Your Reputation Precedes You

Your reputation is important. Seriously. I’ll wait while you look it up.

Okay, so earlier I addressed how you begin to establish your reputation at the audition stage. You may have spent years establishing a good reputation, but all it takes is one mistake to damage it; the kind of damage that could take years to overcome and that will never be forgotten by anyone. Even though this is true of all areas of life, this is particularly true of tight-knit professional communities such as the theatre community.

If I see in a resume that you have worked with someone I know well, I contact them to ask how you are to work with. I listen to the production team when they have an opinion about you.

When I was stage managing, you can bet that I spoke up when an actor that was particularly difficult to work with was considered for a role. If I’m producing, then I will most likely block said casting.

Of course I’ve had my share of missteps. For example, once I was choreographing a show where the director and I simply didn’t get along: at times we even argued in the presence of the cast. That experience established my rule of keeping the peace in front of the cast and crew: when disagreements crop up, they are addressed privately. In another instance, the director for a show I was stage managing and I had some major communication issues that surfaced during the tech/dress rehearsal process. This lead to a very stressful – and long – tech. Unfortunately, my reputation precedes me at those theatres: it is unlikely that I will be asked to work at either company again.

In the age of Facebook and Twitter, gratification is instant, status updates are immediate and the filter between your emotions and pithy comments isn’t always functional: remember that everyone is reading your profile updates. Previous status updates and Facebook behaviors have been a factor in my casting decisions and I make mental notes of what you’re saying long before I am even considering you for a gig.

I had an actor audition for a show that I was directing. She kicked ass from the moment she walked in: she had great presence, a beautiful voice, and she did a great reading. I wanted to consider her for all the female leads, she was that good! Alas, the minute she stepped out of the room there was a resounding “No!” from the rest of the production team. It turns out she had a reputation for being extremely difficult. I looked up her previous experience, and saw that she was someone a friend had stage managed before and he had warned me about her. She wasn’t even called back.

Particularly difficult is dealing with children. Ok, not children. Personally, I love working with children. Their parents are another story. I have not cast a child before because their parent had a reputation for being demanding and a pain to the production crew. After stage managing dance recitals and choreographing a couple of shows with children, I set out a rule when I direct that parents are not allowed at all in the rehearsal room, unless invited in. Even though this has created some unhappiness at the start, in the end it has been best for all.

Theatre companies and spaces also have a reputation to observe. Do you treat your hired directors professionally and with respect? Do you provide what you promise? Do you provide actors with reasonable rehearsal conditions? There are theatres that I won’t work at because of the experiences of others there. There are also theatres that get it right, and when that happens I make sure to let everyone know too. Arouet’s contract not only states what is expected from actors, it states what actors can expect from Arouet.

Be respectful of everyone you work with. I remember how I have been treated by other directors; some I liked and some not so much. I do my best to emulate the ones I liked and remind myself of what I didn’t like and steer clear of those behaviors. I am more likely to work again with a stage manager that’s honest and willing to learn, even if he/she is a bit green than one that thinks they know everything and fights me along the way. A stage manager that doesn’t treat the cast well will come off my list immediately.

So be mindful of how you treat others, from audition to closing night and beyond. The slightest misstep will come to haunt you later, as I know from personal experience.