No matter what career we choose to delve into, our educators emphasize the importance of professionalism. When meeting new clients, be professional. When handling conflicts at work, be professional. When seeking connections and career-long relationships, always be kind, courteous, and professional. Many people tend to associate professional behavior with a level of distance and distrust of others. However, my experience as an assistant on Smith Street Stage’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has taught me that– especially in the case of the arts, the most successful definition of professionalism is one that encourages familiarity and openness between members of the company, allowing both the newbies and the ol’ faithful’s to feel safe in their working environment.
Smith Street Stage has been my entry way into the world of professional theatre, so naturally I began the production process quite nervous about joining a serious company. I am younger, less experienced, and an outsider. Much to my relief, I was met with open arms by every member of the company—actors, directors, and producers alike. Everyone was eager to get to know me on not only a professional level, but a personal level. Although in this case, as in the case of many successful productions, I believe that professional and personal often bleed into one another. While company members don’t necessarily share their deepest secrets, they treat their colleagues like family. Every time someone had a birthday, Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy (Hippolyta, First Fairy) would bring treats and have the entire cast and crew sing “Happy Birthday.” Moments like these made every person feel special, allowing us to share love and respect in a way that makes it easier to take risks and make bolder choices in the rehearsal room without fear of embarrassment or judgement. A greater sense of trust offstage lead to deeper connections onstage, making the story all the more compelling.
We live in a country that places such heavy weight on family values. While it’s true that theatre is a different type of field than accounting or engineering, perhaps we could learn from the way Smith Street Stage operates, valuing every member of the company like a one of the family. I want to bring this idea of professionalism which I experienced at Smith Street Stage to my developing theatre career. They embody what drew me to the theatre in the first place: every individual’s success becomes the entire group’s success. I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of something so special, something that brings communities together and allows artistic energy to flourish.
Danica Clauser – 2018 Smith Street Stage Assistant