10K Saturday with Whitney Keeter!
Lulu: Hi everyone, and welcome to #10KSaturday, these little mini-episodes of 10k Dollar Day where we spend about 10-15 minutes talking to somebody about their obsessions and their wishlists, and all that other kind of stuff. If you’re looking for our imaginary luxury travel days, make sure you check out the full episodes, but today we are with Whitney Keeter. Say hi, Whitney…
Lulu: And we are on location. Doesn’t that sound fancy?
Whitney: It really does.
Lulu: And when it goes wrong, is probably very scary.
Whitney: It’s also funny when it goes wrong, so… most people don’t typically know that things have gone wrong.
Lulu: How would you know?
Whitney: Exactly. That’s exactly it.
Lulu: Just play it off. That’s the dream. So if you haven’t seen that, it transferred over to New World Stages, it’s also on tour, catch it. And just know if you see it in New York, she’s making everything happen.
Whitney: On a good day.
Lulu: Don’t let actors fool you, it’s really the stage managers who are killing it. She’s so much a stage manager that I texted her and I said, here are the things that I’m gonna ask you during the interview and she wrote them all down, but on a receipt—?
Whitney: Yeah. Because I’m also a millenial. So, like, I’m also early thirties. I need to be prepared, but I didn’t have a piece of paper on me. You do what you have to do.
Lulu: I live with my Notes app.
Whitney: See? But here’s the problem. I should have pulled my phone out and done it on my phone, but instead, I checked the time on my phone and then pulled a receipt out of my bag.
Lulu: What I’m hearing from you is that you are recycling and re-using.
Whitney: Thank you. Reduce, re-use, recycle. I believe in that.
Lulu: So you’re pretty ecologically conscious.
Whitney: Yeah, that’s exactly what I was doing.
Lulu: That’s the spin that were gonna use.
Whitney: I like that.
Lulu: You’re a great stage manager. Not so much like media / PR person, but you’re good at stage managing.
Whitney: And I’m okay with that.
Whitney: It was a wild time, y’all. It was a wild time. For me it was the relationships that came out of doing that show, because the show itself is problematic and there’s all these other issues with it, problems, whatever — but the show itself was a lot of fun to do, and we were really proud of the product, but then also on top of that there were real life connections that happened on that show between myself and cast members and other cast members. It created lifelong friendships, which doesn’t always happen. It happens once in a blue moon, really, when you get that kind of group of people together.
Lulu: Especially because you’re working together for a very intense, small period of time. So you get together, there’s thirty people in a room… hopefully you learn everybody’s names…
Whitney: Yeah, on a good day you’re firing names off without thinking about it.
Lulu: They always do a meet and greet — so, if you are not an actor or don’t do freelance work, don’t have these short-term contracts — there’s usually a day where everyone comes in, the first day, and everyone introduces themselves, and it’s like the marketing director, the educational director, and you’re like, I don’t know any of these people.
Whitney: All the interns.
Lulu: Well, they all learn our names, because they only have fifteen names to learn, and they’re doing media for us and all that kind of stuff. And then you run into them at the opening night party — no idea. (laughter) And it’s not because I don’t care, it’s literally because I saw you for five minutes the first day, and there were thirty other people…. I try really hard.
Whitney: And whoever you were, you disappeared into an office somewhere, and I didn’t see you again until this moment in time. That’s real. That’s really real.
Lulu: So just know, if you’ve ever been at a party with me on an opening night and you’re like, man, I really thought she’d remember me, a) I’m bad at names, and b) they don’t give us any cheat sheets for staff —
Whitney:—there’s no name tags —
Lulu: Ooh! Next time you do a regional, you should give a photo cheat sheet for staff. That’ll be awesome.
Whitney: If they make it, I will give it to you.
Lulu: Look. Solid 75% here. (laughter) The truth comes out. Never mind, guys, it’s all the actors doing the work in The Play That Goes Wrong…
Whitney:… while I just sit back and relax, and hope things go really well …
Lulu: She’s like, standby for twelve, go for twelve … she doesn’t care.
