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#901: “I was dumped by my theater group. Now what?”

Dear Captain,

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,

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

If so:

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….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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109 comments
  1. Sheelzebub said:

    Everything the Captain said. I’d also add: Keep any communications to them short and to the point, and as cordial as you can be. It’s easy to write something blunt and direct and have it devolve into FEELINGSMAIL. And you don’t want to have that in the back of your mind, making *you* cringe and them defensive, KWIM?

    I will also second *considering* taking on another function of the group for this period, IF you are up to it. If you truly aren’t (and I get that), then take your leave in the way the Captain advised you to. (“Hey, I was blindsided by not being cast and kind of hurt that no one reached out to talk to me beforehand. I was not well at the time. I get that this is the way it goes sometimes but need some time to sit with this. I’m very interested in performing in the next production.” )

    I also really want to put in a plug for an improv, standup, directing, acting, or writing class. It’s a nice distraction as well as a confidence and skill booster, and you’ll meet new people who like the same things you do. Win/win.

  2. Anna said:

    Hmm … I’m not sure about this one. Part of doing theatre is that sometimes you don’t get cast, and you definitely don’t get cast if you don’t show up. For a director, it’s really difficult to direct a production when your cast is flaky/not reliable, and so I think Loki might have been, from a practical standpoint, justified. Of course, that doesn’t meant that LW can’t be upset – it’s really upsetting to not get cast, and I totally sympathize with her fears of abandonment. I just think we might be reading something nefarious into Loki’s behavior when there really isn’t much – she offered her a chance to be part of the production offstage, and offered to get coffee with LW to work through the feelings. I don’t know if there’s much more she could have been expected to do. Am I missing something?

    • JenniferP said:

      Loki can cast whoever she wants, agreed! It doesn’t have to be nefarious to hurt the Letter Writer’s feelings or make her question whether she’s valued in the ensemble, or for her to want it to have been handled differently. “You didn’t show up to our read-thrus, are you ok/still with us?” vs. “You didn’t show up a couple times, so, you’re out (even though you’re a long time group member).“We don’t have a part for you this time, can you still be involved behind the scenes this time and we’ll get you next time?” vs. “I had to go with the people who showed up (including my brother, who I added to the group over you). Also mumble mumble there are scheduling issues.” It sounded to me like until now the principal goal of the group is “we’re here to have fun/everybody gets a part in every show,” and this is the first time someone’s ever been excluded.

      Something doesn’t have to be “nefarious” or “unprofessional” to suck balls when it happens to you

      • Anna said:

        ahh that does makes sense. If it actually is the first time someone hasn’t been cast, it’s definitely a different calculus.

        • Kyrie said:

          It was the first time in my very short experience (I had been there for a year) but it turned out that a few years ago it happened as well. Two people didn’t get cast, one went on to do the lighting (he reached out to me and said similar things as the Captain on staying involved) The other one left the group and didn’t come back. I understand it isn’t a fun thing to talk about, but the result is that it came as a complete surprise for me.

          On a slightly more positive note, I have a casting audition, which I’m very nervous about it, but in a kind of good way. We’re at least three candidate and they need one (maybe two) actor(s). I have to learn a scene and presente it next week. But at least if I don’t get chosen (high possibility, the other ones had much more experience than I did) I will know it wasn’t personal, it wasn’t based on criteria I didn’t know about beforehand and I won’t have to wonder what my odds would have been if I was the sibling of the partner of the director.
          Failing that, I’ll try to see if there are still classes open at this time.

          • Flash Bristow said:

            Good for you. It sounds like you’re finding positive alternative things to do, and I really hope they work out to be valuable and enjoyable for you.

          • Big Pink Box said:

            I hope the casting audition works out for you, and that Loki’s influence doesn’t spoil your year.

      • dorrie6 said:

        As a person who directs non-pro theatrical productions, I definitely read “scheduling issues” as code for “issues with person who doesn’t show up for scheduled things even when they have no known conflicts.” I probably would deal with that differently than Loki, by having a conversation ahead of time along the lines of “are regular rehearsals something you feel like you can commit to?” but it seems likely to me that this is what the “scheduling issues” are. I’m not saying this doesn’t suck for LW, especially if it wasn’t clear during the summer that the readings were important to attend in order to be cast. It does.

