Sunday, June 25, 2017

Backstage drama out on the street


An actor friend invited me to see a show he's in, opening this week. So I looked around on social media to see what it's about and I appear to have stumbled on some backstage drama which the director of the show has put out on the street. 

I came upon this message on her Twitter feed - she is speaking about herself in the third person.

And it looks a lot like she's talking about my actor friend, based on what I've seen of the rest of the cast.

Three years ago, I was directing/producing a play of mine. One day, in the middle of our run, I happened to end up standing behind one of the actors in my show, we'll call her "C", who was waiting for an elevator. It was crowded around the elevator and I didn't get a chance to get close enough to say hi to her and I couldn't get her attention. 

She began chatting with the literary manager of a theater company which had offices in the same building as our theater - they knew each other from a production C had done for his theater company. The literary manager, whom I had never met, was facing me. He asked C how the show was going and I couldn't hear what she said but I could hear what he said in response and it was something like "oh, OK, we'll talk about something else then."

Now the thing is, I had already begun to get a sense that C did not like me - even before I offered her the role. But I felt that I owed the role to her since she had been part of readings of the play while I was developing it - for years - and I almost never paid her for the readings, at least in the early years.

And this is why I now always pay actors for readings, no matter how informal. So I will never feel guilt-tripped into casting someone ever again. But I always have to learn everything the hard way. *sigh*

During rehearsals with C it became even clearer that I had been right - she did not like me. She would pull stupid diva stunts like demanding that instead of clear plastic cups for the "wine" (white grape juice) in a scene, they had to be real stemware. Luckily the other actor talked her out of it. And she insisted on filling the grape juice to the top of the cup, which made it difficult for the stage crew to strike the cup without spilling during the scene change. I was the stage crew.

So the elevator finally came and I got in with the literary director and C. I could tell C was nervous that I might have overheard her, but I said nothing about it. Instead I gave the literary manager a postcard to our show and invited him to attend for free.

Obviously I had no plans to ever work with C again, but I was certainly not going to let her know that, not during the run of the show. I always treat my actors well during the run of the show, no matter what, because it's my show, and the less stressed out the actors are, the better my show will be. So I can't imagine giving into the impulse to publicly attack an actor during a show.

Based on the rest of the director's social media issuances it appears theater director is her full-time job. To say that posting this message on Twitter during rehearsals is unprofessional - especially since my actor friend is a follower of hers on Twitter -  is an understatement. She is basically sabotaging her own show.

And the thing is, the actor in question has always been a consummate professional, in my experience. He's almost never late to rehearsal, and in fact he's often early. He has ideas of his own about his character, some of which are very good, but he also takes direction beautifully, and is almost always upbeat and friendly during rehearsal and the show's run. And he's always off book way ahead of everybody else and learns other actors' lines too, sometimes before they do. And because he learns the entire script inside and out, and because he has a laser-like focus on what is happening while he is performing, when other actors forget their lines he will rescue them. I've seen that happen on several occasions and I have been incredibly grateful for it. 

So I can't imagine what this director's problem is with my actor friend, although I have my theories, based on other things she has posted on her Instagram account during the course of rehearsals. But whatever her issues are with him, throwing it up on social media for all to see is completely wrong and she needs to reconsider her career as a director.

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