16 Mental Health with Natalie Kearns

August 21, 2018

This week, we continue our conversation with Natalie Kearns and switch gears to mental health while working in props. Natalie discusses how she has built a career while navigating anxiety, and Ashley describes her own challenges with her bipolar disorder.

Below is a transcript of this episode, edited for readability.

ASHLEY FLOWERS: Hi, Welcome back to Silk Flowers and—

ERIC HART: Papier Mache Hearts. Here’s your hosts, Eric Hart.

ASHLEY: and Ashley Flowers. We are back this week with Natalie Kearns—


ASHLEY: Last week, we talked a lot about where you have worked in the past… um, you went from Canada to Boston to London for a bit, and all that jazz…

NATALIE: Now, I’m in the Canadian London.

ASHLEY: [laughs] Yeah, the Canadian London, as well.

NATALIE: Yeah, makes Google-ing real complicated. I get a lot of emails like “Hey, how close to, ya know, Birmingham are you?” and it’s like “Mmm, there’s no Birmingham here”. Across the sea, people. Wrong London.

ASHLEY: This week we’re kinda gonna switch gears completely, and a topic we’ve never discussed in this episode, and that’s mental illness in the theatre world. I, myself, have Bipolar, so I know there have been multiple moments in my life that I have encountered situations that had to be handled in ways that could have been better if other people understood more of what Bipolar was? Or could have been better in ways that I needed to educate myself on how to cope with these certain situations, to succeed in the theater world. Because it’s stressful, it’s insane! It’s triggering.

Um, so… yeah, let’s jump in and kind of talk a little bit about how your mental illness has affected, has helped, and where it kinda all began and how you first saw it in the theater world and affecting you.

NATALIE: Yeah, so… I was sort of inspired to talk more about this by an actor who I’ve worked with in Canada who, uh, recently had a really amazing blog post about his own struggles with mental illness and his desire to be more open about it, despite the fear that like, you know, casting directors and directors and stage managers and whoever might see this and say “We don’t wanna take on that burden”, you know? Which is obviously not fair to someone, especially someone so incredibly talented as he is. So I read this article, and was like “Okay, I feel like I should be more open about this.”

So I, basically from the womb, uh [laughs] have been a clinically anxious person. Like you know, first big issues popping up at age 3 and 4… uh, first therapy and trying to figure out why I was, you know, panicking and refusing to go to kindergarten, and pre-kindergarten, and why everything was so intense for me. So, I was in and out of child therapists from 4, was clinically diagnosed with generalized anxiety at like, 7 or 8? And then was medicated for the first time when I was 9. So I grew up hating change, and hating transition and… which is, you know, sort of the antithesis of the theater world [laughter] but like, going to somebody’s birthday party was a huge ordeal. Like it was crying and throwing up in my parents’ car, having them walk in with me, get settled, then they could go. But it was like a cycle, every time. So, being medicated as a kid was hugely helpful and it was sort of, like…you know, there were times as a kid I thought “I’m never gonna move out of my parents’ house”, “I’m never gonna be able to do anything because they can’t even drop me at a bus to go on a field trip.” Like, my parents chaperoned every field trip I ever went on.

When I meet people that are just, uh, in their lowest lows, and are like “I don’t want to be medicated”… Like, for me, it changed my life so drastically at such a young age. Like, in Grade 8, I was able to go on a school trip to Washington D.C., without my parents chaperoning, and that was like, the biggest success. It was the first time I thought, “Oh, I might be able to go to college!” [laughs] So, it was something that I’ve dealt with for literally my entire life. And a big part of it has been that I am somebody who needs to know all potential outcomes, and who needs to be fully in control of everything I do. So I, at a young age, was somebody who liked to know all the facts about something, which has been to my detriment and to my success. I’m the person that, when you travel, has already downloaded all the maps onto their phone and researched all the places and I go with people and they’re like “Wow! We got so much done! This trip would have been us wandering around lost if you weren’t here!” and I’m like “Well, I wouldn’t have made it on this trip unless I did all of these things”.

