How to Get Through Carnegie Hall
Years ago I worked a concert at Carnegie Hall. Like most Manhattan venues, it is not terribly convenient to put on a show there – nor is it easy to make money, even with a sold out crowd. But the legendary venue has a cultural cachet that many performers can't resist. I worked for such a band.
It's expensive to put on a show at Carnegie Hall, but the venue's management is not all together heartless: they offer a lower rate for shows with smaller technical and labor requirements. The cheaper "acoustic" rate is for shows requiring minimal lights and PA, and the normal rate is for ... everything else.
This is where I entered the picture. The promoter booked the event at the "acoustic" rate so the show could turn a profit, but – since it was the big Carnegie Hall show – the band & management wanted to put on an even BIGGER show than normal. As the band's production manager, it was my responsibility to make sure the show was convincingly impressive without exceeding the allowed technical limitations. Even one extra microphone would have pushed it out of the "acoustic" category – doubling the production budget and making it a financial disaster. It was very stressful.
During dinner break, the band's Lighting Director asked how I was doing – to which I replied something to the effect of: as long as the band starts on time and all of the guests hit their marks and the band ends on time and nothing breaks, I'll be good. "So," he replied, with a smile, "as long as a bunch of things outside your control go exactly how you want, you will enjoy yourself?" The point was not lost on me.
The human desire for control is pre-historic, a remnant from an era when leaving anything to chance might be a life-or-death oversight. The modern world is not so immediately threatening, but that part of the brain still searches for potential problems to solve or avoid. All day long – often unconsciously – the brain churns, looking for hypothetical ways that things could go wrong.
The pandemic has shown us just how little of what happens is actually under our control. Of all the things to be worried about in late 2019 and early 2020 – and there were a lot of them – very few people anticipated that a brand new disease would spread across the world and disrupt life for years. The biggest and most consequential events are rarely within our control and, most of the time, neither are the small and inconsequential ones.
We should not blindly ignore threats or take unnecessary risks, but the mental energy spent trying to control the external world is too often wasted. The only thing we can control is our intentions before we act and our internal and external responses to the world around us. It's not always easy to do (I'll admit – I'm still not very good at it), but recognizing that what happens is not the same as our experience can save a lot of unnecessary stress.
The Carnegie Hall show went off without a hitch. The band was happy, the crowd was happy, and even the Local One IATSE* house crew was in a good mood. I was pleased with the how things turned out, but looking back I wish I had put more energy into enjoying my work and less on worrying about a bunch of variables beyond my control.
Here's to Keeping It Easy!
Iseler Financial, LLC | Registered Investment Advisor | Durham NC
* International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees
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