The show must go on

The show must go on

Behind the curtain in the pantomime

I’ve been thinking an awful lot about performance lately - watching Bohemian Rhapsody and thinking how amazing a performer Freddie Mercury was, and what a performance by Rami Malek; hearing about First World War concert parties and centenary commemorative performances; and putting out feelers about getting myself back into amdram again.

I adore amdram and it took over much of my life in the 2000s. I have acted a bit (the Fairy of Happiness was a favourite role), directed a bit, stage managed, assistant directed and assistant stage managed, and had a ridiculous amount of fun. Indeed, there were times when I’d finish a performance and be so high that I needed time in the pub, and episodes of Friends or Buffy / Angel before I could even think about going to sleep, and even then I’d still be too excited to sleep. I’d kind of like to feel that again.

Backstage work can be just as much of a performance as acting. As a director you need to be able to sell your vision to your actors, nimbly keeping at least one step ahead of them. As a stage manager you need to run a tight ship, keeping everything running smoothly, answering questions and solving crises, like a serene swan on the surface with webbed feet frantically paddling below.

As librarians we are on show to the public and in many ways put on a performance for them. Justin Hoenke has talked about librarianship and a career in libraries as acts of performance art - and I think this could potentially segue nicely into research on librarians and emotional labour, but I’ve been wondering for a while now about what performances leaders and managers put on and whether these have any relation to the performances played by stage managers and directors?

As a library leader I have certainly sometimes felt like a stage manager - working hard to make sure that the library show gets on the road. Are staff in the right place? What is their motivation? What problems need solving? What information do I need to pass on? Who (or what) needs mopping up? But I’m wondering if I need to take this further and really acknowledge the performance aspect of my role in a very conscious way.

My makeup may be flaking but my smile still stays on

I’ve made no secret of that fact I burned out. I loved my job so much that I didn’t know how to let go. I need to learn to do my job in a healthy way, which is why I’m wondering if I need to be very clear with myself and others about when I am in my role and when I am out of my role. I think the stage manager analogy could help, as I always knew how to switch off from that role. Perhaps I need some metaphorical black clothing to take on and off, to truly help me to put the library to one side when I leave for the day. It’s a learning process and I hope thinking this way, given how passionate I am about theatre, could help me, and possibly others.

I want my library show to go on, and I will fight to keep playing my role.

Quotes from Queen’s ‘The Show Must go On”

A librarian's delicate balance

A librarian's delicate balance