Whitney:… IF I say go. It’s fine. (laughter) Sometimes we’re living on a prayer, guys. It’s not mine, I don’t know whose it is, but we’re on it.
Lulu: I have some questions to ask you, and I know that you are prepped for them, because you are very organized.
Whitney: So prepared.
Lulu: Can you take out your receipt, please?
Whitney: I have it, I have it.
Lulu: You wrote it all in red ink.
Whitney: Well, because that was the Sharpie that I had in my purse.
Lulu: Of course it was a Sharpie. So, what are you obsessed with right now?
Whitney: I thought about writing something else for this, and I just decided to own it: my job. And not even necessarily the job that I’m doing right now — I love the job that I’m doing right now, obviously, but I really, really love what I do for a living, and I’m obsessed with learning more about it, constantly, and just constantly questioning how things are done, why they are done the way that they’re done, and how do I feel about that? Is there something else I can bring to the table on that, or is there something that I could learn from the answers I get back when I question why things are done the way that they’re done? So for me, it’s this obsessive need to constantly get better at it, and do it better, and become more effective.
At the end of the day — this is a motto that one of my favorite people in the world gave me that I stole and use every day: “work smarter, not harder”. I think that there’s something to be said with doing your job really well and in a way that pleases you, and it becomes easier because you have effectively mastered how to do all of the hard parts of it. And so I’m always constantly trying to get to that point.
Lulu: I relate to that because as a singing coach, trying to explain to people that technique work is different than working on your song — because technique work is like craftwork, that’s the foundation of the house, and then you decorate the house. So I totally get it.
For those of our listeners that don’t do theater, can you just explain what a stage manager does? I just realized they probably don’t know how it affects the show and what your day-to-day is with the show.
Whitney: So, if you look at my job, let’s say you come to see The Play That Goes Wrong. You don’t see me onstage, obviously, so you have no idea what I’m doing. I’m sitting backstage, and I’m cueing the show. My job is to sync everybody together, so the actors are onstage doing something, we have eight people on stage, and then backstage we also have five crew members, and then we also have a person in the booth who runs lights and sounds. And so my job is to make sure that everybody is synced up and doing those things at the appropriate time. I literally tell them, go. I literally say this thing, this thing, and this thing, “go” at certain moments in the show. My job is to sync the whole thing and bring everybody’s vision to the table, and do it effectively, so that the whole thing works. The Play That Goes Wrong is a really fantastic show to come and see that at because you can see that something else is working with the actors onstage. The set comes alive, which is a really, really fun visual way to see what it is that stage managers do backstage.
On a day-to-day basis, I also deal with scheduling, so I schedule rehearsals. I also train all of our understudies. So we have understudies and swings who are learning anywhere from three to six characters in the show at a time, so one person who is understudying the show might have — well, one person in particular does actually have six characters that he knows the tracks for.
Lulu: That’s all the men.
Whitney: Kind of. At any time, he could just go on for one of those tracks. Sorry, it’s not six, it’s five people. He’s covering five people. My job is to make sure he knows those five people’s tracks. And so I run those rehearsals, and I teach them my tracks, and we go through and make sure that everybody can safely do this show at a moment’s notice. So that’s one part of my job.
The other part is scheduling, making sure that everybody is where they’re supposed to be at when they’re supposed to be there, making sure that any outside forces — be it technical or on a media standpoint — that everybody is communicating effectively, and that I know everything that’s going on in a day, so I know where everybody’s at at all times.
Lulu: And I love that you’re passionate about it. I think that that’s really important. And as an actor who’s worked with you, I appreciate it so much. Okay. What is something that is on your wishlist?
Whitney: To have a personal chef. Right? I hate cooking, but I also love cooking. It’s this love / hate relationship. I love cooking food for other people. I would do a dinner party, and I would cook the whole thing. But I don’t like to cook for myself. And I don’t like going out and grocery shopping, and I don’t like having to come up with recipes. I don’t like spending money on food. Inevitably I try something and then I hate it, and then it’s just wasted. Or I love it, and I want more of it, but it’s terrible for me. For me it’s just one of those things where I haven’t figured that out yet, as a 32-year-old woman, it’s fine, which is why I would love to have a personal chef. Somebody who literally is like, here, eat this for breakfast. Here is your lunch. Here, take your dinner with you to work today. I think that would be really cool.
