Its #InternationalWomensDay, so I’m going to talk about what happens when @AdmiralAsthma and I do the same job, since we both direct improvised plays, and we’ve both been an obvious part of the Seattle improv scene for about the same time. This isn’t a “big deal” story, on its own, leading to any big conflict. It’s a very normal, every day sort of story.
When I run an audition, I usually wear the first mostly-unwrinkled Fred Meyer button-up shirt in my closet, yesterday’s jeans, and the same shoes I wear every day. Sometimes I remember to brush my hair, but usually I forget. I don’t really think about it, except to make sure I don’t have any food stains on my shirt.
When @AdmiralAsthma runs an audition, she carefully puts together an outfit, made out of clothes that are all more expensive than mine. The right neckline, some professional pants, and a blazer. She puts on the right amount of make-up. She puts product in her hair with confusing names I don’t always understand, but which make it hard to breath. She looks at herself in the mirror and decides if she’s putting out the right combination of authority, but also fun to work with, but also not too scary so that auditionees aren’t nervous.
Auditionees arrive and they hand me their audition paperwork. Not just for the auditions I run: if I’m sitting in on @AdmiralAsthma’s audition, they’ll often walk up and hand me their paperwork as well. These are all people who probably consider themselves “woke”, and who are well aware of systemic inequality. But patterns are ingrained, and they’re anxious about auditions, and they’re not thinking too hard about it, so I’m maybe the person in charge.
When everyone has arrived, I just start talking, and the auditionees almost always quiet down immediately, especially if they don’t know who I am.
@AdmiralAsthma says the exact same thing, and people sometimes look surprised at who’s talking, and they finish up their conversations, and they start to listen. So she starts again when they’re quiet enough. The ones who know who she is actually quiet down quicker than for me.
I once counted the extra actions that I could perceive @AdmiralAsthma needing to take to subtlely reassert herself one time, and in the five minutes I counted, I hit 50. And those are just the ones that I picked up on.
I said this isn’t a “big deal” story, but that really just means its a normalized story, and one that’s composed of a hundred-small paper-cuts rather than a big obvious thing. It’s that one out-of-place thing that you don’t notice until someone tells you about it, and then you can’t stop seeing it.
@AdmiralAsthma doesn’t complain about much of this, because she’s used to it, except when clothing manufacturers fail to take the fact that she actually -does- things in her clothes into account, or when a particularly oblivious improviser won’t stop arguing against a note. But I’d complain up a storm if a tenth of it of it happened to me, because I’m used to what being born white and male and American came with for free.
Tony Beeman has lived in Seattle as a writer, performer, director and software developer since 1998. In addition to performing, directing and serving as Artistic Associate at Unexpected Productions in Pike Place Market, Tony performs regularly with 4&20 Improv, Seattle Experimental Theater, and Improv Anonymous. He has taught workshops in seven countries. His Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is INFP.