Updated: Aug 13
I did not stay with stage right for a very long time, only a handful of years around elementary and middle school around roughly 2008. While my story is not necessarily one of survival, and not as relatively concerning or problematic as some of these other stories, here are some of my observations and own personal experiences.
While I loved being in the shows, I quickly found that the atmosphere, management, and some of the older students/teachers made the joy of performing fade. I look back now and realize that the reason some of the older students were so hostile and generally “nasty” was because the Artistic Director tended to pit his students against each other in an emotionally manipulating way. There was one older student in particular that seemed to be a favorite, and regularly taught classes and received lead after lead after lead. This student did not treat her peers or me very well, and one of the reasons I left was because I did not find it worthwhile to perform in show after show where the lead would abuse her position.
In addition, I personally did not enjoy the triple or quadruple casting decision, because the Artistic Director would often cut entire songs/roles/lines/dances if not all of the students he cast could do it right or learn lines. While somewhat understandable, the way he went about it was borderline abuse and manipulation. As the director, it is his responsibility to cast students in roles that fit them. If he’s quadruple casting, and not casting very well, that should be a reflection on his own director decisions, and not the students, and yet he would often scream and belittle students that underperformed.
One of the other hugely unprofessional issues was the Artistic Director's children. Their daughter especially was a complete bully. She was extremely hostile towards other students, and abused her role in the company to hurt others without consequence. In any other theater, she would have been kicked out. She would often do things that other students were screamed at for, and then say “its ok I can do this because I’m their daughter.” Their daughter, when I was there, was put into roles far above her age and skill level, and more deserving of other students. This led to any of the triple or quadruple casted parts that this daughter played getting cut or minimized to match the daughter. (Such as a role I had played that was cut almost entirely)
I understand that a lot of theaters can be pretty cut-throat, and prepare you for a highly competitive field, but at age 9 (or younger), this was not an environment that encouraged me to continue doing theater. It was damaging to my self image and confidence in my abilities. I know that a lot of people saw stage right as their family, but I think I was all to aware of the damaging environment, and left before I even reached high school, and therefore avoided the brunt of the abuse. When I went on to audition for high school shows, it was no surprise to me that I never got more than secondary or minor roles, as I feel that the only thing stage right prepared me for was to be disappointed and yelled at.