There has been this topic that I have been avoiding posting about, but I am feeling that I just need to put it out there. If you have no interest in reading about my time with the Workhouse Theatre Company, then feel free to skip ahead to another post. If you choose to read – be warned: I have no interest in hearing your feedback, insight, observations or advice on the subject matter. Emails, or comments sent to me that fall under the above categories will be ignored. That is unless you have something positive and supportive to say to me.
So, if you choose to read – then read on!
Workhouse Theatre Company is an award winning theatre company that resides and produces theater on the northside of Minneapolis. I founded it. Taught the classes. I ran it for 6 years. I saw the growth and development of the company from a small group of enthusiasts to a full production staff and a small but committed core company. I helped usher the Ivey award winning “‘night Mother” by Marsha Norman to the stage. I helped to create a different kind of theatrical model and was a vital link in the resurgence and participation in the arts on the northside. Hell I even had the vision to build a performance space in a garage that the owner had not a clue to its potential.
I didn’t do it alone. Valerie Borey, Dan Hylton, Duane Atter, and Mark Meuwissen really worked hard to get it to award winning potential and they did it with little experience and a whole hell of a lot of balls (yes, even Valerie).
At the end of summer 2010, I was blocked from accessing information about the company via facebook. So was my wife. We were removed from the email list. I was told that it was because we “couldn’t be trusted”. With what I am not sure since this came entirely out of the blue, but was told that if I wanted to re-friend the company that I would be let back in. How humiliating is that. It is like a bully stealing my Star Wars toys and then making me ask him real nice to give them back.
I am no longer welcome at the company that I created. I have been shut out by one passive aggressive, self indulgent grown man baby and one manipulative, showboating phony friend collector. And the sad thing is, no one has even asked why. No one can even provide me with a reasonable answer.
Now, I will be up front – especially since I am going to have to cast some stones here – I am not a perfect individual. I made some mistakes early on with the company. I did a disproportionately larger number of things right, but it is the very few mistakes that could have been against me. I was horrible, HORRIBLE at managing the books. I even, unethically, used some of the theater money to make personal purchases, which I then paid back later on (Mark M. If you are reading this, this is why I never wanted to turn the books over to you. I was afraid you would discover my secret. The other Mark was the only one who I told and look how that turned out). I also may have pissed a few people off – well, who doesn’t from time to time. Some of them I apologized to and some of them I don’t really give a shit if they were pissed off or not. I did not, however, get mad and pout whenever someone pissed me off. I didn’t grab my toys and storm off home only to sit in my room until someone asked me what was wrong. Finally, I may have dropped the ball a little bit, especially towards the end – but nothing that any other overworked artist hasn’t done when it comes to managing the “business” side of the art. SO, I am not a perfect theater artist, person, or manager. There you go. See anything in there that warrants a profanity laced tirade, blocking and removal, name dragging through the mud, and passive aggressive middle school like power trips?
Point of fact: After 6 years of working on the theater nights, weekends, and missing family time I wanted out. I had wanted out for a few years, but I just didn’t know how to do it and insure that the company would remain intact. I tried to get out once, but it didn’t take. Coincidentally, the one who said he would assist me with the transition is the one who later on would be pulling his passive aggressive knife out of my back. Don’t get me wrong, I have no desire to go back to managing the company. None, nada, zip. If you go back and look at the news clippings from the local news papers from the early salad days I very clearly say that after five years I want to turn it over to someone else. I meant it – no matter what may have been said. I left of my own accord and I left knowing that I created something permanent and fantastic.
N OW…There is a man who is running the artistic side of the company who at one time was a good friend and artistic companion. I see now that he was just using our friendship to get what he wanted – which is the Artistic Directorship of the company. There is another man who is so passive aggressive, childish, and two faced that it is amazing he is still able to get work. As it turns out, he has a set of his own theatrical lights, a color printer and an uncanny ability to organize books and paperwork and will use his generosity to worm his way in and then turn on you when he feels he has the upper hand. Sans those items I am not sure he would be where he is today (especially since other have come forward and expressed similar experiences with this character). People are willing to put up with his BS, because when they don’t he packs up his toys and goes home.
I think the thing that troubles me the most about the whole situation is that I am not sure what information people are being fed as to my absence. Sure there is the official PR about the change in leadership, but what are the people who I worked with being told? And why have none of them even bothered to contact me to get my side of the story? And why do some of them not even acknowledge me anymore? Why have the two remaining company members not bothered to come to me and talk to me about things that they may or may not have heard? To be fair, I did send out my own email announcing my departure, but still if they had concerns or questions, why didn’t they ask?
Ah, who really gives a rat’s ass? Part of it is symptomatic of the northside, some of it is symptomatic of the arts in general, some of it is personality and some of it is just……ambivalence? I guess as long as people are getting what they want who is going to rock the boat?
Ya know what’s funny though? PAMB (Passive Aggressive Man Baby), who likes to stir up shit and then pretend that nothing happened, rode his bikes to my garage sale last weekend. Parked right at the end of my driveway. I saw him and went inside before I punched him in the nose in front of his kids thus putting the brakes on my teaching overseas. Jenni didn’t realize who he was at first. He said, and get this because he said it as if there was no conflict between us, he said “So, when’s the big move?” Once Jenni realized who he was she stopped talking to him.
It would have been nice to step away from the company without any bullshit. It would have been nice to go to a show there sometime during the last season and talk to the audience members who I helped cultivate over the years and find out how they liked the show. It would be nice to have an ongoing relationship with the theater and help consult or give feedback when they get stuck – after all I built that damn thing from the ground up and know the history. It would be great to be treated with a little respect.
But ya know what – if I can’t get any of that above, even just a fraction, then I don’t want anything. I don’t need that poisonous experience in my life anymore. I can let it go. I can walk away from in entirely and just remember the good times I had with the company, before the assholes took over and before they had a short and selfish memory. Before they took the shared theatrical experience that was dedicated to connections, community and transformations and turned it into their own personal missions. Sure, you can produce a good play – but it is more than that.
I learned a lot from that experience and I am a better theater artist for it. I am a better teacher for it and a better husband and father because of it. I’m still not perfect – but I can at least start the next chapter of my life not burdened by the crazy and self-importance that goes along with theater artists trapped in their own little narrow world.
If you are reading this and can go to a show there, please do. The theater needs to stay there and be a permanent fixture on the northside. It needs to get recognition for helping to usher a resurgence of the arts and culture in a forgotten neighborhood. It needs to provide arts jobs to the northside people. You don’ have to talk to anyone from the company there (except Duane and Sarah), but you can help promote the theater. That would be my wish.
Anywho. I needed to write that. I needed to write about that because it was one of the last lingering clouds over my whole move. It was one of the loose ends or one of the un-resolved issues. For Workhouse, I assume the issue is resolved – that or no one really gives a shit. Now for me the issue is resolved.
If you have a question feel free to ask, but if you ask in a dickish way I may kick you in the throat.