It’s been over 3 months since I blogged. Really? Boy, how time flies when you’re stuck in an endless play from hell that makes you wish you were dead but at the same time you don’t have the balls or heart to walk out on your equally miserable co-stars. I feel recovered enough from the incident now and am ready to write. I’m not going to get into childish name calling and describing particular wretched incidents. That’s pointless and beneath my comic genius. And the fun of it would be over too quick. Besides, after I’m finished directing my show early next year, I certainly don’t want to hear any of that crap from of my cast. Even though I know for sure we’ll all have a wonderful time full of nothing but acting, creativity, fun, pooping rainbows, hugging, sequins, laughing and love. Right? Right?!
(And rainbow fringe. We’ll have ever so much fringe!)
But as an actor, I will take a few minutes to share some of my pet peeves of working in the theatre. These are things one would think are obvious and don’t need mentioning. We all know how I love the sound of my own voice though, so I’ll say them anyway. Now, I’m not calling out anyone in particular. These are just my thoughts and observations from different recent experiences. If you think I’m talking about you, you’re totally wrong. Unless you’re right. But you’re probably wrong. Mostly.
One thing to remember about most theatre outside of Broadway these days is people are not getting paid for it, including the local theatres where I am currently and happily ensconced. We all have day jobs and after working all day as secretaries and teachers and scientists and math-a-magicians, we practically swallow our dinner whole, and then we run to the theatre to rehearse for 2-3 hours a night for 6-8 weeks to put on a show. We spend our weekends learning lines and painting sets and developing showmances all for nothing more than the love of the stage and that sweet, sweet clap. I mean applause, not that other clap. And there is mad talent to be had in our town. But most of these amazing actors, singers and so forth didn’t feel the driving need to run to the big city and chase rejection and climb the tallest greased ladders in order to get their artsy on so they act locally. The point is, if someone is sharing their time, their life, their talent and heart with you FOR FREE, don’t go kicking a gift horse in the mouth. We’re all doing this for fun, so let’s play nice. And also, I hate people who throw the word “professional” around. Professional is not whether or not you get paid. It’s your behavior and how you treat your fellow artists that makes a professional.
(Pictured: Unprofessional. Funny, but not professional.)
Don’t Make Children Cry
If you are going to work with children (which to me means anyone 21 and under, unless they are males, then I mean anyone 50 and under), you must understand they have delicate feelings and are just finding themselves (thanks to internet porn for the most part) and their way in the world. You can’t scream at them or curse them or call them stupid and then expect them to then follow you around like you’re a god or get mad when they don’t. You have to be nice to them and build them up and help them feel safe and confident. And even if you accidentally stab them in the eye with a stage sword and their screaming and crying is working your last nerve and you apologized six times already and it’s getting hard to sound like you mean it and it’s not like there’s blood or they’re blinded or anything, just please kid, for the love of God shut up…even then, don’t yell. Don’t criticize and don’t make it worse. Just quietly get them to sign the insurance liability waiver and give them a hug. And maybe some candy. Yeah, definitely candy.
(Now remember, if I miss, it will grow back.)
Don’t Do Drugs
Now you may think this goes without saying. Apparently, it doesn’t. Don’t do drugs. You can talk about wanting to do drugs or that one time in college when you did drugs or when you thought you drank your boss under the table at the company Christmas party but you were really dry humping a potted palm the whole time. That’s ok. But don’t actually do the drugs. They make you foggy and confused and you might run the same scene or song about 50 times until your cast wants to stab themselves in the eye with swords as noted in the previous section. And you may also forget there are other scenes and/or songs in the show that you’ve never even read out loud before. And then when people remind you about said forgetfulness, you might get angry, which could cause a headache and/or the aforementioned crying children which requires more drugs. It’s a vicious circle, really. It may also cause you to do silly things like wander away from rehearsal and not come back while your cast wonders if you’re dead in a ditch or just got the munchies and had to run to the store for some Pringles.
(Once you pop, you can’t stop!)
