My Life in Theater is Relentless - So Why Do I Keep Doing It? - Libby Jensen


From May through August this year I didn't really have a proper day off - Production Managing back to back shows all summer. As I look back through my calendar for those months I can recall the feeling of my head hitting the pillow exhausted, and almost immediately hearing my alarm going off, calling me back to load-in, or tech, or strike, or notes, or production meetings.

Creating a life working in theater for me often means overlapping freelance gigs - scheduling days within an inch of their lives, and then hiring an assistant (and paying them out of my own fee) when I realize I've cut it too close, and can't actually be in two (or three) places at once. I remember in the not-so-distant past having one short break in a sea of never-ending work, and deciding to spend that time going home, crying for a few minutes, and then going back to work. I just had to let out something - I was completely drained and needed to off-gas.

So why do I do it? Every day I wake up and choose this life because I fucking love it, man. A few weeks ago I was invited to speak to a group of young technical theater students and one of the leaders asked us to share why we do this work - and my answer came to me immediately: because I get to work with My People. I get to work with like-minded folks who care about the things I care about. Unlike any other job I've had, or group I've been around - there is an inherent sense of home that I feel when I'm with Theater People - and that sense of place is so addicting that I never want to leave. Sure I don't get along with every theater-maker, but to me, there is an invisible thread that runs through it all - that keeps me connected to this world in a visceral way. In any group of people putting on a show I can find my place, speak the language, feel seen and understood.

There is a common culture. A certain style of humor. A similar work-ethic. A willingness to try it again until we get it right. A queerness that doesn't necessarily have to do with who we sleep with, but rather a willingness to be sensitive, different, fluid, open, accepting, to work outside of social constructs. A comfort with discomfort. A preference for whiskey. A closet of black clothing. No one of us is all of these - but I would wager that many of us are many of these. And finding myself surrounded by these people is exciting, energizing, and provides a life-force necessary to create amazing theater. We all work so hard for something that is so fleeting and yet can matter so deeply to the core of humanity. For this art form - for these stories we want to tell - we will fight bitterly, will cry, bleed, lose sleep. We care SO MUCH. And for that I not only stick with it - but I crave waking up and getting to work.