Theatrical Terror

MVWJ was a volunteer experience. I jumped at a chance to assistant direct a play at a small theater. During my interview, the co-producers went on and on about the benefits of being a co-op theater. That meant that if you wanted to be in a play, you had to pay. And it wasn’t a small fee. It was almost $400. That was a red flag to me, but since I wasn’t acting in it, I overlooked those details. It turns out that W, the main man, didn’t care how good the actors were, he just wanted their money. After the first show, I was asked to become a company member, which meant I didn’t have to pay the co-op fee whenever I acted. I accepted because I wanted more experience on my resume, but I soon learned that the rules attached to becoming a company member made it so it was impossible to act in a show. The theater also went through a major renovation while I was there, and we were all expected to help out because he was too cheap to hire a crew.

One night, I was heading for the theater when I got badly rear-ended. When I called to tell him what happened, he just said, “Let me know when you can get here.” The next day I was in so much pain I had to go to the ER. The doctor told me to rest without any strenuous activity. I was supposed to work the show that evening, so I called W and told him about the doctor’s orders. He gave me a sob story about how hard he was working while sick and tired and told me to get my job covered or else. We had 40 company members on the call sheet. I called every single person and the only ones I could contact were either already working that night or had quit a few days before. By the way, turnover at this place was exceedingly high. I called W to tell him and all I got was a guilt trip. I was on painkillers and hung up the phone crying because I thought I let him down for allowing myself to get into a car accident. I almost drove down there in my drugged out haze but fortunately my sister stopped me.

Finally, I got into a show there. I was handed 10 tickets to sell at $20, and if I didn’t, I still had to pay for them. I only knew four people in the town, and it’s hard playing up a rundown black box theater known for it’s rat infestations. Plus, the week before the show opened, 90% of the cast quit. My final straw was when I caught wind that F, a girl training to be the artistic director suddenly quit. It seemed odd because she was very dedicated to the theater. I heard from another girl in the company that she had been working full-time without pay for three months with the promise that she would start getting paid at the beginning of the fourth month. Guess what? Payday came, he told her he didn’t have the money. Mind you, this is a guy who drove to work in a new Mercedes.

A day later I got a call from W where he left me a long voicemail about how he had to fire her (the girl who told me the story) due to “differences,” and how I shouldn’t talk to anyone else in the company about it. Yeah, right. I called my source, and she told me that he had literally just fired her for confronting him about it. A few days later, I sent an email telling them that I couldn’t work there anymore. I claimed I needed to find a second job to help me with bills, which was partially true, but I really just wanted out. I still haven’t heard much about the theatre, but that’s no surprise.

Comments (7)

rafboyJuly 23rd, 2010 at 8:06 am

I don’t get it.
Volunteer work is on YOUR terms (within reason of course). Most places would be happy to get the free help. Why would you put up with that crap?

tronnerJuly 23rd, 2010 at 8:53 am

Because it was the THEATRE! (must be said in a dramatic fashion).

tronnerJuly 23rd, 2010 at 8:56 am

who knows why she didn’t…who knows why anyone here doesn’t. But haven’t we all done something or gotten ourselves in situations that we later realize “holy crap, that internship was real left turn there, eh?”

It’s what makes the MVW jobs, dates and roommate stories cringe worthy.

LaurenJuly 23rd, 2010 at 10:16 am

I’ve done a lot of community theater, all volunteer, and I’ve never heard of a theater that forced its actors to pay to be in a show. Or sell and pay for a set number of tickets. What a jackass.

efaneoJuly 23rd, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I’ve had similar problems with internship, in my case at a petting zoo.
They’d be in desperate need of people willing to go door to door to collect some money for the petting zoo and when I handed my tin in, they accused me of stealing from it. Fortunately I had the papers to prove that the tin that had been tampered with wasn’t mine.
Or the time they didn’t have anyone to feed the animals on christmas eve and I offered, then was stood up. Mind this was a fairly desolate area near a harbor and I was a young girl. But they obviously didn’t value the safety of kids too much there; a homeless alcoholic they were allowing to sleep in one of the sheds turned out to be a pedo.

Good times.

LisaJuly 24th, 2010 at 6:47 pm

What a racket! Only with theater types would this scam work– PAYING to take part, PAYING for the tickets themselves. I guess it’s what’s known as a “vanity production”?

yikesJuly 27th, 2010 at 11:33 am

efaneo–post please!

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