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  • Ruby Hankey

I was about to record my very first national advertising campaign. I had crossed all my t’s and dotted my i’s in regard to maintaining and preparing my audio set-up; water in hand, baby with grandma, I felt ready to go. As I reached down to turn on my wireless gaming mouse, I remember stopping with a smile at one of my earliest memories in the professional entertainment industry. Sound designer Ethan’s face sprints to center stage of my mind. “ALWAYS INSTALL NEW BATTERIES BEFORE EVERY PERFORMANCE!!” This was…my first professional acting stage outside of school some…15 years ago? We were presenting a spin-off Wizard of Oz musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Church Hill Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland

Ethan was sweet, but do not question him on battery facts. As a Type A person myself, I appreciated this rule: especially on a stage of such grandeur. Some may see his battery precedent as a stickler position to hold, but I see it as a sign of respect for not only your audience, but also yourself and your co-workers! God knows, I have definitely been on the other side of that coin working for small companies who work every battery ’til their last breath and duct tape is a catch-all cure.

Hence my swirling thoughts about writing a post dedicated to batteries! I also have a lot of thoughts about pimples and dinnerware, but

these seem to be less useful topics for career-oriented metaphors. So, there I went, with 5 minutes to

spare before our session: I replace my mouse batteries. My blood pressure instantly went down. I knew I was there 100% for my client. It’s in the small details, see? Everything probably would’ve been fine if I didn’t replace them, but what if? That tiny detail had been ironed out. Time is money.

There are many small-detail pieces of advice I’ve received over the years:

  1. Always double knot your tap shoes. You don’t want a shoe to fly off and launch a lawsuit.

  2. Pee before a performance or session. You can imagine the consequences.

  3. Lay wires to coil, don’t wrap them around your arm.

  4. Use a separate piece of material to rub off clothing’s deodorant streaks. (Lifesaver, totally works).

  5. When setting a table, sign with your fingers: b for bread, d for drink.

Alright, I know I’m getting a little side-tracked, but it’s always important to remember the small details! This is instinct number one for me: order. I love it. I thrive with it. However, I do have to say I am also a better person for having no order at all as well. In fact, I was a bit too orderly. It’s something I check myself on to this day. Am I saying that a bit too perfectly? Can I simply let that person slide? Will my sanity be saved by letting this go? Am I sacrificing efficiency by obsessing over efficiency?

My biggest lessons learned, in fact, never came from school, heartbreak…or freshly sharpened pencils! They came from my first job out of college as a performer in a touring children’s theater company.

Our traffic safety crew 🚗

Our main contract was for a government-funded traffic safety musical. It lives in infamy. The budget was…slim…but cute! We were not encouraged to use Ethan’s rule. You use the battery until it can no longer be used: even if that happens to be mid cartwheel during your big traffic light finale. Not ideal. However, this got us into a separately good, yet possibly unnecessary habit of knowing every single line in the show!

Everyone…or most of us anyway, knew every role inside and out. If someone needed to replace batteries, we knew how to cover on stage without that actor present. This became additionally useful if quick changes didn’t go according to plan, someone called in sick for the day and we couldn’t get a sub, the principal came ON to the stage (mid-number) announcing we had to cut the show short by 20 minutes due to a fire drill they ‘forgot about’, or even if the school simply didn’t have working electricity at the time! Very sad, but ultimately true.

There was a LinkedIn article I remember reading about essential skills that don’t require an education. Number 1 on that list was SHOWING UP ON TIME: Being prepared! For the most part, in the professional world, we return to working with people because we know we can rely on them. Like batteries! A fresh battery ensures a smooth run. What could go wrong? How could you lose power without batteries?

But what do you do without them? Can you survive then? These instances of ‘the show must go on’ are when my whole life perspective shifted.

On the day we had no working outlets, I beat boxed our way throughout every musical number. When we had a skipping CD, instant re-writes became an essential skill. When our best rollerblader called in sick at 11pm the night before a 6am call, I rallied the help of my new boyfriend to teach me how to rollerblade on an inclined driveway in shoes 3 sizes too big. The next morning, the principal came to compliment me saying, “I’ve never seen such good acting! You really made me believe you didn’t know how to roller blade!” “Why, thank you.” I said. They bought my slapstick number, thank the stars.

I never felt more entertaining in my whole life. Sometimes, all you need is to show up to send that joy out there. Rolling with the punches became a great skill, yet it never stopped grinding my gears. I always ached for more consistency and reliability. After a few years, I became tour manager along with performing. The previous tour manager had played around with the idea of re-chargeable batteries. I thought it was time to get our boss on board to fund this endeavor. It took some convincing and my enthusiasm for batteries was never matched, but rechargeable batteries became the norm. My life was changed. Preparation meets survival meets evolution. I noticed the improvement immediately. The idea of batteries was nearly forgotten because they never came to mind! My peace of mind was restored once again. I felt prepared and proud and ready to deliver for the cutest audiences in the whole wide world. I still don’t think anyone else noticed, but that’s what they say, no one notices the best stage managers. They’ve done their job right.





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  • Ruby Hankey

This past August as I sat out on a porch with my parents, enjoying the fresh Maine breeze (as I have done every summer of my life since I was born), the morning felt just as beautiful as it always has, but a bit more empty. Every year since we lost my GRAND mother (yes, she was that grand) in 2016, we have lost a petal more, a gem more of our family and friends over the years.

