Sunday, September 11, 2011

I ran my first (sold-out) show at the JCC

Never Done: I ran my first (sold-out) show at the JCC

When I got to work in the afternoon to start prepping for Galeet Dardashti's Monajat concert, many of our computer systems were down, so nobody could get into the program where we write down what is happening in what room, and what the set-up needs are, and the people at the box office could not access the ticket sales records, and I could not print.

But everyone who was supposed to be there was there and was doing an fantastic job of working around our lack of information. In fact I think in some ways it was a good thing to happen on my first event, because people worked extra-collaboratively, and with such a giant flashing arrow pointing at systems error,  nobody was pointing fingers at other humans.

Well, there was some finger-pointing. We had some people who came 45 minutes late (for a one-hour show) and were upset that we had re-sold their seats. That one was my call. We had a lobby full of people who wanted to get in, and we had held the door for 15 minutes, and I made that call that ticket holders who hadn't arrived by the time the show was supposed to start would forfeit their tickets (and get refunded.) (Note to self: make new policy. Print new policy on ticket confirmations.) I didn't know what the policy is normally, and I wanted to represent the community center in the spirit of community, and I wanted to respect the people who were there, and I wanted to respect the people who had pre-purchased tickets, and in the end I decided to practice the mide (middah) of Decisiveness: Once you make a decision, act without hesitation, and make my best call and stick with it with confidence.

All this was happening on the back end of the show, and meanwhile the auditorium was buzzing with excitement and with people seeking out the last available single seats, and finally it was time for me to make my first curtain speech to a JCC audience, and I welcomed them to the JCC, to the first show of our fall season, and to my first show at the JCC, and please turn off your cell phones, and please welcome Galeet Dardashti ... and the rest was in her (extremely capable) hands.

Except it wasn't, actually. I had received a last-minute request from the artist, and had to take care of a few things so they would be ready for the post-show reception, so I slipped in and out of the performance. This posed another ethical dilemma for me. The mide (middah) of Order: All actions and possessions should have a set place and time would normally guide me to sit in the auditorium and be a fully-present audience member. My own desire to see the show would guide me in the same direction. My professional desire to know and be able to articulate the work -- also the same. Once I was in a master acting class with the incomparable actress Marian Seldes, and she spent most of the class teaching us 1) how to take care of our skin (stay out of the sun, and in the theater) and 2) how to be good audience members (sit in rapt attention, giving the actors as much attention as they give you.) I have been in audiences with Ms. Seldes, and she does in fact live true to her word. As a presenter, I would like to model excellence in audiencing (can I make a gerund out of a noun that I am pretending is a verb?) but at the same time, I have an obligation to make the entire night run smoothly, and not just the concert.

And this is what I love most about the Mussar practice; it gives me the opportunity to rethink these small (and larger) decisions, to examine my conflicting ethical obligations, and to come up with new, fresh approaches based on my reflection. Maybe I'll be sitting next to you during my next show.


  1. The challenge of an event producer! When I work events I know that my job is not actually to be an audience member. My job is to get the show done and done right in whatever capacity is my responsibility. It's hard to be an event producer and get to sit in the audience for any length of time.

  2. Maybe it's a little different with newly commissioned works like this one, which nobody has ever seen -- rather than stuff I choose to program because I have seen it and already love it.