Last week I sent out my directing offers for the summer season, to a group of people that I would like to eventually become my circle of "artistic associates," an ever-growing pool of experienced, dependable directors that I can call on to take over the bulk of the directing work from me. As the company grows the quality time I have to devote to preparing to direct is decreasing, and the more shows we do the more hours of marketing and production they demand, so it is imperative that I delegate more and more of the directing projects as time goes by. While I could never abandon directing completely I could certainly get by doing just one or two projects a year, and even that would likely take away all the promotion and production time I could spare.
The people I have chosen to be in this circle have not been drawn out of a hat. They are people I trust, whom I have worked with enough to know that they at least deserve the chance to direct a show with Grinder Productions, if they haven't already. Handing out directing jobs is the theatre manager's equivalent of giving the bride away - it's not something I do easily, especially if it's a first-time director.
Now I knew not everyone would be interested in directing this summer - some had already mentioned they had conflicts - and I was okay with that, prepared to take rejections politely and professionally. But when I received the terse, two-line, "No, I'm likely never going to direct for you again. Good-bye" e-mail I was greatly saddened. In the normal, day-to-day course of operations her at Grinder Productions, someone's feelings had been hurt.
That's something I don't easily shrug off, nor do I want to be the sort of person who can easily shrug off something like that. I know, you're supposed to be a bit thick-skinned in this business, and I've certainly put up with a lot of garbage over the years, but when someone at my company is hurt, I will always take it personally.
Physical injuries we can protect against, and we do. And if anything ever does happen I've always got my First-Aid kit nearby. But there's no First-Aid kit for when someone's feelings are hurt.
The least I can do is to share in their pain, to accept without hesitation my own culpability for their injustice. Sometimes, yes, the fault is entirely mine, when I have to let a cast member go, or blacklist a member from the company. On the very, very rare occasions where I've actually lost my temper and screamed at an actor I've always felt far worse afterwards then they ever did.
But sometimes our members do things over which I have no direct control, and sometimes I don't even discover it until the damage has been done. In some of these cases I obviously should have been paying more attention, but in others there was no way to see trouble coming. No matter what though, I accept responsibility.
When I can't motivate an actor to learn his lines, I accept responsibility.
When a teenager pulls an all-nighter to finish the projects she would have been doing if not for rehearsing, I accept responsibility.
When a mom isn't there to see her child off to her first slumber party, I accept responsibility.
When I hear all the complaints about people never seeing their families because they're always at rehearsal, I accept responsibility.
When a director never wants to work with Grinder again, I accept responsibility.
When another marriage falls apart because of my casting choices, I accept responsibility.
I don't name names on this blog to protect the privacy of our members (except when I'm promoting a show, in which case we want to know who you are). Some of the experiences I've detailed here have happened when I was with other companies. All the same, I apologize to anyone who thinks they may recognize themselves in what I've described (though you're probably wrong - I have been through all the situations I have described above many, many times - it's very unlikely you are the first).
While I apologize for my candour I can't apologize for a moral compass that demands I share in any and all pain and suffering that takes place here at Grinder Productions. How can I share in the joys of this life - the thrill of an opening night, the exhilariting moments of self-discovery in rehearsal, or the life-long friendships that begin on a day of set-building - if I don't also share in the despair and heartache that comes when things don't go so well?
I wish we didn't have problems like this. I wish it would all just work out and everyone would be happy all the time, but it's just foolish to pretend that's how the world works. I know I don't usually talk about the darker side of Grinder here on the blog, but did anyone ever really doubt its existence?
Now don't get me wrong. We have much, much, much to celebrate, and stories of personal triumph are coming to my inbox almost daily now, filling me with joy for the present and confident hope for the future.
But I think it's important for us all to remember that in our joys may be another's pain, and for all the triumphs we are not without our tragedies. In all our excitement and personal growth let's not forget about our fellow members, and the quality of their experiences here at Grinder Productions too.