I have put off writing about my experience working on my college’s production of Anne Washburn’s “10 Out of 12” since we closed over a week ago. It was an amazing, but emotionally and intellectually draining 7 week process in the best way. I was hoping to write this a day or two after we closed, just allowing myself some time to breathe before I let myself get swept back into my intense emotions around the project, but before I had the chance, one of my educational dreams was shattered and subsequently left me with a bad taste in my mouth regarding a show that I had every right to be proud of.
“10 Out of 12” is a meta theatre piece that, in part, gives the audience a glimpse into what I hope to do for a living. The Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager (ASM) characters both had lines that I know have come out of my own mouth verbatim at one point or another in a rehearsal process. For this show, I was one of the two real ASMs.
I do not feel as though I have the capability to correctly capture the essence of working on “10 Out of 12” anymore, so I present the instagram caption from the night before we opened in which I quote one of my favorite professors at Marymount, Dr. Mark Ringer:
“The arts are there to help us to live”.
Dr. Ringer dropped that piece of wisdom in one of our classes a few weeks ago, and it resonated with me enough to write it down - a weekly occurrence, I must say. This quote, more than anything else, is what “10 Out of 12” is about to me - and the show is about a lot. It is a rare thing for the audience to be so acutely aware of what theatre technicians do. This is by design. When the job is done well, it is intentionally unnoticed. “10 Out of 12” lets us really go behind the curtain and see that many of us work in the arts because we need to, because it helps us to live. There is no test of dedication to the theatre more than a weekend of 10/12s. As much as I think it is important to tell stories that, above all, affect change in our current political climate, there is something profoundly moving about telling the story of something I love so deeply to an audience. This show has been a reminder of how much value there is in what we do as artists when it is done well. I believe it was also Dr. Ringer who said that theatre is the only art form that has been told it was dying for thousands of years only to persist. Our show is a testament to all of this. It is an unorthodox ode to something we as artists at times suffer through and struggle with to share our stories. I have rarely been closer to a cast and creative team, and I have rarely been prouder of a piece I have worked on. My sincere thanks to everyone who is a part of “10 Out of 12”, and to everyone we get to share it with this weekend.
With the exception of my feelings after having back-to-back technically perfect shows for our last two performances, this above quote sums up my feelings for our “10 Out of 12” process when I was at my proudest.
“10 Out of 12” is the hardest technical show I have ever worked on. I am eternally grateful for all that I learned while working on it. All of our performances, even the technically imperfect ones, went better than we could have hoped. It is in many ways even more unfortunate that I will always associate a show that I should have every right to feel this proud of with a feeling of failure and inadequacy.
“10 Out of 12” will be my last show at Marymount. This was not supposed to be the case. I will not be given the chance to Production (lead) Stage Manage a Marymount mainstage before I graduate in May. Whether this is due to a simple oversight or deeper malice on the part of my stage management professor, Lori Ann Zepp, it is too soon to tell - but it is hard not to believe it is the latter as she continues to dodge my emails.
For my first two years at Marymount I felt as if I did everything by the book with little return. I stage managed a “Directing Project” (“DP”, a student-directed short play done as part of an upper level directing class) my freshman fall and it went well, yet I was overlooked and left off the email list for spring mainstages - watching the other DP students in my class take a step ahead of me. I was put off again the next season and was selected as a last-second replacement for "Our Country's Good", a production that went, for all intents and purposes of a college production, seamlessly. A show Lori herself had said went better than any she had seen at MMC in recent memory. Because I needed to take History and Missions of Arts Institutions, a class only offered at night, I had to choose to turn down ASMing "Kiss Me, Kate"; knowing I wanted to go abroad my junior year and that “History and Missions” would have been significantly harder to find room in my schedule for as a senior. This brings us to this season, where I have just completed “10 Out of 12”. Yet, here I am, looking at my senior spring and seeing that I have been overlooked again - this time as a PSM - without any chances left to make it up.
But it is more than being overlooked. Lori did offer me a mainstage. The one mainstage all season for which the tech week and performances directly overlapped with the show the company I am interning with is putting up. She offered me the one mainstage that I would have had to turn down point-blank. She did not just deny me something I worked for three and a half years towards, she added insult to injury by forcing me to turn it down.
It is hard not to read this move as spiteful. Against me, and perhaps against the directing professor who had requested me for a show that did not overlap with my internship schedule. This is Lori’s first year as a tenure-tracked full-time professor and it is hard not to read this situation as a power move. On top of this, instead of giving me any kind of solace, she has dodged my emails since I turned the position down.
Stage Management students looking into Marymount, three months ago I would have told you quite the opposite, but I implore you to seek education opportunities elsewhere. Lori’s assignment system comes across as baseless and subjective. If you’re not a gay guy she can dote over or a blonde girl who reminds her of who she once was, you should not count on ever “earning” the chance at stage managing a mainstage production as an MMC student.
Production photos by Susan Cook