In Fall of 2003 I started grad school in San Diego. I was going to get my MFA in lighting design. It was a big deal because it’s one of the best schools in the country and they’d actually accepted me. I still don’t know why. Actually I do know why. I’m a very good lighting designer. Have been since I lit my first show. I just sort of got it. So from 2003 to 2006 I was in grad school. I graduated in March of 2006 and then moved back to NYC. The reason I moved was to pursue a professional career in lighting. I never really did that. I moved back, started waiting tables and that was that. I might have done two or three shows a year but not nearly enough to call myself a professional.
Fast forward almost ten years and it’s 2015 and I’m living in Maine. I haven’t designed a show in more than two years. What I am doing is managing a restaurant and hotel in a tourist town. For a while I was embarrassed to tell my friends what I was doing because they were all teaching lighting, and doing lighting, and pursuing lighting. And to make it worse I was a much better designer than some of them. It took almost a year not to care. Now it doesn’t bother me at all. I love my job, I’m very good at it, and I’m quite happy with it. I make more than any of them ever will, and I work less, and occasionally I can take time off to attend a birthday party, wedding or other social engagement. When you are theater worker you never get to do those things.
So here I am a general manager and not thinking I was using my degree when I posted something on Facebook a couple of days ago.
Seems that drinking a little at work can increase your creativity and get the juices flowing.
I know this first hand. How do you ask? Because there was a lot of drinking during my days of grad school. Not crazy throwing up in the bathroom after doing jello shots drinking. No it was have a couple of beers and discuss the art of theater. We did it every Friday afternoon at happy hour. And what bar did we attend? Why…It was the bar I started, managed and ran every Friday afternoon during the school year.
It started when we returned to school in Fall of 2004. Rumor had it there had been a happy hour event every Friday in one of the offices. This would have been during the 90’s. I thought to myself. What a great idea! So I began planning and a week or so before school started I went to a thrift store and bought every “rocks” glass I could find. I also bought wine glasses, martini glasses and beer glasses. I bought a small cooler to keep ice. And then the first Friday we were back in school my friend Michelle (of Portland, Maine, the reason we are here) and I went to Costco and bought bottles of vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and bourbon. We also bought a couple of cases of Corona. That afternoon, I put signs up and told everyone what was happening.
So around 3:30 I cleaned off my desk. I hooked up my ipod. And at 4:00 Maddog’s bar officially opened on the first Friday we were back in school. I sold everything for 2 bucks. I had done the math to know that would at least cover the costs. It was huge success. The first Friday I had about 20 people show up.
And thus is began.
EVERY Friday from then until June of 2006 I hosted happy hour in my office. I was the bartender. I made the drinks. I collected the money. I purchased the supplies. And some Friday’s we’d have 4 people. Some Fridays we’d have 40 people. Eventually word spread and the faculty would “quietly” stop by and join us. There were very few rules. You had to be a grad student or older to attend. You could not be an undergrad even if you were 21. You had to pay your tab. You had to return your glassware back to the bar when you were finished with it. (This proved to be a headache and by the beginning of the second quarter I started using plastice). And it was fun. And I didn’t make a cent. Most weeks I was in the hole. People ran tabs. A couple of people owed me around 40 dollars at a time. I eventually collected from all of them. Each quarter got a little more extravagant. I bought a the largest dorm refrigerator possible to hold the beer and ice. I got signage. I bought special shelves and put up curtains to hide the booze. I was only open on Fridays. Never on Tuesdays. Never on Saturdays. However, if you had 2 dollars and asked nicely I’d give you a drink any day of the week if it was a particularly bad week. This lasted until the summer of 2006. I graduated. Moved back to NYC.
I came back that fall to do a show. Happy hour was still going on but the people running it lacked the passion for it that I had. However, it was nice that they were trying to keep it alive.
Back to now.
I posted this article and a friend from grad school commented that a current student of hers had just applied, interviewed and gotten accepted there. While he was there touring the school he was invited to attend Friday afternoon happy hour. More than 10 years later it’s still happening. I have no idea what it’s like now. But it’s awesome that they still do it.
Which brings me back to my point. My thesis when I graduated was entitled “What I Learned During Happy Hour.” I wrote about the arguments that were had on Friday afternoons as we all explored ourselves and worked to discover exactly what kind of artist we were. There were in depth discussions about playwrights. About directors. About actors. There was more than one yelling match as people disagreed and asserted their own beliefs. And through it all we drank. And became friends. And learned about each other’s life. And loved one another.
And it occurred to me a couple of nights ago that I am in fact using what I learned during grad school every day in my current career. Is it what I thought it would be? Not even close. But I did learn a lot about running a business there. And I learned about hospitality. And how to treat my
guests friends. And it really was creating a foundation that I use every day when I go to work now. So I no longer worry about what my classmates think. I don’t much worry about what anyone thinks except for Adam and sometimes I don’t even worry about him. I go to work. Do a good job. And enjoy the life that my three years in grad school created for me.
I’m proud to call myself a graduate of UCSD!