Contributed by Guest Blogger of the week, Tim Errickson.
I am a theatre artist. A producer, a director, and now an aspiring playwright at the ripe old age of 39. I belong to a world of spectacle, emotion, intellect, suspension of disbelief, no money, long hours, drama, caffeine , alcohol, good sex, bad sex, bad idea sex, more caffeine, diner food, day jobs, still no money, crap all over your apartment, and a belief that all this adds up to contribution to the city we live in and the world at large. It’s the best job in the whole world.
I’m excited to be a guest blogger this week for the IT Awards, and I’m going to do my damndest to write interesting things about my company, my process, my collaborators, and my community. I’m going to swear a lot, because that’s what happens. I’m going to say some smart things and some fucking stupid things, but again, what can you do. But we’ll take a little ride together and see what happens this week.
Today’s Monday, and I’m going to talk about collaborators…how do you find them and how do you keep them. Back at the dawn of time, there was a place in NYC where lots of theatre got done, called the Lower East Side. I worked for a crazy woman and her slightly more sane husband (just slightly, really) who‘s one piece of sanity was to pass on to me the “No Assholes” rule. The rule is: I don’t care how talented you are, how many people you have worked with, who you’re blowing, where your credits or your MFA are from…if you are an asshole, you have to go. Plain and simple. Nobody’s making enough/any money, and the sex is never THAT good (real or imaginary). At the end of the day, everybody has to pull their weight and make the thing work. So if you are a dick, and making everybody so frustrated at you or your process, no amount of talent in the world can save you. At least not at Boomerang.
And sometimes, it just takes calling someone a dick to snap them back to reality and make them a collaborator again. A few years back, we were producing a project in our rotating rep season in which the director was extremely personally involved. He believed this piece to be the thing that would skyrocket him into the upper echelon of young directors, and that all our limitations of hours and manpower and budget were holding him back. After a run thru during tech week, he dismissed the actors and called the designers and stage manager into the theatre and read them the absolute fucking riot act, hardcore. How dare they not have everything to his specs, how he wanted it and exactly when he wanted it? He announced if they didn’t all get their acts together soon (and honestly, the team was no further behind and exhausted than any other crew before or since in my experience) then he was pulling his name off the project. It was at this point that I stepped in and asked that if he wanted his name off the project, fine, but that this meeting was over. Nobody needed to be treated like that, considering all they were giving. If he was going to be an asshole, he had to go.
Afterwards, the designers and stage manager knew they were protected and respected for all they were doing, and the director was delivered a wakeup call to reiterate that we are all in this together. Has that director worked with us again? No. Have those designers and SM? Absolutely.
While that might seem like a horror story to some, especially during tech week, it served as a reminder to choose your collaborators carefully and to keep them close once you do. How to find them? Obviously word of mouth is a good thing, or seeing their work onstage. But sometimes you just get a gut feeling and you trust it. One of my best friends and closest collaborators met me across the bar at a day job and we discussed college basketball, women, and theatre (three things that have dominated most of my adult life) and without seeing a thing he’d worked on, I had a feeling he’d be a good person to have on my side. Or sometimes it’s just who’s been through the deepest shit with you and come out the other side still sane and alive. You think, hey if that show didn’t drive them to stick their head in the oven, and I didn’t want to kick the shit out of them every day of the process, (and they didn’t quit) then maybe there’s something there.
And while I said that no amount of talent can save you at the end of the day if you are an asshole, it is still talent we are all looking for. Talent is, to my mind, the sexiest thing a person can possess. It’s that magical “it” thing, and if you can find collaborators who posses talent, who can understand the limitations of your project and the success that comes from team work rather than being a douche, then odds are your project is going to be successful enough that you’ll get 3 or 4 hours of sleep a night during tech. And that’s pretty good.