Lulu: We do have some kids that listen with their mom in the car; I know that some moms have been like, I listen to this with my daughter. So kids, if you’re listening to this, just realize if your parents are doing that for you, like giving you your lunch in the morning and then making you dinner, listen to all of these adults who wish that that happened for them.
If your mom was like, here’s a brown bag for lunch, honey…
Whitney: I don’t know, my mom was carb-free my entire life, so… probably not.
Lulu: Oh. That’s a hard way to grow up.
Whitney: It was hard. Thank you for recognizing my struggle. (laughter)
Lulu: I mean, it’s a hard way to be an adult.
Whitney: Mom is an Atkins-er, and has been for twelve years.
Lulu: So, personal chef aside, if you had ten thousand dollars, what would you do? You can either go somewhere, you can have something, you can do whatever.
Whitney: I know exactly what it is. I would take my bestie to Bali.
Lulu: Hey, bestie to Bali!
Whitney: And I would pay for the whole thing. My dime. That has been a place that I’ve always wanted to go to, and I’ve always wanted to do like three weeks there, and maybe do a little traveling within Bali, and just really go out and have a good time and do it up right. Ten thousand dollars would be a good start for that.
Lulu: It would be a good start.
Whitney: We would do Airbnbs, whatever the equivalent of that is, we would figure that out.
Lulu: I love that you would take your bestie.
Whitney: Oh god, yeah. We would go have a fantastic trip there. It’s like a dream vacation, and one that we’ve talked about in the past, this is something we want to do and want to save for one day, but we’re both workaholics and work all the time, so it’s hard to plan that vacation out. But I think if somebody just said, here’s ten thousand dollars, I think I could figure out a way to make it happen.
Lulu: If you had ten thousand dollars to give away or if there’s a charity you support, is there someone you’d like to highlight?
Whitney: This is interesting that you asked me this today, because literally last night I was on my Instagram scrolling through, and everybody has heard of this social media profile Humans of New York, and the guy, his name is Brandon — I don’t remember what his last name is — but he’s turned it into a bigger thing where he goes out and he finds stories that involve numerous people. So right now he’s at the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi, and he is profiling people at the Special Olympics. And it’s probably 95% non-American stories of people who are dealing with special needs in third world countries.
Lulu: That’s tough, because the resources aren’t set up, and the infrastructure isn’t set up, and…
Whitney: Especially in a place like Syria, where people are leaving, and you need to be able to work, and you need to be able to work money in order to be considered an effective human being, and there’s a lot of people in this world who are not necessarily capable of those things. They have a lot of Syrian refugees who are there right now doing the Special Olympics, and it’s people with Down Syndrome, and it’s people with all kinds of different mental disorders and things, and they feel like they are full human beings at that place because they are treated with respect, and they are given a job and a task that they are able to accomplish.
The pictures and the profiles and the stories he tells — and it’s just a blip, sometimes it’s just a paragraph — but he manages to catch a lot of humanity in those moments. And I remember watching this happen, as Humans of New York became a bigger and bigger thing — people started donating money. So he ended up turning it into a Patreon, and he ended up taking this money and putting it all into an account, and I’ll be sitting there reading one of the Humans of New York profiles, and all of a sudden there’ll be a comment at the bottom that says HUNY took money from our Patreon account and we are going to pay for this person’s schooling for the next ten years.
There was one story about this family that had adopted a three-year-old boy with Down Syndrome from an orphanage in a different country and brought him over, and now they were hoping to bring his sister over who was also a very young toddler with Down Syndrome, and I burst into tears when I read it — the comment at the top was Humans of New York will be paying for all their adoption expenses to bring his sister over.
Lulu: What a dream.
Whitney: I know. I cannot imagine a better use of those funds and a better use of any extra funds that anybody else has, is to give it to somebody like Brandon who’s running Humans of New York, who has the ability to be on the ground talking to people and hearing really what their needs are, and is able to make a gut call on what do these people need, and how can I help them? And having the resources to do that.