But for me, a place where I found people that had the same sort of manic energy, and sort of a place where I was comfortable, was always with creativity. I was a very crafty kid and I was a kid, you know, who frankly, like, sometimes… I didn’t go to sleep-away camp or I didn’t do something, so I spent a lot of time like, imagining and playing and making up things and visualizing things that I was too scared to do [laughter] in the real world, but I could, you know, act them out. So creativity was very important to me as something to do.

So when I got into theater in Grade 6- like it was an environment that for some reason, the, like, absolute chaos, and uncertainty was manageable? And also me being on crew and being involved in the process… Like, I was getting all the information, and learning to anticipate where problems were, and there was an end date in sight, and it was safe and I felt like, “this is a place that I have no control, in some way, but where I can use my skills of that over-researching, over-analyzing, and trying to manage all the outcomes, frankly, to success!” So, to this day I still am like, “Why…?” Like on paper, props is really probably the least amount of Type A/being in control. You’ve got people giving you all sorts of information of “I need it to do this!” “I need it to look like this!” “I need to jump on it!” “I need to tap dance on it!”… But somehow, I ended up in it, weirdly enough.


ERIC: I often hear other departments when they see the pages and pages of prop notes from rehearsal reports, it gives them anxiety, just thinking about it.

NATALIE: For sure!

ERIC: So, it’s interesting that that actually is what you’re seeking…

NATALIE: Yeah, and you know, that is one of the things I’ve learned is that it’s a Catch 22. I’m somebody that lies in bed and looks at their phone. It’ll be 10:30 or 11 and I’ll look at my emails, my work emails, and a rehearsal report’ll come through. And it’s like “Do I want to look at this?”. Because either I’m going to bed with an unknown, and I’m not stressing if there are 20 notes on there, OR I’m opening it and knowing what my day tomorrow looks like. Whether it’s stressful or not, it’s like these weird time bombs in my inbox- some nights I choose not to open it… and some nights I open it and it’s like, “Okay, well, now I know what tomorrow looks like and I can sleep.”


ASHLEY: Yeah! Yeah…

NATALIE: … But I don’t know which oooone!

ASHLEY: Yeah, it’s, for me, the unknown and the quiet makes me extremely anxious… [N: Yes!] You give me a million things to do, I’m running around with my head cut off? That’s prime time for me. That is when I’m like, “go, go, go, succeed”. The moment there is quiet time, there’s down time, I get anxious, and overwhelmed. And I’m like “Oh, my god something’s wrong, I need to do something!”

NATALIE: And that was part of why I knew, personally, there was no way that A.) I was gonna be a designer, because that’s like… you’re moving all over the place, you’re going new places, you’re meeting new people, you’re working on new things, you’re going through the transition every other week, and it’s why I knew I couldn’t freelance in props forever… like, it was okay, and it was so crazy that I didn’t have time to be anxious about it. But it was, like, “I need to sit, and be on staff somewhere”. Because I know for me personally, it’s still difficult to go, at the end of the season, to the layoff. The first couple weeks I’m like [cringing] “Eeeerkaaaay…”, and then really it’s the weeks leading back into going back to work that I’m like, “Here’s the shift in my pattern and this, I know, is gonna be hard.” I’ll wake up like, “Why do I feel so anxious?” and then I look at the calendar and it’s like “Oh, it’s cuz you start back at work in a week and your body’s like “HEEEY! I know that mentally you know that this is the same as it is every year, but man your stomach feels weird!” Like, alright? And it was like that, you know, going back to school every year. Just sort of that, like, I’ve gone from summer, and now back to school. And for me, that was huge.

ASHLEY: Has there been a project- or a position, in general- that your anxiety prevented you from actually completing that? And how was that handled, how did you cope with that, how would you have handled it now, versus then?

NATALIE: Yeah, I had a huuuge learning curve. So, when I graduated from Emerson, I— actually at the recommendation of a professor— interviewed for a summer stock that was based out of the university, in a fairly rural setting. And I had that interview for Head of Props— it was like me and an intern, so somebody who was still in college. I was 22, I think the intern was like, 19… which is one thing, I was, like “Mmkay? Don’t know if I’m qualified to teach someone who’s 3 years younger than me?” But more on that later…


And I was very clear, like “Oh I’m gonna get dropped off at this place, I don’t have my own car” and they were, like “It’s fine, there’s production vehicles. We’ll give you what you need.” And I was like “Okay.” So, I went up to this place, I was living in the university dorms, sort of Week 1, I got there, it was me and Stage Management, the TD, and the apprentices, the interns. And um, I quickly found out that I knew no one there, which was like, “Okay, I’ve gone from university where you know everybody or like, from freelancing where I had the support of the university… to a place I don’t know what the rules of the shop are, I don’t know where to buy anything, I don’t know any of these people… you know, whatever. And then the bomb got dropped that the production vehicles… we had to take a driving test for, through the university. But they didn’t want to administer that until everyone who was gonna need the vehicles was gonna be there… which was like another two weeks.

