I’ve worked in the theatre production business since before I could legally be paid to be there. I started in community theatre, worked on every middle and high school production I could get my hands on, and created my own major in college to continue this work. Primarily, I’m a theatre electrician and lighting designer. Occasionally I work as a production manager, and previously as a stage manager. Since it’s been over ten years I can do a little bit of everything, and I’ve even taught professional development classes for middle and high school teachers. I’ve done lighting design for local professional dance companies, symphonies, musicals, and graduations, as well as college musicals. Six years ago the minimum I was ever paid was $15 an hour. Right now I’m thrilled to get any gig working for less pay.
There is an international theatre union, IATSE (declining to share my local’s number and rat myself out…). While I live in a right to work state, we follow most union rules and are all treated the same. Except that I’ve discovered that the “girls get less work calls” rumor is actually the truth. Guys with years less experience than me are getting more work offers than I am. Guys with a much smaller knowledge base are getting more work than I am. Therefore, they do make more money than me.
Recently I found out that there was a huge work call at my local arena for a famous rapper on tour. A friend of mine that I helped get into my city’s theatres was asked to do the show, so he dropped a previous commitment I helped him get so he could go do the union-run concert with “his boys” (his words). So not only was I embarrassed, I found out that the union preference is having a penis over having the most experience or hardest work ethic. What other evenings am I at home, bored, ready and eager to work, and not getting a call because I have a vagina and can’t grow a caveman beard?
And written months later…
In about a month my boss man at the theatre (not the aforementioned arena) will begin texting me, looking to schedule my currently freelance self for work. I will almost certainly be in the top dozen people getting the first offers. I do appreciate that my boss appreciates me and knows how knowledgeable I am in my one sliver of the world. My boss knows how miserably unhappy I am with him and his lame employees. (and his boss knows too) The end of the season promise to “do better” “communicate more” “look into it” and do better to “respect me” is likely 95% bullshit. Optimists might say only 80% bullshit, but those are only the ones that haven’t met him.
Why fix what isn’t broken, right? Why fix inefficiency if it will still always all work out? Because it makes you someone WE can rely on, right? Well, if you’re in the top half dozen of his favorites, you’re a guy. And in this field guys work better in an all-guy environment. No deodorant, very few shirts, often beer drinking while working, and copious sexist, racist, rape-culture jokes. When girls are around — and all it takes is one — the party’s over. Beer away, Mary Jane away, shirts on. Jokes forbidden. Telling raunchy sexist jokes will get you in trouble — to the tune of “don’t come back for two weeks” or in extreme cases he might drop from dozen A to dozen B, or dozen B to dozen C, and receive about 20% less work in that venue. A girl complains without solid proof and a super credible witness, and she loses about 50% of her work there.