Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Little "Please", "Thank You" and Appreciation Go A Long Way

Over the last couple of years it seems as though the more and more I work with “professionals” the less and less I feel appreciated for all the hard work that I put into a show. Now, I’m not talking about recognition because that I could care less about. It is the “please” and “thank you’” that mean the most. All I need to hear from someone is something along the lines of “Thank you so much for all your hard work. It has been greatly appreciated” and I am a happy camper.

I put a lot of time, hard work and dedication into each show that I work on. I stress over it. I stay up late working on it. I will basically do whatever you ask of me or you need done; however, lately it seems I am getting to a place where I feel like I’m not interested in going that extra mile anymore. Why?! Because I just end up feeling underappreciated and undervalued. Why would I (or anyone for that matter) want to continuously go that extra mile when they are only greeted with ingratitude.

This seems like a sorry state of affairs to me. I started in the theatre because it was fun and created this wonderful sense of community and belonging. Now, sometimes, all I feel is depleted and a horrible sense of detachment. Where did the fun go? Where did the sense of community go? When and why was it replaced by the Ego?

That is the one thing I love about having my own company. It may be a lot of hard work for which I pay myself nothing. Yes, you heard me. Not one dime. But, what it lacks in monetary value it makes up for with a sense of fulfillment. This doesn’t mean I will never pay myself. One day I hope to be able to write that cheque because we should expect that making art can pay the bills (another blog, another day); however, until then I am happy to do it for free because at least I feel like I am making a contribution that is appreciated by others. And, furthermore, that everyone feels appreciated by me. That is my goal. Whenever I gather a group of people together to mount a show I try my hardest to make everyone feel valued and appreciated. Granted there will always be moments of conflict but I think for the most part my goal is achieved.

Is it wrong of me to expect the same courtesy from the other people and companies that I work for? I find it odd that “certain behaviors” by people are ignored or condoned through inaction. By doing or saying nothing basically you are telling them that it is ok to treat people as though their hard work and time is worthless. This to me is unacceptable. It also seems to me like “certain behaviors” exhibited by “professionals” is just accepted. I hear people say “oh, that is just how it is”. Well just because it is doesn’t mean it should be. Are we really saying that to be a “professional” means that when you throw a five-year old tantrum everyone should just coddle and mollify you.

This is a scary thought to me. And, truthfully, I want no part of it. As I have said before, I don’t work with prima donna’s of any kind. I don’t care who you are, what film you’ve done, how many awards you’ve won. It doesn’t give you the right to treat any one as though they are less than you.

~Sabrina Evertt,
Artistic Producer

2 comments:

  1. Valuable post, for the theatre community and folks generally.

    While in the past I've been tempted to think the behavior you identify is a "theatre culture" phenomenon, as I gain more and wider experience, I am coming to realize it is prevalent -- unfortunately -- in all walks of life -- that is, persons who think they are important enough that it gives them the right to be bad humans and the people who for some odd reason enable them to act in that manner. As you suggest, you can't have one without the other.

    So, if you hadn't guessed, I support the approach you express in this post: call attention to the behavior, identify it as inappropriate, set boundaries, and enforce them. If the person or persons don't modify their behavior, don't work with them. Period.

    Ultimately, there are plenty of talented folks who are also decent, so why should we bother working with "talented" people who are not also decent and respectful. Moreover, in my experience, the truly talented are rarely also prima donnas. Only people who are unsure in their talent need to prove something by being disrespectful to others.

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  2. Talent with an attitude = someone I have no desire to work with. In fact, I have had actors who were, by the audience's estimations, the stars of the show, and I have suggested to companies that they not be hired again because of their attitudes towards fellow cast members and towards myself.

    The folks who are gracious & make those around them feel valued: those are the people I want to make theatre with.

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