So I was getting rehearsal reports and stage managers coming in and like “We need all these things for first rehearsal” and I was trapped in the middle of nowhere, with an intern staring at me, people asking for stuff— who, ya know, came from these prestigious places I was scared of— and all these professionals… and I was waking up, and I was physically unable to leave the room. Like, I was sobbing, I was sick, I couldn’t eat, I was terrified. I was telling my apprentice I was sick so “don’t come in today” because I couldn’t even think. I was trying to go down to this classroom that was our prop shop, trying to figure from these shop supervisors, what tools I was allowed to use… I’m somebody who loves to know the rules and the boundaries, and I had no information. It got so bad so quickly that I was calling home and sobbing, telling other people I was sick and couldn’t work, but begging my parents to come pick me up, like my 5-year-old self, and was like “I can’t do this”.

So finally— and I was mortified, I was so embarrassed— I physically cannot tell this person that I’m leaving, this TD. And so… I made my parents call him. Which, you know, was mortifying. And stayed in my room and my dad came and picked me up in the middle of the night and we drove back. And I took Austin and I said “Okay, I’m gonna figure out what went wrong here”. And I think it’s pretty clear what went wrong there, and another person could have dealt with that… But I know that I cannot deal with that.

To the point that this summer, I went to work somewhere that was far away from where I am in London, and the theater was like “We’ll fly you out” and I said, “No, I know how this works. I’m driving out, so I have my own car. So that I don’t have to negotiate, because I know myself. This will be a disaster. So, can you give me the quote on the flight? I’ll put it towards gas, whatever.” And they were like, “Yeah, sure, fine.” And I did it this summer and, frankly, I know that I would’ve been… I mean, I was anxious, just being in a new place, by virtue of that, and I know it would’ve been a mess.

So I know those things about myself now. I know that when I go to a new place, or I get offered something, the questions to ask. Because if I don’t have certain resources, I know that I will be mentally unable to do the job. And one of those is control over my own transportation. You know? [E: Mhm, right] Like, Amazon can only deliver so much to the woods.

[laughter from all]

ASHLEY: And I think that’s so important, learning about what you need. Because like you just said, if you don’t know what you need, you’re kind of setting yourself up to fail.

NATALIE: For sure. And the other thing I learned— So, this TD… You know, I’m in the car, I’m mortified, I’m crying on the way home, my dad said to me “He said it was gonna be fine, there’s somebody local whose helped with this before, they’ll bring them in, whatever.” Like people get cancer in the middle of a job contract, and people aren’t like “How dare you leave!” like, whatever… it’s a health thing. You’re leaving for a health reason. So years later, through S*P*A*M, I went to the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival Region in New England to be an Adjudicator in Props, and this guy— because it was at a university, he’s part of that— and he remembered me! And he was like, “Yeah, whatever. It was no big deal. The shows happened.” The shows happened! And that was the whole point of this guy, whose article I read. Like, as much as theater is, like “The show must go on!”, at the same time like, worst case scenario? The show gets cancelled. But like… it’s not heart surgery. You’re not there as part of a cog, that if you jump out of the line of cogs, we’re gonna have nuclear war. If you have to go, they’ll figure it out, ya know?

ASHLEY: And I’ve recently learned that we make it seem that it was worse than what it was… and to them…

NATALIE: Oh, yeah!

ASHLEY:… they’re like “Oh no, it’s fine, I understand! You’ve gotta take care of yourself!” But in my mind, I’m like “I just ruined my career. I’m done, I’m never gonna work.”

