Why We Happy Hour

by Allana and collective

Published July 2020

It started innocently-enough (as these things do) sometime in the Fall of 2015. In September, I shared a beer with Murnane; October beer with Murnane and Wangen; November beer with Murnane, Wangen, and C Andrew; then every month after, hopefully a new face or more. In my least-favorite Happy Hour, I sat in the (now defunct) Happy Gnome for 2 hours by myself until C Andrew joined me and “wondered where everybody else was.” [That began the process of my checking potential dates in advance with a select group of “originators” before committing to a date.]  In no time, we’ll be telling, “this one time, at Happy Hour…” stories just like they were events that we worked on.

The inspiration for the recurring event was two-fold. First, I got a full time house gig in 2014 doing not-theater and working with other production folks that I didn’t previously know and that were not-theater people. I was missing my tribe – hardcore – and I knew that there were others out there who were like me. Secondly, the rest of the team at that time were old-timers. They wanted an opportunity to talk about the “good old days” and to pass along their learned experience to another generation. Some of the early Happy Hours fell down this rabbit hole a bit too much for my taste but it was regularly evident how important and meaningful the regular opportunity to gather, listen, and be heard was to all of us.

In addition to the Facebook events, there is a 156-person-strong email list that I personally invite to the monthly Design and Tech Happy Hours. I asked that list to give me feedback for the event that I’d created – the good and the bad – so I could share that feedback with you.

I’ve only come once, but it was such a happy experience. I really do mean to go when these are hosted; life has just been so bonkers. 
I barely fall into the demographic this group was intended for anymore. I miss being on the tech side of things, and don’t want people to forget that side of me. The Happy Hours are sort of an opportunity to hold on to my tech cred a little. The one time I went, I knew half the room, and everyone knew everyone else, and it felt like being wrapped up in a big hug. It was so great. Really community building. I loved it. Please keep it up!
~Deb Ervin

D&T Happy Hour is meaningful to me because I get to see friends. Some of whom I may have seen an hour prior at a work call, while others – it’s been ages since our paths have crossed. It’s a nice time to be able to socialize, or just chill and listen while eating food at a restaurant I’ve never been to. I really enjoy hearing all of the different stories from folks about our work industry, ie. “that one time so-and-so worked on this crazy gig” or “that one time someone did this thing and that’s an example of what not to do” or “I had this awesome opportunity to work with these people,” etc. It’s fun hearing what other people have worked on and in the meantime, I get to meet new folks.
~Erin Belpedio

I really do enjoy the D&T Happy Hours, even though I have only been to one or two. I really enjoy seeing people and listening to other people’s theater experiences. It is an amazing way to build solidarity as well as troubleshoot and solve things that are happening in the world.
~Kellie Larson

Happy Hour for me is a time to touch base with the technical theater community that I’m honored to be a part of. We all have our own lanes to care for and it’s easy to lose track of each other. Because of our commitment to our craft we tend to work too hard for too little and we too easily sacrifice our availability to our friendships. These are the people I have the most in common with and Happy Hour is a place to share.
~Michael Murnane

I like coming to Happy Hour because it helps me to reconnect with a community that I don’t get to interact with enough anymore. I like to come and see folks to find out not what they are working on (honestly the shop talk is the least interesting part to me) but rather how their lives are going. Because of family commitments, I don’t make it as often as I’d like but I always enjoy it when I do.
~Mike Grogan

I don’t come primarily because I have a young family. My partner, I, and our toddler came once, to [World Street Kitchen], but it was awkward. I felt like I was splitting my time (it wasn’t anyone’s job to do this, but there was no feeling of “hey, husband and child, join us!”) and because almost everyone were electricians/union and knew each other, I didn’t feel compelled to come back. It could easily have just been that moment for the group or for me — I don’t feel unwelcome or excluded, but it doesn’t have a reunion feel to me.
~Andrea Gross

I enjoy the opportunity to socialize and commiserate with people I don’t normally get to see. Sometimes it gets frustrating, though, because it’s a crapshoot as to who might be there and when. One of my favorite Happy Hours was at that dive bar on Cedar. Andy and KO and Paul Epton and a bunch of other regular old-school folk were there, and the conversation flowed!
I mean, part of it is that I’m not a regular tech who takes regular tech calls.
But the touch-and-go part of it is the nature of the game. I certainly don’t want to see the Happy Hours go away AT ALL. I think they’re a great asset. If you need someone else to take care of it every other month so you can have a break, you should say so! But please do keep it up. 🙂
~Katharine Horowitz

I find Happy Hours to rejuvenate me and remind me that I am not alone in this industry. As a scenic designer, I work alone a lot and can start to feel that aloneness. Being able to go spend time with other designers (all areas) and technicians, in a space that is not full of the pressure of the opening night, does wonders for my mental health. It shows me that we are one large team working in many different areas. 
I have also met new people here that I would have maybe not run into yet and it has made it fun when I finally do get to work with them. They feel like an old friend and less like a new stranger. I try to tell any and all new theatre artists (and I say artists for everyone in our industry) that this is a great way to get to know the family that the Twin Cities community is. I miss it when I can’t make it even for a short time.
~Leazah Behrens

I feel like I belong, that people actually want to be there & might want to talk without having to be right or wrong. Largely meetups aren’t memorable. The feeling of belonging sticks with me. 
Happy Hour is a chance for me to see people I ordinarily have no chance to see. We just don’t work together at all, and our social paths don’t cross in any other way.

