You know how they say the only constant is change? Never have I found that to be more true than on a cruise ship.
People, for example. Nearly everyone, even within departments, arrives and leaves at different times (the only exception should have been my cast, but I’ll get to that in a bit). This means that it’s not uncommon to start to make friends with someone, only to learn that they’re leaving the next week. It also means that people who work around you seem to be constantly switching out, which can make your own job feel like it’s perpetually changing.
Take, for example, our stage crew. Our first week onboard, we got to know the different crew members working the sets and automation backstage. One girl in particular was a blast to work with – and the next week she trained her replacement and went home. Two weeks ago another great crew member left, and my other favorite crew member will be leaving in a couple weeks. Already, the stage manager has changed, and in a few weeks, our sound guy will change. So it seems like each week, things that I’ve gotten used to (high-fiving a crew member before stepping onstage, for example) have shifted or disappeared.
It’s not bad; it’s just different. Remember my post about consistency a couple weeks into this contract? Well, I have laughed at myself for writing that so many times since then. For I realized that it’s just ME that wants/needs the consistency, trying to control any element I can in the face of so many changing ones. I’m not averse to change, but I’m not particularly adept at it. I’m someone that loves structure and routines, and so change in my environments can be very upsetting for me.
In that way, this week has been quite trying for me. We have switched from a very regular and predictable cruising schedule in Alaska to a whole new lifestyle of short cruises that means we only know one day’s schedule in advance (rather than seven) – but even that can change overnight. At the same time, our sound system has been upgraded from on-stage monitors to in-ear monitors like you see pop stars like Taylor Swift or Beyoncé wearing. (Monitors are what musicians use to hear both themselves and the other instruments or singers they’re performing with.) To say it has been an adjustment is definitely an understatement! Juggling two mic packs (where do you put them when you’ve got a midriff-baring costume?), a whole bunch of wires (how do you hide them and secure them adequately but give yourself enough slack to dance?), and the fact that each singer is now responsible for mixing his own sound (though that’s an entire field unto itself) have been a whole new set of challenges.
One of the other things in the mix is how much our cast has changed. Normally, a cast signs on as a complete unit, trains together, arrives together, and leaves together. However, we’ve had a very unusual time so far. While we’ve gotten good at quickly reblocking shows when someone gets sick or injured (we’re up to six times), we’ve also had to face losing a dancer entirely, due to a family situation, getting her (sweet and wonderful) replacement a few weeks later, and then finding out that we’re going to lose one of our singers in a couple weeks. While he will be coming back after about six weeks, it’s still a huge adjustment to prepare myself for.
Sometimes you can’t help how you react to things; you simply have to keep going and hope you get better. My reaction has been tears. Lots of tears. Unstoppable tears.* (My poor line captain!) I didn’t even understand until yesterday why I have been crying so much. It took trying to explain everything to my husband (in tears, of course), to fit the pieces together and recognize the situation. Not how I’d have liked to respond to things, but perhaps next time I’ll remember this experience and be wiser, more in control of myself, and more open to change.
And that’s why I’m here, isn’t it? To challenge myself, to experience new things, to grow in grace. Theatre is a constantly changing work environment, and patience and flexibility are definitely what I most lack professionally. I prefer order; but art is about the beauty of chaos sometimes. (That’s the sound of me grinning wryly through gritted teeth.)
Eventually, hopefully, I’ll embrace the change. In the meantime, I’ll just be over here in the corner, stretching…
*Have you ever read the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books? All I can think of is the kid who cries so much he floods the playground. That’s about what I felt like.
Though I am an employee of Princess Cruises, all opinions are mine only and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.