NATALIE: Right! And that’s why, it was a professor who vouched for me, who knew this guy through KCACTF, I still worked for both of them and with both of them… so whether through KCACTF or though other shows, I still worked with them after that. You know, but it really did feel like a shameful blot on my resume… well, I didn’t put it on my resume, because I didn’t do any work [laughs] but it was sort of like “Oh, what were you doing during the summer of ’09 or ’08?” and I’m like “Erghhhh, crying in my bedroom.” [laughter] But you know, people find out a week before that one of their apprentices got a better gig, and they move on. People drop contracts for reasons, all the time. And frankly, I think I had a pretty good reason [laughter]. People drop stuff for much more, and maybe that’s a blemish? But, for me, it was getting to that point, like “ Okay, it was fine. Those shows happened, those shows happened…”

ASHLEY: Exactly. It’s not the end of the world.

NATALIE: It’s not the end of the world!

ASHLEY: But our brains are telling us that it is.

NATALIE: Oh, yeah. That was like a 10-year realization process [laughter]

ERIC: But at the same time, do you think there are, uh, aspects of working in theater where people don’t understand and aren’t doing things to support mental health as much as they support physical health?

NATALIE: For sure! You know, we make great accommodations for an actor who shows up with half of a voice, you know what I mean? Like, we bend over backwards, we make them Throat Coat, we give them lozenges, we bring them tea, we set up extra water stations backstage, we get the freeze-y spray… [coughs] which I apparently need [laughter].

All that jazz! But yeah, if that same actor walked in and they’re having an anxious morning— I know, personally, I would hide that. I wouldn’t go to the stage manager, and say “Just so you know, I’m having a really off day, so if I’m quietly sitting in the corner instead of running my lines, that’s why. Like, I’m meditating or I’m… or if I suddenly run out of the room, it’s because I’m nauseous and I need to go and breathe somewhere for a few minutes”… I would never tell them that! [“Yeah”] Right? Versus if I walked in with laryngitis, and I was expected to perform? Same problem, but I’m like “Oh, I need my throat coat”, ya know? Whatever. So, yeah, I don’t think we treat it in the same way. And the times that I have said “I just want you to know, I’m not feeling right today”, it’s said through biting my tongue to keep from crying, [Yeah!] because it feels incredibly shameful. And I tell myself, anytime I’ve said it, people have said “Oh my god, I get it”.

ASHLEY: Like they understand.

NATALIE: Whether it’s hormones or mental illness or whatever, like I’m not my best x-y-zed day, and I don’t tell anyone. But if I’m physically not my best, I’ll tell ya. You better get that knee brace on me or whatever [laughter]

ASHLEY: I feel that, when someone is anxious or mentally unable to handle a situation in a specific time and needs to step away, we tell ourselves “Oh, we’re being weak, we’re failing at the job, we’re not doing it properly”. And because it’s a mental thing and it’s something you can’t just take, you know, a hot tea to calm it down sometimes, like you would with a throat. It might take a longer meditation moment to do, and I think kinda triggers ourselves into thinking what we can’t say…

NATALIE: Yeah, but at the same time, it’s like… if we could be more open about it, there certainly are accommodations that can be made. Like, again, I use the examples of actors, because they’re expected to do this publicly, right? That’s such a vulnerable thing. They’re expected to like, go places and display emotions, whatever. SO if the accommodation for a sore throat is extra whatever on the other side of the stage, the accommodation for a day when all you can mentally handle is getting up there and saying your lines… is like, when I come offstage, normally we have a banter or I go sit down and play on my phone or whatever. Today, I need you to leave me alone, or come touch my shoulder and smile at me and give me a thumbs up, and see if I need some water. But today is not the day that we’re, like, checking in and talkin’ about sports score or something. Today is a day where all I can mentally handle is just doing what I’m being paid here to do and then I’m gonna go home, and I’m gonna crash. And that’s no different than somebody that has the flu.

ASHLEY: That’s so true.

ERIC: Yeah, we were doing A Christmas Carol and the Ghost of Christmas Past broke her arm in the middle of the run. [Oh no!] So they made a sling out of the same red velvet as the dress, so that it basically hid it. And, like, I’m sure they were wishing that she didn’t break her arm, but they understood that they had to accommodate what happened and let it happen. And I feel like a lot of the time, with any sort of mental issue, rather than accommodating, they’re like “Well, I wish you wouldn’t do that.”

