“Little Bloody Smudges”: a.k.a. Why I’ve Gone M.I.A.

First off, I would like to apologize to anyone who may have been upset by my recent hiatus from blog posting. A lot of things have happened this semester, and I struggled to balance my responsibilities in real-life with my responsibility to you all here in the cyber universe. I promise, though, that I did not go M.I.A. for any insignificant reasons. In fact, if you want to see one of those reasons, you can.

 For six weeks, I’ve been working with The Rosalba Creations Group (RCG) to produce a play that I wrote over the summer: Little Bloody Smudges. It was a daunting task. It isn’t easy to produce art events on campus, let alone a play. We had limited resources, and we were a fresh new organization on campus that no one really knew. As result, it took a lot of time and energy to finally bring this show together.

There are a few things I learned from trying to put together a play from scratch on campus. I don’t know if anyone among my audience is thinking about doing a similar project (if so, you should definitely contact RCG) but, even if you aren’t, I still think that it is interesting to see all the facets that compose such an endeavor. Starting off my top 3 lessons from trying to produce my own play, here is my number one…

  1. You’re going to need people. Lots of people. More people than you expect. 

    I think anyone who tries to accomplish something as a big a full-length production expects that they will need at least a team of people. You can’t do it on your own; even if you have the knowledge base, you only have so many hours during the day and so little energy.

    What you don’t expect is the sheer massive number of people you need. For a play, you need people on the production team–handling marketing, finances, reviewing local policies, creating schedules, etc. Then you need your artistic team–your director, your stage manager, your set designer, your lighting designer, your sound designer, your photographer, and so much more. Then you need the people who are actually in the play–the actors, the ensemble, (in our case) the dancers, and da dada da da. Then you need people to manage the stage space–your ticket collectors and program distributors and box office managers–and people to advocate for you at funding hearings and in the offices of various representatives from your venue and supporting organizations. Finally, you need people–hundreds of people–who are not involved in the play whatsoever to care enough about it to sit in the theater, pay money, and watch your show.

    It’s very intimidating when you start a production and realize you did not recruit enough people to handle all these different elements in the show. It’s anxiety-inducing, because you know that for any position you overlook it means you will need to tack on more work on yourself and others who are supporting you. Your production may even flop because of it. I don’t recommend that you try to recruit everyone before even beginning on your production. You can’t do it. You’re bound to forget or underestimate something.  However, I do recommend that you keep looking for people as you go along. Sometimes, seeing the production come together inspires others to jump in and help. So long as you keep talking about what you’re doing to others and keep making them aware that there are opportunities for them to get involved, your network of connections will help you fill in those missing positions. Start off with the essentials; then work from there.

  2. Expect to hate everything until the night of the actual show. Expect compromise.

    Things are going to go wrong. Terribly wrong. People don’t always do what you want them to do. People will tell you that they have the capability to do one thing, and then reveal later on that they really have no idea what to do. People will fall through and leave you hanging last minute to solve big problems that, in your opinion, could have been easily avoided with due diligence. It’s not that these people are bad people. It’s just that, with such a large group of people, micromanagement isn’t as feasible nor effective as you would it need it to be to monitor your whole team. Unless you have a strong sense of who you can trust and what skill sets you team members have, you’re going to find yourself dissappointed down the road by what some people fail to accomplish.

    The trick is to compromise. Don’t enter a project like this one with a very specific vision of what the show is going to be. If you do, and it’s a lofty idea, then you’re going to be bogged down by dissappointed when some things don’t go your way. Be flexible and consider alternatives which keep the essence of your idea alive. Hold people accountable to their mistakes, but remember the long-term consequences of bashing a few individuals who hold great power over the quality of your show. You’re going to be angry at having to compromise, but don’t show it in front of the people you are working with unless you plan to tackle that anger productively. I learned that the hard way; venting about the problems we were having producing the show created undue stress on our actors and other team members, who thought my exclamations meant the show was doing poorly. Keep in perspective that you only hate these things because it wasn’t quite how you wanted them. On the night of the show, all those small compromises will seem small in comparison to the overall quality of the performance.

  3. An event like this will become your life. Embrace it.

    You simple won’t have time for other things. You can’t neatly package all the troubles and work your production will need between the hours of 9AM-5PM. People will call you at 1AM expecting you to answer your phone. Props will break or sets will rip, and you will need to sacrifice your weekend to do an impromptu shopping trip. Sponsors and funding will trickle down or spend weeks in negotiations with you. So that trip you wanted to do over Winter Break? Sorry, that money needs to go into the production now. You’ll get back later…maybe.

    When you try to fight the fact that such large events need large amounts of your time and attention, you end doing a shoddy job at everything. Not only does your production suffer, but your academics, your social life, your work, and everything else will suffer to. It’s because people are more likely to accept it if you are just honest with them in the beginnning and say “For the next 6 weeks, I need to put (insert show name here) first because it really matters to me, and I need you to let me have a break” then for people to expect your attention and not receive it. Saying your stressed doesn’t cut it. Everyone is stressed. You will anger a lot of people if you try to get slack later on with just that excuse. Some things can’t be put aside, like your academics. However, you should take that in consideration when devising your team, breaking down responsibilities, and creating a schedule for your event in the early stages of your produciton. Be realistic about how much time you have and whether that party on Saturday night is really worth it.

    Because, guess what? It isn’t.

    So suck it up and let your life get taken over. If you want to big things, you have to make big sacrifices. It’s no one’s fault. It’s the input variables of the equation which sums up to great events. If you come into the production knowing that you’re going to have to give up some of your other favorite things, then you won’t resent the people involved or the production itself when the time comes to sacrifice.

And that is it. I hope you liked hearing some of the things I’ve learned from Little Bloody Smudges. Maybe once the show is over, I’ll write up a post about the things I liked most about creating this show.

In the meantime, come see what all these sacrifices got me. Little Bloody Smudges is having it’s last show on November 24th at 8PM in The Willard Straight Theater. Admission is $5, but it’s totally worth it.

Hope to see you there.