4. From a former student
Updated: Aug 11, 2021
I started stage right as a preteen and spent almost 4 years there. I came to find the Artistic Director's family to be like family, however I was unaware of how wrong and hurtful his behavior was due to it being an adult I respected and wanted to think highly of me. After years of this behavior i finally understood what was happening and decided I had to get away from this harmful bullying behavior
Below my personal accounts of some of my interactions with the Artistic Director during my time at stage right.
My personal business was shared with large groups of people without my permission by the Artistic Director's family, specifically there was a time i was in a hospital for over a week due to mental health, the Artistic Director's family was told in private and confidence, due to me having to be away for multiple days and being close with the family, i expected no one else to know as it was a private matter , only to come back to find out many students and staff were told that i had been in the hospital, not what for but it was still very violating. (Tink 2015)
I was consistently torn down by the Artistic Director and made to feel small and like i was awful at what i was doing, even when i was trying my hardest, i was often belittled and talked down to. i left more than one rehearsal crying to a friend about how much i felt like i was worthless and bad at theater
In an incident where i was mid-panic attack during a show, the Artistic Director notice i was crying asked why and when told it was a panic attack i was dismissed and told there was no time for it, i needed to be asked if i was okay not told my issue was bothersome (Billy Elliot 2016)
i also had an incident where i believe i was being treated extremely unfair, i was 15 and given the job of co-stage managing a professional show with another student as the regular SM was going to be away during tech and show week. this experience almost made me leave thetaer forever. For about a month i spent almost everyday at the studio for some type of class or rehearsal, some days i was there all day, i was given the job of an adult and the month was a living hell, but tech week was where it really got brutal, the Artistic Director yelled at me multiple times a day for things that were out of my control/not my fault. He even missed an entrance on stage because he was too busy yelling at me backstage. i was thanked 2 times in the entire tech/show week, and once the curtain came down on the last show he said nothing to me during strike, no thank you, no check in, no good job, nothing. at 15 i was crushed. i then spoke to friends and vented about how the experience really was hurtful to me however when i spoke out against said behavior it got to my breaking point. (Billy Elliot 2016)
The Artistic Director pointed me out during an acting class and told the whole class I was lying about him yelling at me. To his surprise the class sided with me, I got my first and only apology from the Artistic Director, even though it was insincere.
I continued to vent and speak about my experience and now the acting class situation was added to the story, I don’t think the Artistic Director liked this because shortly after, at the end of rehearsal for another show I was pull to the side by him and gaslit to believe i made everything up, it was a long conversation but I will never forget him looking at me and saying We need to have a sit down conversation about what you think happened during Billy Elliot and what really happened. After this scary conversation I decided i needed a break, and soon after I decided that I was going to finish the show I was in and leave stage right for good. (Billy Elliot/Fiddler on the Roof 2016)
Then when i left the organization. The Artistic Director on more than one occasion asked my friends about me trying to find out information and spoke negatively about me to said friends (2017-)
The Artistic Director and his family felt like family to me at some points during my time at stage right, however the Artistic Director also ended up treating me terribly and giving me experiences that would hurt me and harm my mental health for years past my departure.
I don’t say any of this in attempt to bash on Stage Right, but I say this in attempt to share my story to hope this unhealthy behavior can be stopped. Stage Right can be a great place, it was a great place to me for many years, i learn and i grew so much, however the great does not erase the bad. The cycle of harm and hurt needs to stop so the good can flourish