We had the good fortune of connecting with Margaret Shigeko Starbuck and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Margaret, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Such a good question. I think about this all the time. I work in the theatre industry, which historically has been a field notorious for encouraging terrible work-life balance. There has been and still is a culture coupled with a system of practices and rules in the theatre world that pushes past artist boundaries, demands a 6-day work week, demands 12 hour or longer work days, and expects that everyone submit to these conditions because we love theatre and our career is our passion. And I 100% bought into that culture for years, from when I first started doing theater in high school, through college, and my first couple of years out of college, until I completely burned out because I was so physically and emotionally exhausted from working all the time. For the past year and a half I have been trying to set better work hours boundaries, take more time to relax and see friends and family, rediscover old hobbies and interests that had fallen by the wayside, and remind myself that I am not defined by my career or by how productive I am. I am not always successful in this process and I am definitely still unlearning a lot of ingrained habits and beliefs, but my mental health has markedly improved. I also know that I am able to set boundaries the way I am because I was able to get essentially a 9 to 5 job in the theater world and am no longer freelancing. If we really want work-life balance to improve, we can’t just put the onus on individuals, we have to change the system that

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a theater director and designer, and currently work as the Artistic Associate at Boston Court Pasadena Performing Arts Center. What most excites me about my current position at Boston Court is that it gives me the opportunity to investigate what the purpose of theater is, how the theater can be of best service to our communities, and how to build meaningful relationships with our communities. I also contemplate those questions in my personal directing work and hope that the work I direct brings people together, disrupts the status quo, and provokes questioning.

In terms of my journey, I came to Los Angeles to attend UCLA as a theater major, and graduated in 2017 with a BA in Theater. I am incredibly grateful for the mentors that I had in college and in my first few years after college who helped me get to where I am today. After graduating I freelanced as an actor, a designer, a technician, a director and an assistant director. The constant grinding of freelancing was incredibly draining and my mental health really declined. I definitely learned how important it is to set boundaries, not overcommit, and to make time to relax, have fun, and spend quality time with friends and family.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Monday: Go to the Getty Villa for the gorgeous location and gardens, and drive up the PCH through Santa Monica and Malibu to get there to catch the beautiful ocean views, and finish the day with a seafood dinner at the Reel Inn.

Tuesday: Grab Portos potato balls and pastries on Magnolia and then take them hiking and picnicking at Wildwood Canyon in the Verdugo Mountains above Burbank

Wednesday: Head to downtown LA for a tour that would include the Music Center, Disney Concert Hall, the Broad, MOCA, the Last Bookstore, and something to eat at Grand Central Market

Thursday: Head out to Huge Tree Pastry in Monterey Park for Fan Tuan and fresh soy milk and then to the LA County Arboretum and then for Dim Sum at Lunasia

Friday: I would take them to see a play at one of LA’s small theaters and to Korean BBQ at Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong

Saturday: Get Al Pastor tacos at Leos Tacos then head to Milk Jar cookies for dessert and to LACMA and the Craft Contemporary to catch some art.

Sunday: Take them to get ramen from Tsujita on Sawtelle and for bread pudding at B Sweet, and then head over to Santa Monica to spend some time on the beach.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I want to shoutout Acme Theatre Company in my hometown Davis, CA. Acme is the entire reason that I became involved in theatre in the first place and grew to love it so much as a young person. Acme is a non-profit theater company run for and by teenagers, open to 8th graders through 12th graders. The teenagers produce, design, market, tech, and act in all the shows. I first got involved in Acme through their summer camp program when I was 11, which my mother signed me up for despite me being a very shy child. I acted for the first time that summer, then came back the following summer, then joined the company officially the next summer, and eventually joined the teen governing council when I entered high school. Through Acme I learned how to build a set and use power tools, how to hang and focus a light, what a non-profit is and how it is structured, how to fundraise, how to lead my peers, how to keep organized and not double book myself, and how to say no to additional commitments. My time with the company was an invaluable theatrical and personal education, and I made some of my best friends and built a sense of community for the first time in my life. Being a teenager can be a lonely, insecure time, and I can’t say enough how empowering it was as a teenager to be trusted with real responsibility and to have a sense of deep communal bonds with my peers. Acme is definitely the reason I am working in theatre today. Go check them out at https://www.acmetheatre.net

Website: https://www.margaretstarbuck.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/margarstar/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/margaret-starbuck-7b7a19116/

Image Credits
Alyssa Dorn, Sam Vinzon, Brian Hashimoto,

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