        • Kyrie said:

          I would think I’d already proven that can commit to regular rehearsals by, you know, actually coming to the regular rehearsal all of last year. In fact, the non-regularity of the reading evening was part of what made it harder for me to attend, because I do better with thing planned in advance with regularity.
          And while I see what you mean, “scheduling conflict” isn’t code for anything concerning me in this case, in context she clearly meant scheduling conflict with the remaining actors.

          • dorrie6 said:

            I see now that you’ve clarified this later on in comments. 🙂 Something that I think can be challenging about theater culture is that the sense of “the show must go on!” tends to get extended to everything, and prioritizing theatrical commitments above all else is seen as the norm. That’s definitely the culture I was raised in, and I feel like it lives on in both amateur and professional theater—perhaps the *most* in amateur theater where there are no understudies or paid vacation/sick days or the “Equity cot.” On one hand, it forges strong bonds and helps ensure that the show is the very best it can be, but I can definitely see how it might be hard on someone who isn’t necessarily able to drop everything to turn up on short notice (especially when “everything” is that person’s entire state of mind). I hope things will work out with you and your group, once you’ve processed the hurt and rejection you’re feeling now, and that they will all see how committed you really are.

    • Haplo said:

      Agreed. If I were getting my chance to direct, and there was a play I really wanted to do that didn’t have enough parts for the full group, and one person didn’t show up for 3 of the 4 reading sessions over the summer, well…that one person is not gonna get cast. And it sucks for that person! But Loki handled this situation entirely reasonably, IMO. She called LW to let her know about the decision personally, suggested some other ways LW could stay involved with the group, and even offered to meet LW in person to discuss the decision. (Captain, you see this as “wanting to make herself feel better,” but couldn’t it just as well be Loki trying to reach out and keep LW involved with the group?)

      • JenniferP said:

        You make a great case! I think there is some over-justifying going in bc she knows the LW isn’t going to take it well and that there is not much precedent for not using everyone in the ensemble.

        • Anna said:

          why is that bad, though? I’m not sure where you’re getting the vibe of “overjustifying” and the idea that she’s doing it to feel better about herself. To me, offering to get a personal coffee to talk over a casting decision seems like it’s a courtesy beyond what’s normal, especially since LW isn’t a long-term member of the group and there have been previous shows that haven’t used everyone. I think this is interesting because different factions of the commenters seem to be reading Loki in completely different ways, but I can’t say I entirely understand it.

          • Turtle Candle said:

            I guess that’s what I’m getting stuck on too. Would it have been better if she’d announced it at a group meeting or via a publicly-posted list of parts, instead of privately? Would it have been better if she hadn’t offered the LW other ways to get involved, and simply assumed that if she was interested in stage-handing or doing costumes she’d say something? When I was in theater, those would have both been very, very normal ways of dealing with casting decisions, but it’s hard for me to see them as being superior to what happened here. To me, Loki is actually being very conscientious; given that ‘not everybody gets cast’ is very normal (it appears that even in this theater group it has happened before, just not in the year or so since the LW started participating), I’m not sure how she could have done better.

            Which isn’t to say that the LW doesn’t get to feel hurt about it. Of course she does. It sucks to not get picked for something, and most of us just want to go off somewhere and lick our wounds for a while when it happens. But I’m just not seeing what Loki did wrong.

          • JenniferP said:

            I think your perspective is right on and the original post should have been more along the lines of “Even if everything is as you perceive, and Loki is just doing this to make herself feel better, what now?”

            That’s why we have the best commenters. 😍

          • Jen said:

            Agreed. I’m in the arts and Loki is far, far, far more gentle than half the rejections I’ve gotten. Rarely do any artistic directors or the like offer feedback to their decisions.