NATALIE: Yeah, “We gotta deal with so-and-so, who’s being a Nervous Nellie today”

ASHLEY: Exactly, yeah.

NATALIE: And that was something— you know, my parents have been saints, in helping me through this my whole life— it’s a metaphor that many people use, but my mom used to say to me a lot was it’s no different from being a diabetic. Like, a diabetic has to stop and take their insulin, they have to physically check-in with themselves and see where they are and they need to monitor their health. And she said, you’re no different; taking your medication every day, to keep your serotonin levels right, is no different from taking insulin to keep your blood sugar levels right.

ASHLEY: That’s so true

ERIC: I think in theater, especially in universities, they’re trying to teach students there’s some kind of ideal personality that you need to have…

NATALIE: Yeah, you need to walk in smiling, so they wanna work with you again

ERIC: You need to make eye contact, you need to, like, never cry… you need to be available at all times

NATALIE: You don’t wanna be too high maintenance, and too demanding

ASHLEY: People are different and we need to accept that. And that’s interesting because — so, we’re all at the S*P*A*M conference right now, in Chicago, and we just had this workshop discussing different personalities. And we broke up into different groups and asking each other, “Okay, when I ask somebody, of your personality, ‘What do I need from you?’, and you say ‘Oh, whatever the show needs’ you know that’s not the actual answer that you’re looking for.” And we were asking these different personalities, and somebody who was on the receiving end of that question said “I just need a moment to think of what I need, I need you to give me a little bit of time to come up with an answer.” And the other person’s like “I don’t understand, I just had that answer.”

NATALIE: Yeah, you need what you need. Everybody’s brain is different.

ASHLEY: Exactly, it’s the same thing. And it’s so weird that we forget that. We think “No, this is the personality of this job

ERIC: You’re expecting everybody to share your personality, and if they don’t respond to your questions in a way that you would have responded, you think there’s something…

ASHLEY: Wrong?

ERIC: Wrong, yeah. As opposed to…

NATALIE: Yeah. We have this idealized theater person, right? And this idealized public personality, or whatever. And it goes back to this mantra that we’re told: “The show must go on”. Well, the show’s not gonna “go on” if the lead actor breaks his leg that night. OR! They. Figure. It. Out. And going back to that whole physical-versus-mental health thing, ask people who work as freelancers, or without quality high-levels of healthcare, in the U.S., and also in Canada— like, I have the Canadian free healthcare, which just covers your general primary doctor, it doesn’t cover medication costs, so I have extra insurance through the union— but I’m still paying 50% if I go to a psychiatrist or a social worker or therapy, I’m still paying 50% of the cost of the medication I take everyday. And I recognize that I’m privileged in being able to do that, because I have a full-time, year-round, union membership that I pay for. And because I’m in a country, where I can go to my general doctor and say “I need a medication adjustment” and she does that, and that consultation is free, or then she sends me on a referral and I may be waiting for weeks. Or if it’s an emergency, which I did have a couple of years ago, like I had a really low period where, my medication— like I’ve been on maybe 5 medications over the years? Because at some point it becomes ineffective anymore, and I have to go through the whole messy mess of switching to something new and seeing if that works…

ASHLEY: That’s triggering, in itself

NATALIE: Yeah, and you’re just trying to maintain your day-to-day life. It’s a lot of work, and we’re working hours that are not normal. So, then you have the fear of going to your boss and being like “I have a noon appointment today that I have to go to, because it’s the only appointment I got and I’ve been waiting 3 months for it. So, like, I’m sorry we’re in tech, I’ll be as fast as I can, text me, but I gotta go.”

ASHLEY: This is important, it’s a priority

NATALIE: I’m lucky to work in a place where that’s fine, but I understand there are a lot of theater companies that would be like “Ehhh, you need to be here.”

ASHLEY: I’ve been very lucky thus far on having people very understanding and for, about I think the past year? I’ve been more communicative with it, in going into work and saying “I am not having a good day. If I snap, I do not mean to. I am not trying to be rude, I am not trying to be unprofessional, or disrespectful. It’s just right now my brain just, speaking to another person right now? Is not working” and then there are times I’ve told my boss, and my coworkers, I’ve said, “If you notice a mood shift in me? Tell me. Because sometimes I don’t even realize it. I mean, don’t be a butthead about it, you know? Be nice about it [laughter]

NATALIE: “Ohh, you’re suddenly not very cool, what’s going on over there?”

