Episode 1 - Who am I am why I quit

I am so excited to finally be releasing episode 1 of my podcast. As I am recording this it is Oct 6th, 2023 and I getting ready to start packing for Disney World for our anniversary. We leave tomorrow but I just had to get this episode started.   This podcast has been in the planning stages for quite some time. I have been overthinking it for months but here we are. I don’t normally take this long to take action on something but life has been busy and my perfectionism got in the way. Theatrefest just wrapped up last week and I can’t tell you how much I loved seeing all my friends. I loved presenting some workshop and just sitting at the bar catching up. It was the break I didn’t know I needed. I experienced the convention in a different way and when people asked me where I was from I just said “no where and everywhere, all at once”, 

For those of you that don’t know me let me introduce myself. My name is Mel edwards and I am a former public education theatrical technical director. I have to throw theatrical in there because technical directors exist in the IT world. I know because i get the emails from LinkedIn. This episode will be different then the rest only because I really want to focus on the introduction and just putting myself out there. I promise we will get to the whole reason why you are here.

I started off my teaching career a little over 10 yrs ago and recently left my job this past may of 2023. I left a number of reasons, which I’ll get into in a bit, but the main reason was to focus full time on my online shop and personal projects. I am the owner of Mighty With All Trades. It a shop dedicated technicians who make the magic on stage happen. I sell tech related buttons and stickers that you don’t find anywhere else along with other some musical inspired so be sure to check out my shop at Mightywithalltrades.com.

I never intended to leave my job, I loved my tech kids and the things we got to create. Despite the common trend among teachers, I was not burned out and I absolutely loved my job. When I transferred schools one of the biggest selling point to accepting was that I no longer had to do auditorium management duties. There was a third director who handled that and our lighting and sound was outsourced, costumed were handled by the head director. My first year there was interrupted by Covid and eventually it decimated our number to where we could not keep our third director. My schedule was full and in order to fill the void, my school gave the duties to yearbook sponsor which really left the space unattended and maintained. She was only responsible for scheduling but no event support. They approached me to tell me that I would be taking on these duties. At this point in my life I had filled it my time with so many things that I really didn’t have the bandwidth to have something like this just thrown in my lap. The duties included maintaining the space, preparing it for band, music, and theatre events plus 20 extra non-theatre events…all for the stipend of $1000. Becoming a teacher, I never intended to be rich, but I do expect to be respected and at the moment, it didn’t feel like that was happening. Had there been a discussion on how this affected me and my work/life balance or was a discussion on how we could fill the void, things might have worked out differently. So after some careful thought and a huge roll of the dice, I submitted my resignation letter.

It has been quite the whirlwind, but I can say that quitting my job opened up so many opportunities for me. Some might say it was the best decision I ever made. We’ll see.

One of the projects I run is called MAB Technical Theatre. I started this partnership with two other colleagues at the start of the pandemic. We developed a virtual online friendly technical theatre curriculum. We realized we were screwed on teaching tech remotely and we collaborated to create this year’s worth curriculum and it has been a life saver for many teachers, including ourselves. As the curriculum grew so did the demand for teacher training. I was able to expand into teaching in-person workshops offering workshops in lighting, sound and sewing. Then the sound workshop expanded to parts of Houston and Dallas and I was able to offer a scenic painting workshop in New Braunsfels. I haven’t started planning summer 2024 yet but if you have ideas for new workshops you can contact us through the MAB website at mabtechtheatre.com 

I am also the Production Technical Director for Tal’s camp at Baylor. There’s lots of camps to choose from in the state of Texas. Tal’s camp offers both directing and technical teacher internships. It’s a 2 week camp where we build 4-5 shows in less than 2 weeks. It really is a lot of fun so find us on Instagram to see what we are all about. 

One of the things I am excited to focus more on is the Texas Thespians Advocacy Network also known as TTAN. Me and Tim Doyle are on the Tech branch and are the ones behind the content in the monthly newsletter tech tips. I really wanted to advocate for tech representation and ironically I had to leave the classroom to do. This network is allowing me take small steps to be able to do that and eventually have a larger impact. 

Let’s see what else do I do now. I am designing a few shows at the Georgetown Palace Theatre. Jekyll and Hyde opens tomorrow but I am signed on to do A Christmas Carol and She Loves me. I am teaching a tech class once a week at Zach North and am looking to do some designing for their educational program both at the downtown and north campus. I have also been asked to teach some masterclasses at title 1 schools and create a tech conservatory program that will run along side their acting conservatory. So lots of unknown things..kinda stressful. UIL has asked me help with the state film contest and advise for one act play.

And recently my dear friends at UT reached out about an opportunity to do props for two of their operas in the spring. To me this is mind blowing. I am so stoked to be coming full circle and getting to collaborate with the people who inspired me on this path in the first place.

What this podcast means to me is a way to reach more educators and empower them to keep learning. Tech can be scary to a lot of people but I want you know that it is so much fun and don’t be intimidated. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to fail and start over. But most of all, don’t be afraid to show off. What you are doing, right now  with your students, what you are creating is so cool. Don’t be shy. I also wanted to plug in our facebook group called Texas High School TDs. It’s a group me and Blake Minor started as a safe space for teachers to share and ask tech questions without being made to feel small and to try to get answer to better support our students. You can easily find the group by its rainbow cover image with the words “ You don’t have to understand everything, you just have to try not to be a dick”. You’re welcome. I have tons of topics lined up to discuss but if you want to share some topics with me you can do so at behindtheplasterlinepodcast@gmail.com 

Ok  I think that’s it, wow. That’s a lot for a first episode. If you stuck with me this far, thank you and I hope you plan to buckle up friend, cuz this is only the beginning. 

If you lost track of all the things I just mentioned, you can find all the links to my life at melmakesstuff.net 

Again thank you and see you on the next episode.

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