A friend posted this article on Facebook, which is about trades and manual labor. It's a great read. I could relate quite a bit.
I graduated with a degree in Theater Arts in 2003, and moved to New Orleans six days after graduation. After about a month of temp work and frustration, I got a full time job as an Office Manager for an IT consulting company. I worked there until 2006, when I quit to go to massage school.
I never fully understood what exactly the company I worked for did. Nor did I feel that the work I was doing was important, beyond general helpfulness to my co-workers. I spent a lot of time bored out of my mind, and tried to learn new things to fill my time. There were a few things I enjoyed - the IT guy showed me how to make ethernet cables and we re-wired the office (that was fun!), and I learned enough about various programs we used that I was the support contact for my co-workers (that was fun, too!). But overall...yeah. Bored out of my mind.
I remember one day, one of my co-workers, who was not usually someone I would consider very sensitive to the moods and feelings of others, said to me, "You look like you're suffering from a lack of artistic opportunities."
This was a surprising statement, coming from this particular person, but it was, of course, completely true. When I was working on a play, I found that I could tolerate my "day job." Sure, it meant long hours of rehearsal on top of long hours in the office, but I felt like I was doing something meaningful. When I wasn't in a play, I got depressed.
I used to worry that I would always have to have a "day job" that I disliked, because it seemed unlikely that I'd ever make a living doing theater. I am so happy that I discovered Massage Therapy, because I love it and people seem willing to pay me to do it.
One of the great things about massage is that you can feel results. This is something the author of the NYT article talks about - tangible results. If I client walks in the door stressed out and in pain, and leaves happy and pain-free, you can't argue with that result.
But I think this concept also applies strongly to theater. When you've rehearsed a show for weeks, and then it opens and you've actually managed to pull it off, it creates this amazing euphoria. You hug everyone backstage, even the annoying people that drove you crazy throughout the rehearsal process.
And sure, part of that euphoria is artistic fulfillment, the feeling of connection with the audience, the risk of the live moment. But another very large part of it is simply seeing the results of your work.
And audiences love to see "the work" happening on the stage. When a performer is fully immersed in their work, their role, the audience gets to witness the result of hard work. It's immensely satisfying. As audiences, we want to see them pull it off.
As the NYT article mentions, we live in a society where work is often about vague concepts and corporate absurdity. It's natural for human beings to long for honest communication and visible results. The theater can provide us with that. Now, if only it would also pay our bills...