This used to be a blog about stage management. At the moment, it's primarily a blog about navigating unemployment (see tag for all things this topic). I had a post about how to file for it as a theatre person long before the pandemic. When all of us in live entertainment were suddenly thrust together into the broken system - many of whom had never done it before, I offered that post to as many resource gatherers as possible. It literally went viral, due to a virus. On "Friday the 13th" of March, which so many of us theatre people remember, I had 500 views that day alone. [Tangentially, I had a viral post about making spike tape circles that also garnered 963 page views in one day this summer, so that's something...at this writing, the original unemployment post has had 4,069 pageviews, 2nd only to my portfolio page, see image below.] Theatre people/live events workers were among the first to lose our livelihoods during this, and we will be among the last back. My husband's main venue has said they won't be back to "normal" until 2023. He last worked March 15th, and the last three gigs were all early load outs by national and international companies....long before any official government lockdowns. I managed to get him signed up for unemployment RIGHT before the Colorado system was overwhelmed.
I continued to write more unemployment posts as I learned the alphabet soup of pandemic extensions, trying to help people make sense. Around August, I discovered a really good Facebook group - one that was private instead of the spammy public ones. Like I did with several groups I joined, I tried to answer what I knew, often linking the blog posts I had written. And then Colorado announced a switchover to their new system. The group was growing bigger with questions, and I was asked to join as a moderator January 2nd, the night before people were asked to file for the last time in the old system. The group was 3200 by the time that weekend was over, growing from 2500 in December.
As I type this, we have 7,491 members, and many more waiting to be approved. It's crazy.
January 10th, the new system turned on....and there were questions almost immediately. I started reaching out to every reporter I could think of, to get help, when the direct contacts I'd developed at the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment weren't working enough. And now, approximately a month later, things are really starting to pay off. See my recent post about the private meeting I had with the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment. I have several reporters I text, tweet, and private message. I've been quoted or interviewed many times. It's not about me, it's about trying to get answers for people....and ultimately not NEED the Facebook groups. And I'm seeing real change happening at the state level. Some of the biggest visibility was when I got our story onto my favorite local news program, Next with Kyle Clark. Here's the first story. We were the headline story of the night.
That same day, I talked with Noelle Phillips of the Denver Post, (EDIT: Article published here, February 14) along with continued communication with Tamara Chuang of the Colorado Sun, our strongest champion of digging into what's going on. I messaged a few other reporters, too.
That afternoon (technically, prior to watching this Next segment), the Chief of Staff of the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment called me and asked if I could talk to him and his boss (and other co-workers) the next day.
And then that night my name was dragged through the mud publicly by people who didn't like the moderation of our group. And when I looked up their issues, I hadn't actually been the moderator to mute or block most of them. We have a group effort...but I'm the most visible one. It was a very hurtful night. I took it personally. And then I actually ended up communicating with one of them who....became reasonable. And then vowed to take down both their posts about me and others. They've actually been fairly true to their word at the time of this writing. [Note, if you join the group, we try to keep it narrowly focused on answering unemployment questions....not complaining/venting, not politics, and we have one dedicated thread for non-compensation other resources, much in need for many at this point.]
I'm a stage manager. My job is about getting people communicating, having everyone know what's going on, and helping others do it the most efficient way possible. Sometimes it's about bringing to the table a voice that isn't being heard as strongly, looking out for everyone/every production as a whole. Everyone having a part of the whole. Helping people with unemployment is more of the same.
The next day I was still raw with emotion, but I plugged on. Things got better personally. And then I watched Next again that night. A screenshot of our group came into view as they teased the next story after the break. "That's my group!" I said out loud to Mike, followed immediately by...."That's my face!" And after the commercial break, there was a lovely follow up. Kyle Clark pointed out how the state had followed up with two different people who had been on the show. One is a woman who personally was signing up strangers for vaccines, then the Health department reached out to her. The other was me. Kyle's commentary was that the state was showing humility, and that was refreshing. I agree.
I really think we're getting somewhere. They contacted me Friday to say that they were sorting through the workflow on a form I had requested to report issues with the call center (hang ups or otherwise). The FAQ dashboard also seems to be coming along. I'm encouraged. People will breathe easier when Phase 2 starts rolling out "the week of February 22." Some people like me, those on State Extended Benefits, haven't seen government assistance payments since filing November 28th. Luckily, I've had some sporadic virtual events, and still have a cushion, but many, many are struggling. Many are frustrated, and don't think this progress is enough. But I'm so happy it's going somewhere. I have indeed seen changes, and can't wait to see more.
This was going to include a link to other times I've been quoted in the news too. Maybe I'll go back and add those too in the future. But this is the series of which I am most proud.
Oh, one final note. This morning, I was sent the following Eeyore image of one of my favorite quotes, along with this private message in my non-friends requests:
"I’m not sure you’ll ever see this I am on unemployment and following the blog and just think you are so kind and helpful wanted to say thank you for people like you you make the world better then I saw your profile picture and this popped up in my feed today so I wanted to share it Happy Saturday
Thanks for being good"
"A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.
- Eeyore [A. A. Milne]"