Don’t “Do What I Say Not What I Do”
I hate it when someone comes in with a bunch of rules… Don’t talk, be on time, stay focused, be quiet, don’t take pills from strangers, shut the hell up Christa, learn this by so and so date, etc. And then they turn around and do the exact opposite. Always late, not paying attention to what’s going on around them, always talking, not sticking to the schedule they set…that shit irritates me. It makes that person seem like they think they’re better than everyone else. One person in theatre is no better than another. It doesn’t matter who has what experience or if someone works backstage instead of on stage, we’re all the same. I’ve done work for Terry Gilliam and worked with Keifer Sutherland and Ellen Degeneres (who, by the way, told me I was “hilarious”. She totally did. I dined on that one forever. Ellen thinks I’m hilarious. I’m dying of happiness!) But Ellen didn’t treat me different from anyone else on set that day. (Even though I was the only was she said was hilarious. She really did!) None of the celebrities treated others that way. Don’t put yourself on another level and act like the rules don’t apply to you. Especially if you’re the one who made them. So, if punctuality is not your thing, fine. But then don’t bitch me out if I come in 5 minutes late. Which, by the way, never happens. Seriously. Punctualism is my religion.
(And the Lord said “Let there be clocks” and there were clocks and they were good.)
Don’t Tell People They Suck
Really. Regardless of whether or not someone is getting paid, never tell someone they suck. Just because it may take someone a little longer to learn something, doesn’t mean they suck. I’m a pretty good actress but, believe it or not, I’m not a great ninja. Really, I’m not. But if I’m volunteering at Ninjas-R-Us, I don’t need some ninja master in my face, telling me I suck. There are other ways to correct my lack of ninja awesomeness. Take me aside, try to find other talents I have that can be used towards the good of all ninja. Teach me. Guide me. Let me take a break from ninja boot camp to take a shot of vodka and go to the potty. Then maybe I’ll come back in better spirits and ready to be a better ninja. But the more you yell at me, criticize me, call me names like ninja-wuss and try to pound the tenants of ninja-ism into me, the less I will learn and the less I will be willing to try. And don’t call people out in front of the whole cast and crew. We’re done with ninja metaphors now, by the way. We’re back to theatre. It is extremely bad form to call someone to the carpet in public. Nobody’s perfect and everybody learns at different rates. If you have a problem with someone, take it outside and work it out. Embarrassment and humiliation doesn’t work with training animals and it works even less when trying to teach people.
(Your forgot your line? Bad actress. Very bad actress!)
Say You’re Sorry and Thank You
And when all is said and done, we’re all human. We all make mistakes. Pobody’s Nerfect (I saw that on a coffee mug with a bunch of cracks in it at the airport once.) So if you fuck up, at least be man/woman enough to say you’re sorry. That really can go a long way towards mending what could possibly be permanently broken fences. Don’t ever feel you’re too good to say that. Maybe you offended half your cast by insinuating they’re porn stars. Or maybe you repeatedly crapped all over someone who put their heart and soul into their character. Maybe you made a point of praising someone one day only to tell them how awful they were the next. Or even something as simple as ignoring those who always came in a little earlier, stayed a little later, maybe weren’t the prettiest or the most talented but still gave their all every single day. They should know they were appreciated. Thank you, a sincere thank you, is a wonderful thing. And is it really that hard to say, “I know I told you that you sucked like every day and you should fling yourself off the nearest cliff for offending the theatre gods with your crapulence and now you have a serious alcohol problem. Maybe you sucked and maybe you didn’t. But I didn’t have to say it in front of the local news crew, your whole family, your cat and your boss. And on your birthday. Mistakes were made. But you know what, actually I kinda sucked. And I’m sorry.”
(Now I can go back to blaming my parents for my crippling depression.)
And as a closing side note. For the love of God and your own body, whenever you are at the theatre, turn off your fucking cell phone! It’s disrespectful to all of us who worked so long and hard on the play and even the poor little dogs who went weeks without getting to go bye-bye because we had rehearsal. Whether you are cast, crew, audience, director or even Johnny Depp himself, if I hear one more damn phone ring, light up or vibrate during my performance, I will put that phone so far up your ass, you’ll be tasting Spice Girls ring tones for a month. Not. Even. Kidding.
(I’ll tell you what you want, what you really, really want…to respect this show and turn off that damn phone!)