32. 8/11 From a Local Performing Arts Teacher
For the past 5 years I had heard stories from my students, either directly or indirectly of abuse that was happening at Stage Right. I have never worked at Stage right and it was because of these stories and their reputation that I stayed away. But two stories have always stood out to me that I was involved in that I felt I'd like to share.
One of my students had a performance at our school on a particular Saturday. This was a performance we were preparing for for weeks. She approached me and told me that she could not attend the show because she had to attend rehearsal for a show she was in at SR. I told her that rehearsals do not take precedence over a performance, but she insisted that if she did not attend that rehearsal she would not be permitted to rehearse her role until the final dress rehearsal. I asked why and I was told it was because the show was triple cast. I asked her why she couldn't swap rehearsal days with another one of her rolemates, and she informed me that they would, but then when she came to the next rehearsal they would not permit her to run the show because "this is not your day to perform" regardless of whether the other actor had filled in or not. If it wasn't on the schedule for her to rehearse, she would not be permitted to. I told her that this was not normal. I asked her if she told Artistic Director that she had a show and she told me that she was too afraid to tell him. she said she thought he would likely understand that she had a performance but then she'd be treated like "crap' the next time she returned.
About a year later I received a FB message from the AD. He wanted to discuss a mutual student with me. Considering I knew his reputation I decided to wait. When I arrived at work he had also left a voicemail with my principal, wishing to discuss one of her employees with him. She asked if I knew what it was about and I told her I had no idea. She let me know she would handle it. She did call him back, and told me later that he had been told by a student that I instructed her to quit Stage Right. At no point had I ever spoken ill of Stage Right nor had I ever told a student to quit. My principal decided to not disclose the student and I thought that was best. She told him that I did not do such a thing and ended it. The only possible scenario that came to mind was when a student inquired about auditioning for our show choir. When she found out that our rehearsal conflicted with Stage Rights show choir, she expressed interest in still being in her schools. I simply told her that unfortunately due to the schedules she would have to pick one or the other and whatever she chose was fine. This conversation happened 6 months prior to AD contacting my boss. I felt certain that either the student misunderstood what I said or AD completely twisted her story. For whatever reason he felt that he had the right to contact me and confront me about this.
Obviously, these two stories do not compare to anything the students and staff have experienced. However, I share it to show that this toxic behavior reaches beyond the "stage right nation" to anyone who also interacts with the same students. I can not tell you how many times I had to tell students "Abusive relationships are not unique to romantic ones. Employers, teachers, friends, schools; they can all be abusive." They would talk about their insecurities from the classes they took with AD and it was heartbreaking to see such incredibly talented students feel so insecure. I hope that this group is successful in shedding light on this situation.