Good Bosses

I've been thinking of my work history in preparation for meeting with a career coach, and reflecting on the great bosses I've had in the past. My current boss, of course, is an absolute b*tch who works me hard and gives me relatively little time off (ahh, the joys of self-employment), so it's fun to look back.

My first "wow they took a lot out of this check in payroll taxes" job was as house staff at The Ordway Theater when it opened. The uniforms were specifically sized for us, and for women the wrap-around skirt tended to gap as you walked back up the stairs, so we would hold the programs with our right arms and grasp the edge of our skirt with our left hand. My boss was John Work, who I've continued to know for years, and everyone who knows him knows his last name is appropriate. Though we could sit down, briefly, in the lobby by the auditorium door once the patrons were in, we had to stand immediately to help if someone exited the theater. Though the patrons' needs were always 100% first, we also had time for fun, for sliding down the long brass handrail or going out after the shift. I learned a lot about putting patron service first, which has stood in good stead for me all these years.

My first production job was as stage crew/ASM at The Cricket Theatre. Though Brian, the production manager hired me, and though I worked closely with Kristian in costumes, Jay Disney was the stage manger was my true boss (and yes, we're still friends, I just saw him and his husband Lou in LA!) Jay taught me going with the flow, whether that's dealing with a puppy who are rapidly during an 8-week run (the PM should have looked at the size of his paws when he picked him out!) or a small fire onstage. He taught me how to make excellent green room coffee in the big pot. He taught me to NEVER touch someone's props, and to be sure everything was put away. He stood up for me both when I was just young and didn't;'t know what I was doing, and when I was too naive to know that others' behavior towards me was inappropriate. Most of all he taught me how to grow into a responsible adult in the theatre.

I stayed on at the Cricket working an office job for the summer, and Sean Dowse became my boss. Sean handed over the backlog of unsolicited new play submissions to me, and since I am a fast reader I knocked a couple off a day on my bus ride to and from work (that's how I first "met" the brilliant Jeff Hatcher, from a script about Lulu, a talking heron). That's the summer I learned just how precarious running a theatre was. It's also the summer that we would often come in on Monday mornings to fund an envelope full of cash donations stuffed under the door from a famous local madam.

At night that summer, and for many years to follow, I worked box office at the Guthrie. Sadly, my top boss, Pam Truesdell, passed several years ago. Pam was, in some ways, someone who would be considered a tyrant today; we all lived in fear of her posting print-screens on the office bulletin board, with our names written on them and a big "FIX IT!" command when we made a mistake with an order. But she also found ways to nurture us, and to consistently teach us to be better to the theatre and to the patrons, whether that was eschewing the "auto pick" for the seating because we knew the best seats for each show, or carefully sitting with a patron for over half an hour to get their season ticket order exactly right. Colleen  was her right hand and could translate Pam to me at times when she was too frustrated with my idiocy to explain herself; Renee, Tony, and John (another person lost too soon) were by turns equally supportive and demanding, but all in the service of making us better employees. This was also another hella fun group to go out with after work.

Finally, I spent several years off and on in house staff at The Children's Theatre. Dianne, my last boss there, was incredibly patient with front of house shenanigans (sigh, young romance...), while still ensuring we offered the best possible customer service, whether to huge school groups or the family in the balcony where the young boy brought a toad to the performance and predictably lost it in the dark 10 minutes into the first act.

All these people, and many more, have made me the person I am today (for better or worse). I like to think I am equal parts fun and demanding, but in my heart of hearts I know I would probably post those print-screens as well....

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