Sometimes, we’re better off without.

November 24, 2009 § 2 Comments

Edit: Just so you know, today’s post doesn’t really have anything to do with Warcraft.  I mean, I tried to figure out a clever way of integrating it, but I just came out awkward and a little trite.  Nevertheless, I think it’s an interesting story so I’m sharing it with you here.  Feel free to skip it though if you want.  I won’t be offended.

I went to a High School with a very large, and very good athletics department.  Their football team won state champions 10 years running.  They had a dozen track stars who probably went on to have Olympian level careers.  They had a fancy gym with lots of equipment, two full sized basketball courts, a football field, a separate track and field (re: not just a track around the edge of the football field), a baseball diamond and full sized tennis court.  The only thing they lacked was a swimming pool, but that’s because it was in the old building they had torn down and hadn’t gotten around to building a new one.  Lots and lots of money went in to the athletics department.  Like, holy crap wow.

Then there was the arts department.  We didn’t have fancy equipment or setups like the sports teams, but we had skilled people all the same.  Many of whom also likely went on to have marvelous careers.  Unlike the athletics department, the amount of money that came our way was very small.  The school didn’t have much of an ‘art’ budget. Each department in the arts was responsible for getting their own money.

The music department always had plenty of money because most of the kids in the school choir were the children of affluent parents.

The theater department was lucky if we could get money to turn on the lights in the morning.

My senior year I was put in charge of the theater department (on the student side anyway).  I ran everything that went through our theater from assemblies to plays to touring professional shows.  Once we even had the Attorney General come and speak.  During my tenure as Production Manager, I fought hard to get funding for the theater.  We were badly in need of money to buy supplies and equipment.  After months of fighting, I managed to convince the school to give us a rather large portion of a generous private donation the school had received.

I was really looking forward to getting the money.  It would have helped us get brand new equipment and supplies and generally elevate the level of our productions upwards.  I didn’t tell the rest of the kids because I wanted the new supplies to be a surprise.  In the end, I’m glad I didn’t tell them.  That way, I was the only one disappointed in the end.

See, I had made a list of the things we needed.  I priced them out, made sure to get the best quality for the lowest price.  I was all set to buy the stuff, all I needed was to get a purchase order from the school treasurer.  I went down to her office, all ready to get my order, and instead of walking out with it, I left severely disappointed.  Turns out, that after the meeting that I had attended, wherein they allocated me money, there was another meeting which I had not been invited to wherein all that money was reallocated to the football team.  I don’t know what they ‘needed’ the money for, but I imagine it was something like they wanted to repaint the goal posts from yellow to slightly darker yellow.

Was I angry?  You better believe it.  Did I try to get the decision reversed?  Damn right I did.  Was it fair?  No.  Was it the right decision?  I have no idea.  Probably not, but I have no idea what the situation over at the football team was.  Just because they got all the money, didn’t mean that money was being wasted or wasn’t necessary.  I imagine it costs quite a bit to run a successful football team, what with uniforms, and footballs, and those weird things with the pads on them that the coach stands on and the players smash into, pushing it across the field…whatever they are called… Anyway, I imagine those things aren’t cheap.  And just because I don’t play football, doesn’t mean that there weren’t people who really enjoyed it.  It wouldn’t be fair for the theater department to take money that was supposed to be for the football team.  That being said, I still think it was total and complete nonsense that, without even telling me, the money was taken away from us and given to them.  I don’t know what they needed it for, but I do know we needed it more.  I know that because we never got any money.  Ever.

Now, nearly a decade later I look back on it and am actually grateful we didnt’ get the money.  Don’t get me wrong, I still think it would have been awesome, and we would have done some cool things with it.  But in the end, I learned a lot more without the money than I would have with it.  First I learned that you can’t give up just because you can’t afford something.  There’s always a way to make it work.  I also learned how to stretch supplies all the way to their limit.  Waste was not a part of my vocabulary.  We reused everything.  And when something broke, we learned how to fix it instead of just replacing it.  And sometimes we had to come up with some very unique solutions to the problems we faced.

