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Short and Lonely Contracts: What to do?

short and lonely contracts
By Melissa Bondar

Maybe I’m alone in this opinion, but I think short-term regional contracts are, by far, the loneliest of contracts to take.  If you move to a new area, you build a new life, make new friends, join clubs, etc. If you go on tour, everyone is in the same boat and the people you’re on tour with become (at least some of) your friends. But if you go do a quick fill in contract for a few weeks or a month or two in another state where most everyone else on the show just lives there, you’re gonna pretty much be on your own.

The people who work for the theater already have their own lives. You’re not going to join a club or group if you’re only there for a month. It also doesn’t help that I’m wildly introverted. Maybe if one or two other people were also hired from out of town, you might band together, but honestly, I’ve never had that happen. I think maybe we’re subconsciously used to the idea that you’re on your own on this kind of contract.

There’s also the added fact that these little contracts are shows that are going up pretty quickly, so, especially as a stage manager, you’re probably putting in a lot of after hours paperwork time. Which cuts down even more on your likelihood of bonding with the few other out-of-towners.

I’m currently on my fourth contract like this and while it was swell to spend some time in Roanoke twice and a few weeks in Hilton Head at the end of spring one year, I also find that, in retrospect, they’re weirdly depressing times.

This time though, I went into it fully aware. I think in the past I hadn’t fully formed my theory of short-term regional contract loneliness. I also think that this time I was a little more aware of the fact that just sitting around doing nothing is making me extra depressed these days. And I’ve got the YOLO-a-little-bit thing going for me right now and the cash flow to allow it despite being out on a lower paying contract, so I decided, let’s budget for some fun.


short and lonely contracts

Without a fun budget on these kinds of contracts, I tend to just go to the theater, stop and get takeout on the way home, and binge watch some Netflix show, alone in my theatre provided housing. And I get moodier and moodier as the contract goes on. This time, I made a list of things I’d like to do in Milwaukee and I’ve been making myself do it.

I also picked a few “day trip” type items for dark days. And then I made myself do them. I’m trying to get into the mindset that my silly goals are as important of a checklist as my show presets (well…. almost). And so far, it’s worked pretty well. Maybe money does buy happiness? In small doses. And as satisfying as it feels to check things off a list (always), it has actually kept the I’m-alone-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-why-did-I-pick-this-life blues at bay.

We actually had two dark days in a row that I was dreading early in rehearsals but I stayed busy the entire time. I saw three shows (including a roadtrip to Chicago to see Hamilton for a fraction of the cost of tickets in NYC), went to church, and went skiing. The weekend shot by.

I also get that your budget maybe can’t accommodate that YOLO-ing. I recall that as well, and I’m also well aware that one of those regional stints was literally the least I’ve ever gotten paid to stage manage something ($325 a week. Ugh) and all of them haven’t exactly been cash cows.

Sometimes budgeting is about more than just money, you can budget your time too.

FREE things I’ve had on the list:

  • Find a church with early Sunday morning services and go
  • Free yoga classes
  • Hiking (especially in Roanoke – one of the most photographed sections of the Appalachian trail was just 45 minutes away)
  • Local Monuments
  • Farmers Markets

CHEAP things I’ve got on the list (or done in other cities):

  • Swim in the local pool ($4 a visit)
  • Cheap Roadside Attractions in General (like the National Bobblehead Museum)
  • Local Treat Store (currently Purple Door Scoop Shop)
  • Local Museums or Historical Sites

While I’m not advocating blowing a bunch of money you don’t have for a month or two, when I think back, a quick Google search probably would’ve turned up at least 10 things I could’ve done for free or almost nothing in every city.

I’m also surprised at the number of free classes and gym passes you can get for a first class or lesson or a week at a new gym and wish I’d taken advantage of more of those.

Published in Collaboration with brokeGIRLrich

brokegirlrich TheatreArtLife

Also on by Melissa Bondar:

Useful Things To Do in your Downtime as a Stage Manager

Managing Money: What Cruise Ships Pay Checks Taught Me


Short and lonely contracts

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