Supernumerary of Life


According to Wikipedia….

Supernumerary is an adjective which means “exceeding the usual number”. When used as a noun, “supernumerary” means a temporary employee, additional society member, or extra manpower,[1][2] usually in a function which has a temporary contract. Its counterpart, “numerary“, is a civil designation for persons who are incorporated in a fixed or permanent way to a society or group, meaning a regular member of the working staff; permanent staff or member.

At Opera Philadelphia I have had the misfortune of being a supernumerary, for what is now, four operas.  While this can be an interesteingly annoying experience, I’m finding the status of supernumerary to be spilling over into other areas of my life… and I do not like it.  At my place of employment I am in a somewhat limbo phase.  My position is obviously essential to the running of multiple services we offer, I have been working for the organization for about 6 months, but I still have ZERO guarantees.  The position was originally temporary, but now I do far more than originally intended.  I have been asked to work full time and have been for the past 5 months.  I have no healthcare, I have no idea if I will have a job after Christmas….. I know nothing and when I ask I get the most vague information possible.  And now I MUST have healthcare for 2014.  GREAT.  I am the only person working here who is in said situation and it is a bit troubling.  It makes you feel like a read headed step child or ….. a supernumerary.

At Opera Philadelphia I have had a tolerable time working on Nabucco, but am reaching a breaking point.  I understand I am not the most important part of this opera, BUT, I am a person with years of stage experience, common sense and self respect.  The lack of communication, lack of concern for safety and lack of respect I have experienced in the past two weeks has been almost as worse as working for an independent theatre company in Philadelphia where they treat you like crap and just don’t pay you at all (even when they’ve agreed to).  Supernumerary’s are paid $10 a call…. fine, I agreed to do it, I will move past it, however, much like my work, I have no benefits.  Principal and chorus members get breaks in our 3-4 hour rehearsal process.  Supernumerary’s?  Well, we are sometimes expected to work through said breaks, are only given breaks that last long enough for us to walk to our dressing room or no break at all.  We were given a list of dates and times that for performances and rehearsals.  Recently our call time was moved to an hour earlier than scheduled and we were kept 20 minutes later.  This sounds like it shouldn’t be a big deal right?  It is.  We’re not union, so there is no one present to regulate our treatment and use.  Between this, the disrespect, and the embarrassingly low payment, it’s not worth…. anything.  Also, the lack of communication is embarrassing.   I understand this is a large production, but if you can’t manage to have people in place to manage all the people you have in place…. then maybe you shouldn’t be doing this….  If someone doesn’t tell you something…. then you have no way of knowing it, Communicate.  And lastly, two supernumerary’s were embarrassed in front of the entire cast in crew during a dress rehearsal and it was possibly the most distasteful thing I have witnessed in the arts. Over a microphone, in the academy of music, after having trouble with a scene, they were told  “Why don’t you put you Super thinking cap on and get this right?”  Now, I understand frustrations and what not, but that is unacceptable.  this would never have been said to someone who is not a supernumerary, I was embarrassed and disrespected for them.

My personal life is in a similar place.  It’s as though I’m not treated with the respect the “principal” people are treated with in my life… by one person in particular, but I’m treated that way none the less.  I don’t ask for much, just don’t ignore me, don’t interrupt me every time I am speaking, don’t change the subject every time I start talking and when I’m trying to have a conversation with you…. respond.  It seems simple enough to me, but I guess it isn’t.  The next time I ask someone to hang out with me or chat with me and their response is “I just hung out with you two days ago” or “I spoke to you already today”, I might lose my mind.  It’s like I’m a chore…. to everyone. I just can’t seem to get the respect I deserve.

This is why I only want to work for myself and produce my own work. I work very hard and accept nothing but the best.  So, I won’t be accepting these things.  I feel like I’m the supernumerary of life.

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