On one of my recent sifts through current jobs in the theatre market, I was cheerfully reminded of the curious phrases used in the theatre world. In one application for a job (I now can’t remember the post or even the theatre, although I know it was one of the London Giants) a necessary requirement was having experience in the field- so, and I quote ‘the chosen candidate can hit the ground running’.
This is a phrase I remember repeatedly hearing when in my first theatre job in London. A saying that would get a rapture of nodding heads and grunting agreement whenever it was voiced. I never got it, and I still don’t, why it was so popular in theatre.
The first noted use was in an 1895 story, ironically named ‘King of all the Liars’ that was published in US Newspapers:
“I turned to run and figured to a dot when he shot. As he cracked loose I jumped way up in the air and did a split, just like what these show gals does, only mine wasn’t on the ground by six foot. The bullet went under me. I knew he had five more cartridges, so I hit the ground running and squatted low down when his gun barked a second time.”
There are a whole string of words or phrases like this, used by Theatre folk so often that they are filled with insincerity. I remember particularly being shocked by how much ‘moment’ was used. When someone left work (which happened all the time because of the saturation of interns) a Staff email would circulate requesting people attend a ‘leaving moment’ for the person. Then of course the shows themselves are full of moments: magical, sad, celebratory, pensive, which are filled with an array of activity and blown up or stretched out. In theatre you can never just have ‘ten minutes’ with someone, as if it makes it less artsy
Needless to say the moment I saw this written in the application I shut down my computer, grabbed a coat and made my way out to meet a non-theatre friend, with quick, certain decisiveness.