Learning by Lending a Hand

By Bent, Eliza | American Theatre, January 2012 | Go to article overview

Learning by Lending a Hand


Bent, Eliza, American Theatre


IN A MONTAGE OF ROUTINE MORNING GREETINGS AND coat-dumping in The Devil WearsPrada, fashion editor Miranda Priestly played with implacable verve by Meryl Streep, says the following over i her shoulder while sailing past her assistant: "Find me that piece of paper I had in my hand yesterday morning." When I saw that scene at a special preview screening for New York's finest fashion assistants in 2006, I shivered and clutched the arm of a co-worker. For me, the movie was no mere comedy, but a starkly accurate portrayal of my daily life as an editorial assistant at a fashion magazine and the difficult even impossibility--of being an assistant.

Fashion is a separate universe u rth its own rites of passage and I rules for hazing, but theatre docs not lack for colorful characters or 1 ritualistic methods of climbing the proverbial professional ladder. Whether your aspirations involve acting, directing, design or f A writing--even it you're armed with an MFA--it seems that assisting someone (oral least having the word "assistant" in your m job title) is an essential stepping-stone on the way to being an m artist-in-charge.

As you will read in this, our annual "Approaches to Theatre Training" issue--and as you may have discovered already--not all professionals make the same demands on those who aid them. While fetching coffee proves to be a running joke (and reality) throughout all these articles--"Eliza, I don't drink coffee," my fashion editor once intoned, "I drink espresso"--it is clear that some employers want their assistants to mind-read, while others expect well-timed, articulate artistic input. Other bosses, much to the glee of their proteges, eventually hand over the reins and put an assistant in charge once a production is up and running. From warm and fuzzy to brusquely pragmatic, the experiences ami expectations described here are as idiosyncratic as the artists behind them. …

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