We had the good fortune of connecting with Stephanie Polhemus and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Stephanie, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
My work/life balance has fluctuated for sure over time. When I first started out there was no balance. I would work all of the time and often sacrificed sleep in order to get things done. In the last two years, I have beet attempting to work on that balance. The first thing I did was to not sacrifice sleep and to be more honest with myself and others about what I can accomplish. This meant asking upfront for extensions of deadlines and sometimes saying no. This was something I was terrified to do at first, but found that being upfront about expectations was more than welcomed. Now, I did not always succeed in this balance, but it was much more manageable. Now with COVID and being home all the time, I am learning that I need to work even more on that balance and be more of an advocate for myself. This will include things like a few work from home days so I can do simple things like a load of laundry on breaks or take my dog for a walk over lunch. These days have been the most productive days and I have been more focused than when I just try to push through. I have learned that taking some time to clear my mind and take care of me has made me a better worker. I actually accomplish more in less time as I am more focused. The trick will be maintaining that balance when we all get back to normal theatre operations!
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am lucky that I have a career where I get to have two jobs that work out the different sides of my brain! My full time job as the Company Manager at the Atlanta Lyric Theatre. In this job I am the organizational brain. I keep productions on track and in budget, keep the office running, and am generally the go to person. I love bringing structure to the process. I think what sets me apart is that I have been a part of the process in many levels from backstage to onstage to designer and now on the administrative side. I am also a freelance Scenic Designer. I get to immerse myself in the worlds of these musicals and plays and create the space to tell best tell these stories. I thrive on this type of collaboration with the director and design teams. I love being able to tell a visual story and setting the world of these plays. Each play is a different experience and I love that. I think I got where I am today because I am such a team player. I am totally open to collaboration from everyone. I believe it makes me and my work better. You have to be open to all ideas from the team. That is what makes theatre great! You are only going to go so far if you are only interested in your own lane. You also have to learn when to let things go. You may have a brilliant idea that just is not working and you need to know when to pivot and let that go. Right now, I am working on a show where we had to throw out the design we worked months on because we are going virtual and it just won’t work in this format. If we held on to it, it would not serve the show. Now we are creating something much more dynamic for this new version of the show. You have to know when to pivot.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I admit that I am a bit of a homebody, even before COVID, so I would probably take the opportunity to go to some new places as well as my favorites. I actually do a lot more in town when someone visits than I do normally. I would take them to Ponce City Market, GA Aquarium, maybe do the tour the Fox. We would eat at Taqueria del Sol, Busy Bee Cafe, Heirloom Market BBQ, LA Fonda, and maybe a food tour down Buford Highway. Of course we would see what is playing at Atlanta’s many local live theatres!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are too many to list them all! I am thankful to have the best community around me! I couldn’t do any of this without all of my Atlanta Lyric Staff. This last year would have been impossible without them! Mary Nye Bennett, Diana Lynch, Liz Campbell, Christy Baggett, Jackie Lenz, and Elizabeth Wexler. We are all such a great team and such a great support system. I get so much love and support from these amazing women, not just in work at the Lyric, but in my freelance work and life.
Headshot- Jamie Katz