I’ll preface this letter by saying that I’m a chronically depressed woman with big anxiety problems and BDP (and one of the ways it manifest is a crippling fear of abandonment).
I have been dumped. By a theater group. I was friend or friendly with all the members (some before the theater). I didn’t see it coming.
We’re an amateur group, so each year our director is whoever volunteers. Someone, let’s call her Loki (I’m feeling petty) took over the job, was congratulated (it’s not an easy job and nobody else was rushing for it). She organized a few reading session over the summer; I attended the first, the second I was in vacation and the two last ones I was too depressed to attend, which I didn’t think would be a big deal. The decision was ultimately hers, she took it, chose a play with eight roles even though we were ten comedians. One week ago she announced it, and last night called me to tell me I was out because she has chosen “to keep the people most invested this summer”. Somehow I’m the only one out.
An additional reason I’m pissed: she chose to cut me out even though I was already a member of the group, but brought her brother in and in an subsequent text she sent me, she talked about the scheduling difficulties (why did she told me that??) (I had no schedule constraint as I have a job with regular hours, no partner or kid and no other activity).
She repeated she was sorry, and I could still be part of the group by doing the grunt work (my words, not hers) of building the set or sewing the costumes (not interested). She also repeatedly offered to me to talk this over around coffee, which I’m very wary about because 1)i don’t see the point beside easing her possible guilt 2)I get emotional real quick and rn all I could see happen is me crying or me yelling, which are both bad. 3)I don’t want to somehow get back in because she would take pity of my mental health issues.
The rest of the group probably doesn’t yet knows what she did and why, they would have said something and I assume she wanted to tell me first.
The final thing is that the scholar year has already started, so it’s gonna be hard to find another, if any, theater group (full of strangers!) I guess my question is: how do I deal with those feeling, how do I deal with Loki and the rest of the group?
Sad And Pissed the Hell Off (she/her)
Dear Sad and Pissed the Hell Off,
- AVOID THE FEELINGSCOFFEE with Loki. Do not go. You have nailed it – she wants to feel better about her decision even though she knows you are hurt and pissed off, and she wants to be able to tell the others “I talked to Sad/Pissed Off and she is okay with it.“
- Challenge, in your own mind if nowhere else, the idea that you’ve been dumped “by the group.” This is about one person, not a decision made by the whole group. I think that the people in your group who are your friends are still your friends. Don’t let Loki be the one to tell your story to them.
- Who is the other person who is “out”? 10 comedians, 8 parts, what’s up with the other person or people who weren’t cast? Maybe you can join common cause with them.
Loki is trying to over-sell you on her decision, which is an understandable thing that humans do when they feel guilty. You don’t have to listen to the sales pitch. Actors are used to rejection for parts, and she-who-volunteers-to-direct has certain prerogatives in casting. If she is so confident in her decision, why is it coming with all this stuff about non-existent “scheduling issues”?
I am gonna write this next part from the perspective of both someone who works and teaches in the arts as a 42-year-old and as someone who was in a college a cappella group who once had a three-hour fight among intenso international relations majors* about whether we would wear “black pants” or “black jeans” for an upcoming concert.
Before you do or say anything you can’t take back, think about what you want to be doing six months from now or a year from now. Moving forward, do you still want to be a part of this group long-term? If you knew for sure you could perform in their next show, would you stick around? Is this group a social and artistic home for you? Is it worth fighting for?
You say are not interested in building sets or making costumes for this show, but if you can find a behind-the-scenes way to contribute (box office, graphic design, house manager, promotions, etc.) that you can live with and faithfully execute without shredding yourself emotionally, it can be giant gesture that says “I am part of this ensemble and I want to be here. You are not getting rid of me that easily.” I know you said “Not Interested” in anything but performing, and I respect that, but hear me out: If you stay, maybe next time you can direct. When you direct, you can make the art you want to make and perform the parts you want to perform and run the process the way you want to run it. If you stay, you can also push for an agreement among group members that the priority is finding material that lets everyone perform, every time. You can also raise the issue of accommodations for depression and giving ensemble members the right-of-first-refusal before casting anyone else. Staying says to the director (and the others), “I am taking you at your word that this wasn’t personal. I am still here for this.” If you bail, you make it easier for Loki to tell the story that you didn’t want to be here anyway.
That’s my argument for staying. If you say:”It hurts too much, and I can’t,” I believe you. :Recalls the Nothing Compares 2U Solo incident of 1996: :Re-reads Dorothy Parker’s Sanctuary:
I believe you.
You can still:
- Tell Loki “Hey, I was ill this summer and not at full capacity, but I’ve always been reliable when we’re in production. I really would have appreciated a phone call or email to check in and ask about my availability rather than you making assumptions.“
- Tell Loki & the group some version of: “Hey, I was really blindsided by the news I wasn’t cast, and I need a little break to process everything. However, I definitely want to perform in your next show. Good luck, etc.“
- Use a counselor/therapist/journal to process your big complicated feelings about all of this and try to keep your communications with the group itself short and neutral. Loki is expecting some sort of giant argument, and the more you can subvert her expectations about that the more you show her decision up as a sketchy one. “I’m not happy about this and I wish you’d handled it better, but I’ll be okay and so will you. Let’s just table this until the next show, where I fully plan to be on the stage.”
- If you can, keep in touch and do social/friend stuff with the people in the group who are your friends. Think more one-on-one hangs than getting together as a bigger group.
- Take this fall/winter to see a lot of shows and look around for another group you might want to join.
- Work on solo material/personal essays/writing/storytelling/stand-up.
- Audition for stuff that interests you.
- Take an acting or improv class, directing class, writing class – something to get you around new people and to feed your creativity.
- Be very, very nice to yourself.
You have things to say and stories to tell and people to make laugh, and this group isn’t the only place in the world that’s ever gonna hold you.
*At least one of those people legit negotiates international arms treaties now. We went with “black jeans” btw. Ah, 1994….