When I got to college I quickly discovered that not everyone went to a high school with an underfunded art department.  Some of those folks had all the money in the world.  I couldn’t help being a little jealous.  They had already worked on very large productions, with some very cool pieces of technology.  I felt like I was behind.  And they weren’t shy about bragging about all the money their programs had and the stuff they were able to buy and the size of their shows and so on.  I assumed that meant they were better at theater than me.

And maybe they were able to think a little bigger than me.  But when we started doing the small student productions something changed.  Those student shows had no money.  And what happened the first time a problem came up during our student shows?  Well, they were certainly good at conceptualizing things, and knew how to order more supplies, but seeing as how poor college kids don’t have money, new supplies weren’t coming.  So who did they turn to when things broke?  Me.  Why?  Because apparently I was the only one who knew how to fix things.  So I guess I wasn’t as far behind as I thought.

So what the hell is my point, and how does this relate to Warcraft?

Well, my point is, things that seem like crappy unfair situations may actually benefit you more in the long run that having everything handed to you.  I’m a better technician because I had to learn how to deal with meager situations early on.  And I’m a better designer because I’m a great technician.  So, if I was sent back in time in some weird temporal wormhole like some many Star Trek episodes, I would probably be the one breaking in to the treasures office and secretly reallocating the funds from the theater department to the football team.

This doesn’t actually have anything to do with Warcraft.  Maybe I should have led with that.  Hang on, let me make an edit.

I mean I could probably pull something out of my ass like the times we fail and wipe may make us better players in the end (assuming we learn from the mistakes).  I could mention that being carried through runs is not nearly as exciting and useful as doing things yourself, even if that means you’re not in some top-rated guild.  I could do that, but I’m not going to.  Really I just wanted to share this story with you.

“[Insert clever sign off phrase here]”


§ 2 Responses to Sometimes, we’re better off without.

  • Amanda says:

    Dude. *laugh* I am so with you.

    I’m in a technical theatre class in College right now and just finished PM’ing our Fall show.

    Maybe it’s because I’m in a class full of people that literally just graduated, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “but at my high school, we had… [insert name of piece of equipment here]!” One of them whined that their cordless mic’s were “ooooolllld.” One of them talked about how they got a sort of crappy lighting system, but it’s one redeeming factor was that you could pull up a color chart, click on the color you wanted, and the system would automatically make the lights that color. They complain that we have to use warped and cheap wood for construction at the school, and how we have to make do with donated tools and scrap stuff.

    The teacher, the “technical director” (he doesn’t actually teach the class, but he TD’s all the shows and comes to help during the building processes), one of the guys that’s actually worked professionally, and I just sit there and roll our eyes.

    I find that to be one of the most redeeming things about our high school. Granted, I haven’t worked in the real world so I can’t say for sure, but I’ve talked enough about this with you guys to know that our lack of funds and equipment and, well, anything but spirit made us creative. It also made us appreciate the hard work we had to go into to get what we had. I don’t see how you can be impressed with your lighting design when you clicked a palette and it was there. Our teacher also pointed out that having had the experience of working in a bare-bones theatre makes you ready to step in and work EVERYWHERE, from the most state of the art house to tiny little community theatres, which (again), makes you a better technician.

    • thistlefizz says:

      It’s the freshman motto. “But at my school we [insert any description of a person, event or piece of equipment that was like, so totally better than what’s going on here].” Those that figure out that being able to do more with less will make them far better designers and technicians.

      “I don’t see how you can be impressed with your lighting design when you clicked a palette and it was there.”

      Agreed. This was the same reaction I had to a lot of other folks who had programs where the adults in charge really did all the work. Yeah you did these grandiose and spectacular productions, but how can you really be all that proud of it when you didn’t really do anything besides show up and take up space? And how do I know that’s what you did? Because that’s all you do know; show up and take up space.

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