Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It's About Respect

I received a comment on my post from Saturday and I started to write back but I had so much to say - and things that I believe are important to put out there - so I decided to turn it into a full post.

Quickly, before I dive into it, I want say a very sincere thank you to Anonymous for their comments. Because of their comments, I now have the opportunity to discuss this in depth, and that is what this blog is all about: conversation.

Okay, now on with the conversation, I am extremely passionate about what I do and that often means that I have very strong opinions. That also means that sometimes I get pretty heated about what I believe in. And, one thing I believe in very, very strongly, is being respectful of other people’s time and hard work.

This is our fifth year as a company and further to that I have been working as a professional designer for over six years and in that time I have encountered countless situations where artists who consider themselves to be “professional” act in a completely disrespectful manner. This behaviour is tolerated, which only creates a vicious cycle of people treating other people disrespectfully and getting away with it over and over and over again.

Frustrated with this, I’ve gotten to a point in my career where I’ve decided I'm not going to be one of the people who tolerate it any longer. And, nor should I have too.

If this wasn’t the theatre and these people weren’t actors, they would have been fired from their jobs long ago. If you were going to a job interview (which is essentially what an audition is) and you just didn’t show up, would the person doing the hiring give you a second or third chance? Probably not. If you were going to a job interview and you were late, what are the chances you'll be hired? Slim to None. Or, what if you showed up to that job interview an hour late? If it is not acceptable to not show up for work or continuously show up late to a regular job, what makes it tolerable in theatre?

This is what perplexes me. And by that same standard, if you sat down to discuss the terms of your employment with a potential employee and – just to use an example - one of them was to, say, wear a uniform? And, you agreed. And then the next day, you called up and said “no, sorry, I can’t wear the uniform” does that employer not have the right to be angry with you. Because basically the terms of the agreement were broken. The same goes with negotiating the terms of your work schedule. If you sit down with an employer to discuss a work schedule of working Monday – Friday from 9-5 and the next day you call up the employer and says “oh, actually, by the way, I can’t work on Friday’s” that employer would have every right to be furious with you. Again, an agreement previously made had been broken.

So, as I said, I’m not sure, what makes this type of behaviour unacceptable in a “normal” work environment but acceptable in the theatre. Paid or unpaid. It is still a job. And it is disrespectful to show up to work late. It is completely disrespectful to just not show up at all. And no boss in a "normal" work environment, would tolerate disrespectful behaviour from an employee.

I can see why the comments in my post may seem harsh and, maybe, I should have let some more time pass (and my hot head to cool off) before I posted my thoughts. I also could have been more tactful but I stand behind the core of what I was trying to express. These people did waste my time. Not only my time. But Sarah’s time. And any of the other people who were involved in the process. And it is disrespectful.

I put a lot of my time (all of it unpaid) into running this company, putting on quality productions and creating opportunities for other artists. I always try to treat people with the utmost respect. And I treat actors, and any other artist, with the respect that I expect to be treated with. This means that I show up to rehearsals (or auditions or any other meeting) on time and prepared to work. This also means, however, that if an actor or any other artist's actions have been disrespectful to the people they are working with, I will call them on it. Just like, if I did something disrespectful, I should expect to be held accountable which is also why I appreciate Anonymous for their comments. I should be held to the same standard that I expect of others.

I am just frustrated by the ongoing disrespectful behaviour that I see happening all around me. If this was a one time deal I probably wouldn't be so frustrated but these kinds of things continue to happen over and over again and it makes me beyond frustrated. Hence, the post.

I don’t believe that we should tolerate this type of behaviour just because we’re “artists”. Artists should be held up to the same standards as anyone else. Being an artist is not an excuse to be irresponsible. It only feeds into the stereotype that we are so often fighting against.

Here at Twenty-Something, I always try to create an environment where we can laugh, have fun and most importantly create good theatre. Five years in and still going strong I'd like to believe we've been successful at it. Why? Because we treat each other with respect.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer


  1. Thank you for posting this - I'm someone who has always been late, late for work, late for rehearsals and I've gotten sick of it myself.

    Sometimes it's out of my hands, bad traffic, horrible health or emergency. Though 90% of the time I'm the cause, didn't wake up early enough, overbooked the day, or plain just didn't want to go and made up a lame excuse.

    A part of it, is unhealthy selfishness: people may not think of it though its there, its the conscious or unconscious thoughts of everyone can wait for me or it's not a priority or I didn't want to be there and didn't like what I was doing. For me it wasn't conscious (or I wouldn't admit it to myself) and I never had the intention of hurting/insulting/disrespecting my fellow co-workers, actors, director, crew but I did.

    What created the change? People I cared about it got sick of it and told my HONESTLY how my behavior affected them. I also had to be honest with myself.

    Now I'm working very hard to change - intentions are as thin as air until they become action, action along side the words. Walking the talk as they say. And if for a real reason I know I'm going to be late I will call/text/email the stage manager asap.

    So I greatly appreciate your honesty and post as it reminds to be mindful and respectful.

  2. Hi Anonymous -

    I think what you're saying gets to the very core of what the problem is which is that if we continue to ignore what is going on then things will never change.

    Once people expressed to you honestly how they were feeling things started to change.

    And now, as you say, you make a conscious effort to be more respectful of your fellow colleagues.

    I commend you because it takes courage and bravery to own up to your own mistakes and then take the necessary actions to change them.

    I wish more people would follow your lead.

    Thank you for sharing!