ASHLEY: And there have been times when my boss has said “Ashley, you are speaking a mile a minute, you’re not focused, are you okay?” And then you’re like “OH! I need to take a moment to kind of, like, reevaluate my head and just meditate for a second to try to calm down.” But just having an open line of communication with whoever you’re working with— or any relationship you have with anybody, really, on this front— is so, so important in helping you. Like that’s a tool to help you succeed.

NATALIE: Even for me like, I’m a supervisor, right? I’m the head of a department. Which, in the dynamic of things, that can be uncomfortable, saying “Hey, I’m having a crappy day. I’m real anxious. So if I disappear for a while, it’s cuz I’m sitting in the bathroom, wondering why my stomach wants to fall out of my mouth.” So I don’t often say that, unless it’s sort of one-on-one with someone that I’ve worked with for a while. But what I do is I sort of use coded language, to sort of— for me, one of the things I find really stressful, and really anxiety-inducing, about my work is teaching. Because I never, I had no aspirations to be a teacher. So, I work at a theater that highly values training, so I have high school students and I have apprentices, and what I say to them is like “Guys, part of this job is that you’re asked to be an expert in a hell of a lot of things. Every show I’m asked to be an expert in something I’m not an expert in. So I’m telling you now, I don’t want you to think that I know everything, because I don’t know everything. So, if I don’t tell you something or if I have”— cuz, one of the things for me that I’ve always really struggled with is letting people know that I don’t know what’s going on. And it goes back to the whole “I have to know all the information about everything”— “…So, if we’re in a project and I need to sit down and talk through it with something, because I also don’t know how to solve it, I need you to know that is gonna be how this job works for the rest of your life. Like, we’re all gonna sit in a circle and brainstorm how to karate-chop a bench in half most effectively [E & A: Mhm.]

Like, I started out in this— and this is why I look back at my apprenticeship like “Man, they were saints”— is like, I thought that they knew everything, right? And I had to pretend that I knew everything. So I did a lot of hiding, and like, trying to solve problems without asking questions, because I was very afraid of them being like “She’s never gonna make it, she had no idea what she’s doing.” [whisper-yells] That’s the point of an apprenticeship, is to ask questions! [laughter] That’s what I say to these students. You can literally ask me the same question a hundred times! Because I’m not an expert, you’re not an expert, none of us are experts. You could do this for 45 years and you’re still gonna… and that’s why we have this props group! We’re still gonna ask each other questions. There’s no point in, like, making ourselves sick over trying to solve everything. So that’s the language I use with them to say “I’m incredibly uncomfortable with everything that’s happening, so I’m gonna diffuse it by telling you guys I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, so here we go!” [all laugh]

ASHLEY: So true. Have you been in a situation where you were triggered, the anxiety was higher than it should be, and your coworkers, or employer, or employees were not understanding?

NATALIE: Umm, I think anytime I’ve ever been open about it, that it hasn’t been a problem, right? So, like… it’s only when I like, will leave and disappear, and come back, it’s like “Where have you been?” and it’s like, “…Oh, I was just… downstairs…”. And sometimes I’ll be like “Oh, my stomach’s really upset”, I don’t say it’s because I’m anxious [mumbles] like, let’s not talk about how I was in the bathroom for four hours, like whatever [laughs]. And then it’s a physical problem, and they’re like, “Oh… Well, let me know if you need a Tylenol or whatever.” Well, okay, it’s fine. And then I just breathe and I go back to my work, or whatever. But anytime I’ve been open about it, it’s been, like “Okay, so… what can we do to make this work?”

ERIC: Mhm…

ASHLEY: That’s great.

