You’ve Got a Friend

08.19.10 | 4 Comments

CATEGORIES audiences, conversation starter, marketing, social media

So in the last blink of the internet a poor AD in Edmonton dropped his guard for a moment, blew off some steam, and didn’t get away with anything. At all. Ever.

Mr. Jeff Haslam still thinks people are unhappy with him because he commented publically not because of what he said. If you are at all close to Mr. Haslam I would ask that you pull him aside and mention that content matters. Your defense in a case like this can’t really be “well they hurt my feelings so I hurt them back” and “I have free speech rights.”

But high school slap fight on the internet aside, my interest is in what would drive someone, a grown adult with responsibilities no less, to vent his bile publically, consequences be damned. The reviews he’s responding to aren’t raves by any means but even in their moderate  complaint they generally  exhibit the disappointment of high expectations not an evisceration. (None rise even to the level of being accused of boring a baby say) 

It seems to me the answer, in looking at the defenses he offers, is that he is suffering from the bunker-itis I talked about at the Devised Work convening.

Mr. Haslam talks about all the martyrdom that we all feel after our umpteenth show in a row. We go from production meeting to rehearsal to bathroom plunging to box office to show to bed and there’s never enough hands and never enough money and then some pretentious woman and her icky friends wants to JUDGE me?

We tend to lock ourselves into the pods we travel  with and the project we’re working on and the communities we’re in without ever taking an opportunity to stop and look around a bit. There are only these 12 people and these 3 shows and this theatre and maybe a coffee shop. No one understands everything I do for this shop/theatre.town / city / country / art form / existence.

When you are the only person in existence responsible for something the pressure gets unbearable.

Find a way to let go of that pressure.

For me, the internet is my perspective giver. No matter how hard I’m working? I’m not working half as hard as Dan Granata is for instance. I have it pretty good. I have good folks around me and people who are going through what I am going through along with me.

Where can YOU go to get that? Is that something your local Arts Umbrella provides at monthly meetups? Do you volunteer at a charity for perspective or maybe you have a sister company or two?

You’re not alone. How do you prove that to yourself and avoid a meltdown?

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Travis Bedard

Travis Bedard

A long time theatre blogger, Travis is the Artistic Director of Cambiare Productions and a contributing writer to 2amTheatre.com. Travis holds a degree in Theatre (Secondary Education) from the University of New Hampshire and is currently posted in scenic St. Paul Minnesota..
Travis Bedard

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  • Thank you Travis, for finding some opportunity to better ourselves out of this superiority mush that Halsam dished. In a way, this is why I thought my former day jobs were more helpful than just a paycheck; I gained much experience and learned very different ways of thinking and acting than my own. Through these experiences, I also gained skills that helped out greatly when I landed the dream job at a theater, such as recruiting, management, procedures. What stories are we telling if ALL our time is spent in a dark room with roughly the same group of people?

  • I’ve been talking with a bunch of the ADs/GMs of the other small indie companies in Vancouver to set up a round table meeting – a chance to discuss the challenges & the joys of producing in Vancouver. Everyone wants to have a chance to get together and pool resources and I think you’re right – gain some perspective.

  • My objections to Haslam’s behavior are all business. I don’t give two figs for his hurt feelings, particularly because he seems exceptionally thin-skinned. A 25-year veteran of theater should know how to take critical punches, especially such soft ones. His reaction is beyond unprofessional, and I’d be concerned about hiring the guy, to be honest.

    More importantly, a person with apparent responsibility for the success of a theater company should not be turning away engaged, paying patrons, particularly when those patrons were obviously encouraging others to check out his theater. He should be HAPPY people like Sharon Yeo want to pay to come, and give feedback. As hundreds of other people are saying, this is where critique and criticism are going. Call it crowd-sourcing or democratizing or whatever you want to call it; at least Sharon wasn’t asking for free tickets, the way some theater bloggers in Chicago do.

  • David Dower

    I don’t know Mr. Haslam at all, or Mr. Anderson for that matter, but I wonder if the “exceptionally thin-skinned” can be accurate here. A 25-year vet must have had some leather to make it through all that. In my own experience, there have been meltdowns. And if I look at the common conditions that surrounded them they seem to relate less to an “appreciation deficit” and more to having lost the thread of what I was giving my energy to and where it was taking me. My self-control collapsed in a moment (or week or month or year) of giving more than I had to give to something(s) that I forgot why they mattered to me– in the present tense, in the actual exchange of energy that was going on as I did them. SO when criticism came, or the road was blocked, or the check bounced, it was all the return I was expectinng on the thing and it was not forthcoming. Adulation, approbation, compensation– all external (or what Daniel Pink describes as extrinsic motivators in DRIVE)– are fickle mistresses and if we lose our independent sense of the “why we’re doing it” they can (and are) jerked from under us like a cruel chair in a Three Stooges cartoon. I’m lucky I haven’t cracked my tailbone, the times I’ve fallen hard on it in my life.

    Mr Haslam may need to take a look at whether there remains, inherent in the exchange of his energy for the results, a present-tense sense of clarity about why this, why now, why here. Cuz if it’s really in the hands of a blunt neighbor with a keyboard and a fanbase, it’s never going to pay you back what you put in.