Open Forum

Broken Theater Company

  • 1.  Broken Theater Company

    Posted 02-05-2019 09:29
    Hey all,

    So I walked in to a theater company at mid-semester that had gone through some major changes in terms of graduating seniors and animosity between cast members and previous director. I would like to promote unity and less gossip, but I'm not sure how to proceed and am not a mental health professional. The casting of our spring musical Annie (which I did not cast) divided the company between who got the role and who some people think should have gotten the role.  Theater should be a safe place for people to come and express themselves, feel vulnerable, and not be judged and I feel that this company is the opposite. Any suggestions as to how to get out of this funk and into unity?

    Kelly Bourget
    Schererville IN

  • 2.  RE: Broken Theater Company

    Posted 02-05-2019 11:13
    Edited by George Ledo 02-05-2019 11:14
    This happens in all kinds of places, not just theatre. Some years back I took over for someone else at a theater under somewhat similar circumstances, and here's what I did.

    First, I called a morning meeting for a couple of days later, when they could all be there.

    Then, I provided food. This may not work for you.

    Then I laid it on the line: I was taking over from the other guy who had done some nice things, and I was going to continue in some directions but head more in the way of established professional practice. I didn't call him out or anything - I just acknowledged him but made it clear I was going in a different direction. And I emphasized "professional practice" a couple of times.

    I have found out over the years that humor can cut thru a lot of ice, so I used some where appropriate. It cut the ice.

    Then I switched directions and started talking about the current show. IOW, I moved forward without rehashing the past. This was important. And it worked.

    In cases like this, people are afraid of two things: the change itself, and what the new person may do. So nipping it in the bud helps a lot.

    George F. Ledo
    Set designer

  • 3.  RE: Broken Theater Company

    Posted 02-06-2019 10:43
    Welcome to the world of adolescent theatre. Establish your own set of ground rules. Draw up a new contract. Emphasis the value of ensemble, the importance of collaborative performance, and don't let them manipulate you into looking like you're also playing favorites.

    I once walked into a production of Bye Bye Birdie a month into rehearsals when the director just up and quit. Your job is to facilitate rehearsals and hold actors accountable for their responsibilities in the production. Perhaps beginning each rehearsal with some cooperative theatre games will loosen the tension. Good luck!

    Kelly Cardall
    Theatre Arts
    Health and PE Chair
    Mount de Sales Academy
    Baltimore, MD

  • 4.  RE: Broken Theater Company

    Posted 02-07-2019 08:03

    Maybe a discussion about why we do theatre? An ensemble has to work together to tell the story in the best way possible. Sometimes we have to set aside our own needs (and egos) for the sake of the show. (I'm pretty sure I read that somewhere on this board, but I don't recall who to credit). If they love theatre and want to be part of it, they have to accept whatever role they've been given and do their best.

    I love what you said about theatre being a safe place...maybe share a story from your own experience about theatre provides that for you?

    I'm also all for theatre games to help build community. We also sometimes do compliment circles during tech week. I put all the names of the cast and crew in a big cup, and each person draws a name and gives that person a compliment about something related to the show. It can be a compliment on a performance, or something about how they helped out backstage, or found a lost prop, or that they are always friendly to everyone. My kids LOVE doing this.

    Show them your love of theatre and commitment to doing it well, and that will go a long way. Best of luck to you!

    Dianne Rowe
    Theatre Arts Teacher
    Junior Thespian Troupe 88177
    Berry Middle School
    Birmingham, AL

  • 5.  RE: Broken Theater Company

    Posted 02-07-2019 09:23
    I love everyone's suggestions!  In addition, you might want to make yourself available for short, individual check-in meetings with students and give them an opportunity to be heard, and to set goals for the year and their time in your program. This could also be an opportunity for you to give them some feedback on their work/ attitude so far and let them know your goals for them. I think hearing from a new teacher, "I know you are struggling with the casting for this show, but you are doing a great job being a leader, " or "You are doing great work in rehearsal, but I'd love to see you  step up and set a better example for your ensemble members," could go a long way.

    Elana Kepner
    Theatre Instructor
    The Oakwood School
    Greenville NC