Published: Saturday January 31, 2015.
I was raised to be polite. I was taught that permission is to be asked, and that manners are important. I’m beginning to reassesss whether this should be the the de facto situation for everything I do. I won’t stop being polite, of course. I’m a nice guy, that’s how it goes. It’s the permission part that I’m focussing on for this article.
I’m involved with the Craven Players, a local amateur dramatics group. I’m an actor, darling. With the nature of the group dynamic, I’m also an assistant to the director, a set builder, child actor herder and relatively unaffected by previous political decisions. One of the things I’ve brought up in the last few months is the idea of replacing (updating) the sound and light gear that the group uses.
The performance stage is great. It’s fairly new, portable, easy to assemble and almost bomb-proof; heck, if Mad Dog McRea can rent it and give it the full beans in a weekend performance without making a dent, it’s up the job of an am-dram rabble. The lights and sound, however, are in need of a refresh. I’ve volunteered to take charge and steer this replacement process. I asked if it was OK to spend about £40 on a B-stock LED light to gauge how effective it would be. This was approved. I was then asked to spec out a shopping list for a replacement set of overhead lights, control desk and sound gear. I was given a budget rather larger than the £40 I asked permission for.
Some time passed. I found a suitable light candidate, purchased it and took it along to a weekly meeting for a show-and-tell. The lady who handles the finances said something quite telling:
It’s nice to see someone making a decision and giving me the bill.
There was no irony, sarcasm or malice in her tone. This was genuine. And this got me thinking. If I’m spending many hundreds of pounds of someone else’s money, it’s right that I ask permission. I then become answerable to them, of course; it’s only natural that they would be interested in how their hard-earned money is being spent. And it is really hard-earned.
The Craven Players are a non-profit community group that reinvests the show takings in costumes, room hire, and prop purchases. They entertain the audience. They offer a safe place for kids to come each week and grow their personal skills outside of school.
They. I keep saying ‘they’. It’s us. We do all that stuff. We don’t get paid, we volunteer our time, we give up occasional weekends to build and dismantle a stage. We get yelled at by the prompt lady when we don’t know our lines when there’s an adult performance on. We make sure the show goes on.
And this got me thinking. I’m not going to ask for a thousand pounds of hard-earned money from the Craven Players coffers. I’m going to raise it myself. I’m going to write grants. I’m going to source the funds, buy the gear and get it all sorted out.
That way, I won’t need to ask permission. The next big thing I do will involve less permission, and there will come a point in the far-off future where I won’t ask because I know I won’t need it.