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What, that I can do it? That I can actually do this? Watch me.

On Lack of Professionalism in Theatre

or: put on a shirt and stop being insulting to wit

So I had this thing happen. On the internet. And I’m sort loathe to admit that I was upset by it. But I’m going to since it’s part of a trend that I’ve been noticing in theatre: lack of professionalism and lack of consequences for lack of professionalism. 

Ok, so here’s what happened (I warn you it’s terribly sophomoric). You know those friends you have on Facebook who aren’t really friends but are like people you interned with briefly five years ago and haven’t had a single interaction with since? So someone like that— actually exactly like that— left this really bizarre and disproportionally mean comment on one of my Facebook statuses. Odd, I thought. But it got stranger when she then tagged me in a status of her own and was encouraging her friends to mock me.  Really odd.  I should add that my original status was a joke about Joffrey playing the King in The King and I revival (I know what you’re thinking: controversial stuff). But, see, didn’t I tell you that it was really immature?   And, as silly as it is, I was kinda upset by it, but I think I’m probably not alone in not loving the idea of someone I barely know joking about how I should be killed (it’s insulting to me and to, you know, wit).  But whatever, I told myself. Except it was still bothering me and I couldn’t quite figure out why. Until…

Later in the day I got an email from an organization that does new play development and, under their upcoming workshops, was something directed by this girl. Ah. That’s what was bothering me. Because, forget about mean and stupid, her behavior was also just unprofessional.  The internet is public and most young people I know use Facebook, at least in part, to stay in touch with professional contacts.  I went through the mutual friends I had with this girl and out of the ten of them nine were people who worked in theatre, and out of those nine all but two were people higher up on the ladder than either of us.  I also looked at some of her old statuses— a lot were about theatre and practically all were mean spirited (not acutely observed, not intelligent, not witty, just plain mean and bitter).  And these are the things that she’s putting out there about herself to the professional world. So what consequences is she facing for this unprofessional behavior… none.

I’ve been seeing that a lot lately.  People in theatre acting unprofessional and facing no repercussions for their actions. I don’t think the expectation that people be civil is a very high standard. It seems pretty basic. Save the bitchy immature behavior for where it belongs: at brunch with your friends. In private. Not in the rehearsal room, not in classrooms, and not in public places on the internet. 

Speaking of the internet, how many segments has The Today Show dedicated to “Kids, if you want to get a job, be careful what you post on Facebook.” A lot. And you know why? Because in other industries if you act like an idiot on the internet to a co-worker you really can get fired. Or, at the very least, not hired or promoted.  If, for example, your twitter photo is a selfie of you without a shirt on that looks like a photo for an online dating (well “dating”) site, and your twitter is public and you tweet about work, chances are, you’re going to be disciplined for that. Well, I know a certain PR rep who thinks it’s just fine (hint: Bridges). 

Yes, some of this might seem silly, but it goes to a larger issue. Since not only can it create a negative atmosphere but this is one of the things that makes people who work in theatre look unprofessional and out of touch to the rest of the world.  Having professional standards of behavior isn’t a bad thing. Especially in a day and age when there’s an increased fluidity between industries (want someone to invest in your show? I suggest not mocking them on the internet and presenting yourself like you don’t spend the work day in your pajamas). It’s important.

I hear a lot of people talking about entitlement. Actually, this girl had a status mocking a playwright she assumed had a trust fund for winning a prize.  Personally, I think it’s pretty entitled to assume that you don’t have to abide by the rules of professionalism that everyone else does, and that you can act however you want and face no consequences for it.  

A while ago (I mean like two years maybe?) New York Magazine did a profile on Roseanne that was pretty brilliant. One of the things it mentioned was that she kept a list of everyone who behaved badly and disrespectfully, and when she got creative control of her show, she fired them.  Some people thought this was being ridiculous and vindictive, but I think it might be time that we all state making more lists. 

sutton foster and colin donnell in violet


Contact sheets of Howell Conant’s photographs of Audrey Hepburn for Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

“I remember my guidance counselor, I wanted to do music, and she said, “Honey, why don’t you go to Texas Christian University, and be in a sorority?” And I remember I had the wherewithal at sixteen years old to actually think that she was stupid. I’m so glad, because if I had listened, and not that I think it’s stupid to do that, but I wanted to be an artist. So how would it have been if I went to college, got married, had babies, and never followed my dream, and never met my husband, and had kids with him, which is where I’m supposed to be. I think that I was growing up, doing this music, and it was inevitable that that is what I was meant to do. I just loved it, and being around nobody who was a musician, and me still doing it meant something. I mean I just found it somehow, and I wanted to be an actress too…I think that music just became my identity. You know I was the one that sang at all the school events. I was the one who sang at all the weddings or funerals. It really became who I was, and I do not know what I’d do without it.” — Kelli O’Hara in 2008 

Kelli O’Hara’s voice/interpretation on The Bridges of Madison County album is doing for musical theatre what Deborah Turbeville did for fashion photography. 


You can download the album here (x) and you can buy tickets to the show here (x). It’s even better live.  Don’t let the bad marketing fool you. Think about the girl in the Deborah Turbeville photo…because that’s what it’s about. 


Kelli O’Hara sings “Almost Real” from The Bridges of Madison County

People should watch this. 

But, Ricky, why can't I be in the show?

You know what's funny? Don't worry. I'll tell you.

Some Facts for the Biographer:
Raised in Ohio, then Manhattan, and now in London getting an MA. I drink too much Diet Coke. I saw my first I Love Lucy episode at three and from then on assumed “trying to put on a show” was a perfectly normal pastime. . When I am bored I like to look at real estate online. I have a giant stuffed leopard named Baby. I think I would make an excellent spy. When I am scared I sing showtunes to myself. I have, on more than one occasion, been asked to use my “indoor voice” at the Met. About once every two months I think I’d like to live on a farm. When I am sad I like to put my fur vest on, eat grapefruit with my special grapefruit spoons, and pretend I am in 1930s Hollywood. I like making people gifts. One day I would like to own a pink and green plaid piano. Lady Mary is my role model. One of my life goals is to learn to tap dance.

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