Monday, March 3, 2008

on pink slips, creative capital

so, wonderful partner said to me, "maybe you should clarify with your readers about you getting fired."

my thinking was, oh it's clear enough! but then i realized, maybe it would be helpful to disclose some of the circumstances, just so it's absolutely clear: this had nothing to do with me or my skills as an actor.

last week, one of the main cast members quit. he was one of the lynch pins. even though other folks have left the cast, their characters were usually minor. one part was written out. the other part had been played by three actors.

anyway, main cast member quit. me and another actor spoke on the phone and agreed, "this is dead in the water." i was terrified, disappointed, but a bit relieved. only the week before, i had a tense conversation with the director about rehearsal space. i vouched for the play to my mentor in order to get new rehearsal space at UT. i had been trying to write a grant for the show so that we actors would be guaranteed some sort of compensation. i had mentioned the grant at least three weeks ago. but i was frustrated because it started to become something that i was about to start running around at the last minute to finish.

i was doing a lot for the play.

but i was taken aback by my relief when main cast member quit. i realized that this project had become an albatross. it felt like i was thinking about it more than, well, more than the creator. and i began to feel as though i wasn't getting very much in return. as a cast, we were scolded. as an actor, i was undervalued.

so i started thinking, maybe i should leave. but there were multiple reasons to stay. i really enjoyed the friendships i was developing with my cast mates. i was looking forward to performing, the first time in a couple years! i was actually beginning to grasp my character. really, the only reason i wanted to leave was my relationship with the director.

so i talked with her. she initiated the meeting. i told her i was considering leaving. she tried many tactics. she told me about what other cast members had said about me when i first signed on, about how they didn't like me. she told me about specific people saying that certain of my skills weren't good enough. she was tearing me down so she could build me up with that, "but you bring a depth and sincerity to slick that no one else can do."

one thing she tried to do was guilt me into staying. she said, "if for nothing else, stay for the time and energy the other actors have put into the play." that wasn't gonna fly with me. i've stayed in projects because i didn't want to let others down and i've ended up resenting them. if i was gonna stay, it had to be for my own reasons. on my own terms. so i said, "no, if i stay for them, i will hate them. i have to stay for me." to which she said, "you haven't played many team sports, i see." how fucking condescending. i told her, "i only play team sports."

even though i had gone into the meeting wanting to negotiate ways i could stay, a lot of the conversation ended up being her gossiping--something she always discouraged us from doing. somewhere in the conversation she asked me, "so, do you know what happened between [so-and-so] and [such-and-such]?" i did actually know, so-and-so had told me herself. but something about that moment made me lie and shake my head. maybe i was trying to tell her, i don't want to know. maybe i was curious what she would say. then she said, "well, you should ask so-and-so yourself, but it was basically [a very offensive thing to say about anyone, and illegal.]" at that point, i thought, just get through this meeting. just get her to agree to be the director. just tell her, i will stay, but i am going to distance myself from everything but the acting. and i did. at the end of it, i told her, i don't wanna know. i just wanted to be an actor. not a confidant, not a problem-solver.

the meeting ended and i was ambivalent. i felt like the director had not completely heard what i was saying, but she had heard enough that when i said, "i want you to only be the director to me. so i can be an actor. to insure this, if i find myself complaining about you, i will talk to you directly," she said, "good, okay." then she said, "in return, i want you to promise me you won't leave the production." after some thought, i agreed.

that evening, i called so-and-so. she has been my confidant. she has been the person in the play who i felt closest to. i talked about the meeting. i told her about how director couldn't stop gossiping in response to all my critiques. then i told her what the director had said about her and such-and-such. so-and-so said, "what the fuck?" and we bitched a little, but concluded, "well, that's [director] for you."

the next morning, i woke to realize, "jeez, i'm already complaining about the director. is this gonna work?" i saw that i had a voice mail from her but put off listening to it because i thought it would be her asking me to do something. finally i sighed and listened to it. on it, the director just simply said, "your services as an actor are no longer needed. we're recasting the role. please cancel the rehearsal space at UT."

i was floored. i didn't understand. what? huh? wha-hah?

i called the director back, but she didn't answer. i just said, "i got your message. i'm very upset. i think it was really disrespectful of you to fire me over voice mail, especially in light of our conversation yesterday. thanks for that."

it was just plain cruel. ask someone to promise to stay just so you could fire them? offer them no explanation? what the fuck?

the day continued with a flurry of phone calls. i called a couple other folks on the cast just to say, "i've been fired. i don't know why. i want you to know i respect you and i will miss working with you." i cried. i felt deeply ashamed, but i wasn't sure of what. i was angry. i was worried that other cast members had conspired to fire me because i had second thoughts. i thought the director had found someone "better" than me to play the part.

then i got a message from so-and-so saying, "oh my god, kt. i did not think that [director] would fire you. this isn't about you. you just got caught in the crossfire. if you're mad at me, i totally understand. i wish you the best in your future endeavors."

wha? when i finally reached so-and-so, i said, "now, WHY would i be mad at YOU?" turns out, so-and-so slept on what i had told her. the next morning, she realized she was livid about what the director had said to me about her and such-and-such. bless her brave heart, she decided to confront the director about it. basically calling the director on her shit, something like, "i don't appreciate you talking about me to other members of the cast. it's my story to tell. you always criticize us for talking about you behind your back, but i think you're a hypocrite. if you want, i will tell you everything i think to your face once the production is over. i'll see you at rehearsal."

then what happened was, the director fired so-and-so right there, no discussion. and then, apparently, she called me and fired me. even after so-and-so narrated this, i told her, "again, WHY would i be mad at YOU?"

it was a bad decision on the director's part. the next day, the director informed the rest of the cast that she had fired so-and-so and myself. i don't know what planet you would have to live on not to feel threatened and angry when two of your colleagues get fired for no apparent reason. another cast member decided to quit. then another. as far as i know, only two out of eight cast members remain. it's a rapidly sinking ship.

after those two quit, i got another call from the director. i couldn't bare to talk to her. when i listened to her message, she was super conciliatory. trying to explain her way out of her actions, and finally wishing me the best on my projects. i am convinced that had i answered the phone, she would have asked me back. i would have said no.

because the director is a crazymaker. i think that is what i was trying to tell her at last week's meeting. i was trying to say, very gently and professionally, you're driving us away. you're creating drama where it doesn't belong. you're triangulating us. you're discounting our realities.

but you can't reason with a crazymaker. because they deny they are crazymakers. because nothing is their fault. i've been tempted out of pity to send her a message saying, look, [director] you should know you are a crazymaker. until you resolve your crazymaking ways, nothing you do with other self-respecting artists will come into fruition.

but i won't. even though i'm deeply saddened all that work and emotional energy has been squandered, i'm glad that i have eliminated a crazymaker from my life. to engage with her would bring her back into my life. i absolutely don't want that.

part of me wishes she reads this post and realizes she is a crazy maker. but that's all it is, wish.

i had high hopes for this production. in case it isn't obvious, we genderqueers rarely get a chance to act. there are hardly any roles for us, that's why i write my own stuff. it felt like such a good thing, for a while. a gaggle of queers acting queer and human and playing out dramas on stage rather than in life. for a short while, that is what the production was. that is what we all wanted it to be. and then, literally overnight, it crashed and burned. now, even if the play does go up, it won't be that queer ball of goodness it once was.

so, now you know. thanks for reading.

on a completely different front, i submitted my creative capital application. i've grown a little. through all this drama, i managed to preserve a little bit of myself in order to finish something that could really and truly benefit me and nurture me. i'm thankful for that.

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