NATALIE: So I’ve tried to be— and unfortunately, I usually let it get to the point where, like, I’m starting to be come physically incapable of doing it, and that’s when I have to say, “Here’s the deal. I’m in the middle of a medication switch”, or “I have all these appointments because I’m trying to figure out what the heck is going on” so I’m gonna do this to best of my ability, but like… I’m gonna need to not be here on Friday and I want you to know that if I come up here and say “I need to sit with you, and talk through this”, this is why. But I have never gone early enough where it hasn’t been, like a necessity. But like, I’m at the point that I know at the beginning of every season I work with a group of high school students and that, as amazing as that experience is and how fun that experience is, it always will trigger anxiety. [A: Yeah.] And I have been very clear with my bosses and my coworkers, that this something I find extremely uncomfortable— I love it, and I think what they get out of it is incredible, but it will always be stressful for me. [E: Mhm.] and what I’ve gotten back from a lot of them is like, “It ain’t no picnic for us, either.”

Like, none of us, we don’t work in a school setting! So none of us really have the ambition, frankly, to teach. Like, we went into the solo professional side of things. None of us went into the teaching side of things. So we don’t have any teaching training. And we never expected to do this. And we love it! But, for a lot of us, it’s very stressful. And that’s great, to like, … when I express that, to get that back from them. Like, yeah, every year I’m like “Oh my God, they’re all staring at me. How do I teach somebody who can barely use a screw gun to build a bed?” But it’s like, “Okay. Well. We’re gonna figure it out.”


ERIC: So, you know you’re never gonna fix that, you’re just gonna have to deal with it? Or, figure out how to deal with.

NATALIE: Yeah, I know that I’ll never be truly comfortable with it. That’s no different than like… I know I’m never gonna be truly comfortable with running. Some times I do it, because it’s good for me and it’s good for my body, but I’m never gonna love it. I’m never gonna want to do it But when I do it, it’s like… When I do it, I have a great time with these students, and man, I’m spreadin’ the gospel of the prop [laughter] and if it changes their minds, or they become theater-goers later, or they pursue something creative it’s like, “Awesome! I was part of that!” So like, in some ways, it’s worth it. But you know, I will always struggle with it. And I’ve gotten to the point, it’s been 3 or 4 years, and it’s like, “Okay, here we go. That’s why I’m feeling a little bizarre. It’s starting again.”

ASHLEY: Yeah, that’s always so interesting when, for me, when I start to get very anxious about not hearing back from somebody, or something, and you know it’s the silliest thing. It does not matter—

NATALIE: Yeah. They’re probably on the subway or something.

ASHLEY: They’re in tech or something, but I just start freaking out. And then I have to realize “Okay, Ashley, this is why you’re freaking out.” You know the logistics of this, and trying to, fact-by-fact, go through and be like, okay, this is not as extreme as your brain is telling you it is.

NATALIE: Yeah, I tend to spiral into thinking I don’t have as much time as I have? So I tend to make a lot of lists. And then evaluate— like, I’ll complete one thing on the list and I’ll look and it’s only been 15 minutes. In my brain when I woke up this morning I’m like “Oh my God, I’m not even gonna be able to get that done by lunch!”


I’m so much faster than I think I am, but I get into this spiral of like, “Oh my God, I don’t have enough time! I have all these things to do!” and they’re all in my brain, I’m not organizing them in any way, so I have to put them all down on paper, and I know that abut myself now.

ERIC: Mhm.

ASHLEY: Well, we have actually reached the end of this episode. That went by very quickly.

NATALIE: There were so many things to talk about

ASHLEY: So many important things to talk about! I’m very happy you were able to sit down with us and discuss all of this

ERIC: And so early in the morning.

ASHLEY: I know. It is quite early, guys.

NATALIE: I’m awake now! I’m ready to drive back to Canada. [laughter] I’ve got my coffee in me.

ASHLEY: I’m like “Now I gotta get on a plane and maybe I’ll go to sleep” [laughs] Well, guys, this has been Silk Flowers and…

ERIC: Papier Mache Hearts. I’m your host, Eric Hart.

ASHLEY: I’m your host, Ashley Flowers, and we’ve been with…

NATALIE: Natalie Kearns!

ASHLEY: Make sure to check us out on Twitter @silkmache. You can send us an email with thoughts or questions or ideas you would like us to talk about at propspodcast@gmail.com

ERIC: You can subscribe to us on iTunes or Google Play, or check out our website at silkflowerandpapiermachehearts.com.

ASHLEY: And we’ll see y’all next week!

ERIC: Bye!


Transcription by Carly Anders.

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