Lulu: I’m so glad you brought that up, because I do see it on the Instagram, and I see it on my Facebook, and I remember when it was just people that he would just catch on the street and literally was just like small little profiles, “I’m a fashion designer,” it was just interesting looking people. And so to know that it’s grown like that — that’s kind of one of the reasons that we love to highlight charities on 10K. Because sometimes people think you have to have a lot of money— like if you don’t have a million dollars, then you can’t help. If you don’t have access to a big foundation, that you can’t help. But that’s such a great example of it just grew with one person and no money.
Whitney: You know, with Patreon if you give money it unlocks special content. He has it set up that if you donate $1.50 a month, you get full access. If you donate five hundred dollars a month, you get full access. No amount is too little. For him, it’s just however much you can give, that’s more than what we had, so we’ll take it, and here’s full access. There’s no sense in him making it into this staggered “if you give this much, you get this,” or “if you give this month, you get that.” For him, it’s just across the board, if you give me money, then here’s all the content you could ever want, and I think it’s even more in-depth stories than what can just do with Instagram or Facebook.
Lulu: That’s cool. I think you guys should check that out. I’m so glad you brought that up. I’m just going to go through the Instagram feed and read everything.
Whitney: Please do. Just bawl your eyes out like me. It got me on a jag last night.
Lulu: It’s like that and then Ellen videos. Just tears.
Whitney: I think I watched some Ellen videos today, actually. Like literally just laying on my couch, like oh, that’s funny.
Lulu: And you’re like, why did I do my eye makeup already? So to close this out, what is something that makes you happy today?
Whitney: This is a very specific thing that makes me happy today. I’m learning to be honest and vulnerable with other people, and while it makes me very happy and proud of myself, I had a really vulnerable moment last night, and I came out of the other side of that feeling really strong and feeling really great about myself, but it also scares the ever-living bejesus out of me, because it’s just a scary thing to do. But it was something I was really proud of myself for doing last night, and I was thinking about it today, and I was like, I’m really happy I did that.
Lulu: You feel stronger.
Whitney: I feel much stronger. I feel like a fully realized human being whenever I’m able to be honest with people about what my needs are.
Lulu: That’s part of growing up, man.
Whitney: It sure is. And it’s hard. It’s really, really hard.
Lulu: I feel like there’s a really specific moment in life, especially after you’re thirty. I think that twenties is figuring out how to fit in, and then, for me at least, thirties are about figuring out what you want and also being comfortable asking for that. And I think that is in general for all people who are growing up. I think for women especially, that asking for things can sometimes be strange, the language we use to ask for it. I remember that I had a negotiation… I was doing a job and I realized I was doing more than what I was contracted for. So I had to psych myself up to have this conversation with the producer, and I sat down with him, and I said, this is my problem, and I feel this way, and he says to me, very simply — he goes, well, what do you want? And it was such a moment for me of going, all I did was talk about how I felt. I never sat down and said, this is what I want. And I had prepped myself to say this is how I feel, but not this is what I want. I’m not saying it’s only women who have that problem, it’s probably just Hufflepuffs. So maybe Hufflepuffs have that problem…
Whitney: Well, from the Gryffindor to the Hufflepuff, we all have that problem.
Lulu: That’s good to know. I’m so happy you did this with us.
Whitney: I’m so happy to have been asked to do it. This is really exciting. This is really fun.
Lulu: It is fun, I know. It’s kind of addicting. Everyone, you can see Whitney’s work in The Play That Goes Wrong at New World Stages. We’ll have her Instagram link and all that stuff on our social media, you should follow her, `cause she’s cool.
Whitney: Yeah. I post about once a month, it’s fine.
Lulu: You can get better at that, maybe. You’re a millennial.
Whitney: I can. It’s always fun work stuff, because all I do is work.
Lulu: But now people are going to be like, now I know what a stage manager does. Let me follow that. Thanks so much guys for being here, don’t forget to tune in to our regular episodes, they drop every Wednesday. And thanks for being here for another 10k Saturday, this time with Whitney Keeter. Catch you later.