Margo Cobb, my grandmother (Mamie)

The struggle of 2020’s lack of hugs and explosive joy on a dance floor seemed a bit more bearable after dealing with all the loss our family has dealt with. However, more than the struggles (note: I urged myself to meditate on ‘gratitude’ before writing this. I also make silent scream faces and moan nearly every day of the pandemic), I have found that 2020 brought my most valuable lesson yet: yep, that gratitude.

I love my husband, my dog, my family, my friends. Good hair, lots of money, travel, clothing, etc. can surround us and give us a lift, but by no means make life what it is meant to be. Small moments mean much more to me this year. I have done much reflecting, as well, on what my favorite moments of my life, thus far, have been. One of my fondest memories was of family lobster dinners at that same apartment porch I sat on with my parents. A simple salad, a table dressed with lobster crackers and picks, butter and corn; and my grandmother, never quite sitting down with a cigarette out the side of her mouth, a glass of Tab on ice, and backhanded compliments and demands being thrown this way and that. When I’m old and gray, that memory will still probably be just as vibrant and bring me just as much joy. It was at these moments this summer that I decided now is when I want to be a mother.

Coming soon!

I felt sick of the world and sick of the internet and sick of our government. On one hand, why would I bring anyone into that? On the other, I have found truer friendship, truer joy, and truer meaning this year than any other. My god, through the history of humanity we have endured worse, we shall overcome this hell of a year and enjoy a lobster dinner again some day.

I have always wanted to be a mother, I just did not know when that would be. Being an actor, the upkeep of my image to match fancy photos has always been a precedent. Some of my most remembered phrases as a child are, “beauty hurts” and “are you sure you want to eat that?” The thought of letting my body be changed uncontrollably for nearly a year was, to put it mildly, a bit overwhelming. 2020 put my petty physical woes at ease. I did not have to blow out my hair for any appointment (or at least I was not comfortable getting back to work in that capacity), no one was judging what I wore each day, etc. Ostensibly, I could now be whoever I wanted to! I had not realized I was putting any of myself on hold up to this point. Indeed, yes, I followed a dream that I still do believe in, but there was a lot of red tape up in this corner and that, which prevented me from doing…whatever I wanted to! Some, yes, were restrictions I put on my own self, perceptions I believed other people had, a mold I needed to fit. However, where is the line of distinction between your own ideas and what society has fed you? At some point, they become one and the same. So, I shaved my head and decided to throw a pregnancy in there too!

F*** it.

When I brought up my proposal of building a tiny human to my husband Calvin, he was relatively ‘along for the ride’ and urged that it was more of my decision to make than his. I did not really know what he meant by this at first. It will be OUR baby, after all. They will change his life just as much as mine! I quickly learned that he was equally as excited and on board.

Only weeks to a few months later, did his comment start to sink in and make me think more deeply. We conceived rather quickly in September and began telling close friends about a month or two later. Through every Zoom call we heard “Woo hoos!!” and “wows” and crying and laughing and questions about how I’m feeling, predictions of the sex, “can’t waits” and a host more of very supportive responses. After a handful of calls, Calvin stopped me one evening and said, “Have you noticed that every time we tell our friends about the baby, the woman friend quickly retorts her reason as to why or why not she is having her own children now?” Honestly, it really did not occur to me. But I thought about it…and he was right. Each of our woman friends felt it necessary to explain where they were on their respective motherhood journeys! As if it was an apology…to us? To themselves? To society? Who knows. I have no problem with any of them sharing their thoughts with us on this, don’t get me wrong. I simply found it to be a fascinating observation. Being a woman can be amazing, powerful, “I am woman, hear me roar,” etc. However, we also carry a huge 50 pound backpack of expectations. Being the perfect partner with legs shaved, sugar scrub applied and lotion perfumed; being the powerful career woman hitting all your milestones before putting your life on hold for baby; being the best mother with time for attention, care, love: all without scarring your child for life - being a great cook, keeping the house clean, making sure you’re a good driver; don’t dress too skimpily, but look appealing; be accomplished without sacrificing a man’s feeling of worthiness, etc. These may not all be true for you, but I guarantee they’ve all popped up in your head at some point.

This all goes to say, Woman…I’m talking to you. Do whatever the hell you want.

Some people want to be a mother, some can’t be a mother, some don’t want to be a mother, some are young mothers, some are older mothers, some adopt, some foster, some are the cool Auntie. You’re all right. You’re all awesome. I’m proud of you regardless and you’re just as much of a powerful woman as any of us. You owe no ‘excuse’ to anyone. I will also say, that I’m happy to talk about my experience with anyone who is interested in starting their journey of motherhood. I also understand the need to hash through these decisions. It is a major DECISION. My husband was right that it affects me a lot more than him (at least now). Not only physically, but also emotionally, spiritually, mentally. There are a lot more expectations on women in this capacity than men. That’s just the way it is. I’m here to acknowledge that that is the case and urging you to be easy on yourself, no matter where you are on your own path.

This is also a reminder, that pregnancy+2020=a lot of time for me to think. If you’ve read through this whole thing, thank you for coming to my TED Talk. There are great things ahead. Maybe not tomorrow, but soon. And for us, we’re very excited for June 2021 for Baby Ball Junior. Much love to you all in this new year. Wishing you mental and physical health, prosperity and a good snuggle. -Ruby



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