Deborah Del Mastro once said, “You don’t choose theatre. Theatre chooses you.” We do it because the art we produce compels us to keep doing it, and it’s fun! I’ll take a 12 hour day of tech over an 8 hour day of angry passengers who’s luggage has been “misdirected” any day.

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