So... I was excited to be cast in... a certain one-act festival here in the SF Bay Area. Which shall remain nameless.
As an actor who has recently been enjoying getting back onstage - w/companies like New Conservatory Theatre Center, SF Free Civic Theatre, and GuyWriters just to name a few - I was THRILLED to be cast in this annual one-act festival.
My dear friend Ben - who I performed w/in "As Bees in Honey Drown" @ NCTC a few years ago - turned me on to this theatre company. I auditioned for their 8th season but didn't get cast. I was told, however, that I did really well and to audition again.
This year I auditioned again and got in. The play was written by a talented local playwright and the director just happens to also be the Artistic Director of the company. So not only did I get into the festival, but I was also going to get to work with the Artistic Director. Very exciting.
Before we even started rehearsals, tho, this little know-it-all decided she knew more about my character - all of the characters, in fact - than I/we did. And gave us - you guessed it - homework. Before we'd even gotten a chance to go through the play as a group and discuss it. *And, yes, her actions would have been appropriate if the play wasn't a farce. But as the title of this blog says, the play was about dumplings. So... before I could do any sort of character work, I had questions: what was the playwright trying to convey using these particular characters? What was her intent? For example, are these characters REALLY dumplings? Are we... food? Or are they people? Is this a satire about society? A slice of life lesson using food as a metaphor?
*The playwright never answered those questions, btw. She said she deliberately left it open for the actor to interpret. WHAT?
We rehearsed 4 days a week, for 4 hours a night. A little excessive for a 27-minute piece I'd say, but I was up for it. I'm a team player-! *I did, however, put my foot down when she would add additional rehearsals at the last minute and assume we were all free to attend. For instance, on a Sat., we were originally scheduled to rehearse from 12:00 - 4:00. But at the last minute she asked us if we would be able to rehearse from 10:00 - 4:00 because she "felt" we were a little behind in the rehearsal process.
And she even thought we'd be excited that she suggest we 'break for lunch' during the 6-hour rehearsal marathon. Really? REALLY? Can we, PLEASE? I'm so sure-!
Speaking of processes, she conveyed to me that she felt that I 'wasn't on board with her, original, exclusive 4-layer rehearsal process.' In her own words:
"The beginning of the rehearsal process is pretty self-explanatory -- read-through, some character/ensemble work, table work and staging. Then we will move into our "Broadstrokes" phase. This is the phase where we begin to get books out of hand, reinforce our staging choices, and clarify and upgrade our actions/intentions. Then, we move into our "Beat Work" phase. We will be totally off-book by this phase. This is where we will get really specific with our actions -- tightening, reinforcing and cleaning up moments. Lastly, we will run, run, run! The run-thus(sic) will be the phase when we really understand the flow and tempo of the piece. :) "
Ummmmm... HOW is it that her 4-layer process is different from any other rehearsal process? And... WHY would I not be on board - since this is how people have rehearsed for shows SINCE THE BEGINNING OF TIME??????
But... I jumped in face-first and did what I could and what was needed. I just want to act - and be part of a fun show-! I enjoy rehearsing and putting on a show-! And even tho she never ever made me feel welcome or part of the ensemble - wouldn't even look me in the eye sometimes - I rehearsed the stupid dumplings play and played her stupid acting games ("feel the space, make sure you remember how you feel in different parts of the space").
But... then I got sick. I got that horrible flu was going around and, unfortunately, I had to miss a couple (two) rehearsals. But I kept her in the loop, memeorised lines/got offbook, and assured her I'd be completely ready to jump back in when I was well again.
But... director/artistic director decided that instead of talking to me directly about missing a couple of rehearsals because I had the flu, went behind my back and recast my role-!?! She didn't give me the courtesy of a simple phone call to find out how her own cast member was doing-!?! She didn't give me the courtesy of a phone call to ask me if I thought I'd be well enough to do the show. Instead, without any communication with me whatsoever, she found another actor to replace me.
Wow-! Congratulations, director, you are now one of those cut throat, back-stabbing, unethical, unprofessional people in the entertainment business that we were warned about/taught to avoid at all costs while training to be performers. I hope she's so very proud of herself. She will now have to live for the rest of her life with the fact that she allowed her EGO to become more important than integrity.
As the Artistic Director and as a director with some semblance of experience (I think), one would hope that she would be able to handle this type of situation professionally.
I've been told that the theatre company producing these one-acts was originally founded by three very good and decent people - one of which passed away late last year after fighting cancer for some time. A second moved away. The reins were handed over to this snot-nosed, entitled, little know-it-all who clearly had no idea how to run a theatre company. Someone somewhere felt it was a good idea to have this very inexperienced young woman take over. Big mistake.
The company is supposedly dedicated to the memory of the founder who passed away. After the way she handled the situation with me, I should think he'd be very disappointed in the way she's leading his company.
I'm still getting production e:mails for this show, btw. Even after asking them to take me off their list several times. Sooooooooooooooo unprofessional.
I am currently auditioning for a different one-act festival here in San Francisco that I've enjoyed working with previously; a production I am more than happy to be a part of. I am not letting this foul taste of... dumplings... ruin my lifelong love of the theatre.