Good meetups are a bit raucous & sloppy. People can move about through a vibe of enthusiasm & joy. Being told “I haven’t seen you in a while” or “it’s good to see you” – matters and made me want to keep coming.
~Roger Rosvold

Happy Hour is wonderful in the fact that it brings our community of technicians, designers, and managers together in a space outside of work. I believe it creates stronger community ties for those that attend. Happy Hour is where I have finally been able to meet individuals I have been hearing about for months, or even maybe a couple of years, but never seemed to be in the same room as them before. [For] me, showing up to social events where I may only truly know two or three people is a win, and what I strive to push myself to do––but I wonder how the dynamic of the evening would change if we were sitting with less people we know quite well and more people we had never really talked to? This is where Virtual Happy Hour and breakout rooms have made a difference. I love being able to connect and hope to call more of the community members friends over the years to come. Truth be told, it is thanks to D&T Happy Hour I have become such good friends with Leazah and Emily Wallers.
~Ashley Stock

Tech Happy Hour has been great for me to get a chance to not just meet people but also get to know people that I don’t have the time to during a production / load-in. There are a couple people who I’ve met a couple times either borrowing gear or whatnot but never really had a good chance to talk to. But over a beer/tea/dumplings you get a chance to slow down and talk. Not to mention all the folks that I don’t get to see because work has shifted us into different circles.
Our work environment is a weird mix of social and professional. When a show closes or we move on to the next project, those connections to people get stretched. Happy Hour is a chance to tighten those connections and see what is going on now. I’ve also made new connections with people that have only been names before – people on the far side of a social / work circle that you know all the stories, but haven’t met yet. It’s like going out for a beer after work, without the work.
~Andy Kedl

I have only been to one or two of these gatherings, but I really like that you organize them. I like that they humanize our industry. I think they are important to do and it gives people a way to figure out the different systems. Who knows how much work we will have in the coming year, but we will be back!
~Phillip O’Toole

I am relatively new to the TC theater community, wanting to expand my network and connections. As a free-lance stage manager/prop designer, I can’t audition for gigs. I’ve been working in community theater/volunteering at TRP and south of the Metro, picking directors/gigs strategically in the hopes that connections/exposure will get my foot in the door of paid gigs, once lights come on again.
~Lynn Seeling

I love that D&T Happy Hour is an opportunity to network, but also catch up with old friends who you may otherwise only get to see once a year, or less. I like commiserating with the group around our community and the goings on. It is an opportunity to learn about our trade and the history of the Twin Cities.
~Merritt Rodriguez 

It’s a way to put a face on a name I’ve heard about for years but have never met. It’s a way to recollect the names and faces of people I worked with in the sometimes distant past. It’s a way to find people to accomplish the “next great thing.” It’s how we can help each other stay abreast of trends, tricks, triumphs, and tragedies.
~Bill Devins

It is uncommon for more than a few from the lighting community to come together and even more rare for it to be for social events. I appreciate the reminder of all the wonderful people in our community and love reconnecting with them and hearing their stories.
~Megan Winter

I really like meeting people I’d always hear about but don’t normally get to intersect with. We have a large community that gets to mix at events like these to catch up or just chat while not trying to also do work. That’s nice.
I haven’t been to the online ones because I find zoom meetings so exhausting. Social gatherings are demanding for introverts and somehow video conferencing is way worse. Or maybe I just don’t have the energy any more.
~Angelina Vyushkova

I’m kind of new to the Tech Happy Hour but I have found it to be a great way to stay in touch with people I know and meet new folks as well. I’m glad that the Happy Hour has continued in the online format since the lockdown began because staying connected with each other is more important than ever.
~Dan Mariska

The reason I never went to a “real” [in-person] event before was not because I didn’t want to – it’s just that I’m a mom who lives south of the cities. Once I cross the river, I don’t go back. And my husband often works nights so I have to be home for my son. I always felt sad that I couldn’t go, and kept promising that the next one I would make happen.
For the current style [Zoom], I think they work. Getting pulled into random smaller groups makes having real conversations actually happen. I finally got to put a face and voice to people I’ve been familiar with- or just knew by reputation for years. It was fun.   
You have taken on a huge need in our community – keeping us connected – and that was BEFORE the world went all crazy. I hope you know how much it means to me and all of us.
~Angelique Powers

I enjoy them as is. I think that you are doing a really cool service by heading this up. Fun to meet new people and reconnect with others!
~Mike Kittel

I really love that this is happening and am so appreciative that you are organizing it. 
~Kat Purcell

If you know me personally, you know that I just can’t do something… small, or, said another way, “half-assed.” I hope you agree with those people above that the extra effort makes a difference. My desire for a healthy community is stronger than my social ineptitude around small talk, strangers, and being “in charge.” The quirky thing is, when you let your convictions guide your actions, you just naturally step up to the plate and you do what needs to be done and, god willing, you get better with practice.

I hope that in reading this, you’ll…

  • come, come more often, or come more fully
  • invite others to future events to attend “with you”
  • include others who show up
  • know that you are always welcome. “Once a technician, always a technician.”

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