        • e271828 said:

          I too disagree with this characterization of the director as “over-justifying.” I see a director dealing with a person who didn’t show up for three of four readings, whose interest might have been flagging or who might have whatever going on in their lives, a person who she is trying to encourage to stay involved with the group by doing other activities. Offering to meet over coffee is an olive branch, a sign that LW is welcome. I don’t think that offer would have been made insincerely! It wasn’t necessary and LW should take it as a positive sign, even if she declines (graciously, I hope).

          LW, I sincerely hope you do continue with the group and spend a season on production work, which will build up your credibility as an engaged, committed member and help you to meet other people who like theatre too.

          But please let the past be past, and not to make any comments to other members about the director’s brother or the director’s casting decisions. Those decisions are the director’s to make, and the group has to let her do her job—keep in mind, she’s a volunteer too. You didn’t get cast this time. You might get cast next time. Good luck! Remember, it’s supposed to be fun.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        Yeah, that’s how I read it too. (And the ‘missing reading sessions’ also makes a big difference depending on whether there was any explanation; I will be honest that, in absence of explanation, yeah, I’d also not cast the person who missed 3 of 4.) Especially with the added info that not everyone getting cast has happened before, just not in the past year or so that the LW was active in the group; in my experience, not everyone getting cast in every piece is just very… well… normal for a theater group.

        I can definitely see how it would be perceived as “making herself feel better,” but I’m hard-pressed to think how better she could have handled it; the information was conveyed personally and in private, the director reached out to her to make it clear she’s still welcome. It definitely hurts to not make the cut, and the LW gets to feel hurt (feelings are feelings and sometimes you just gotta feel them), but this all strikes me as well within norms for theater groups, and indeed, honestly, a kinder way than a lot of them deal with casting decisions.

        (Yet another example of “absolutely no one involved needs to be Wrong for something to still hurt,” I suppose.)

      • Beth said:

        Yeah, that was my reaction. The new director, after accepting a notoriously challenging job, saw a member of the group fade out after one appearance. The director made personal contact and asked the ghosting member to remain involved, and is having everything she does interpreted in the worst possible way. I hope the coffee session does not happen, if the director is going to get her best efforts thrown back in her face.

        I would not have cast the LW myself; if I knew someone else whom I hoped would be more reliable, including a family member, I might well bring them in instead. Depression sucks, but it’s not the job of everyone else (many of whom also struggle with depression) to fix the world on the LW’s behalf.

        In addition, as a long-term Doer of Gruntwork (backstage and in many other places), I’m bristling at having the necessary non-starring-role work dismissed as crap. And honestly, if you want to perform in theatre, can’t take any form of rejection, resent anyone who gets a break that you did not, and sneer at the hard work that goes on backstage, you’re in for a world of hurt and I have major problems feeling any sympathy. (Yes, I know I’m sounding harsh — I’m reading the LW as sounding extremely harsh.)

        • I have to agree with this. I am not a performer and never have been; I’m a backstage or behind-the-camera person, heart and soul. I’ve taken shit for that from people who don’t understand that everyone on a set is valuable and needed, whatever their job, and I’ve given that shit back to people I’ve worked with if they didn’t respect their colleagues.
          I’ve fired people for being unreliable, and trust me, it is deeply unpleasant – but I refuse to let a production that I and many other people have poured their energy into be sunk because of one individual, even if that individual had excellent reasons. I’ve also worked with people who were kind enough to step out if they knew they were dragging things down, even if they desperately wanted to be a part of it. There’s a reason why theatre folk bang on about professionalism constantly: when you’ve very little money and resources, you absolutely need to be able to depend on people.
          As the Captain said, maybe the dynamics of this group are usually different. If so, then I can see taking this much more personally. But if this person really cares about performance outside of this, they need to learn to deal with themselves first.

        • Carolyn said:

          Beth, I agree with you completely – every single word. You found less harsh words than I was able to come up with …

          To hear backstage and behind the scenes work described as grunt work is really insulting. There are no small parts onstage or backstage, only small people. I have been the stage manager/tech goddess at a local theater for the past few years – there is no one on my crew who is not vitally important, whether they are painting flats, swinging hammers, setting lights or moving sets. And we are all volunteers. We do not get a curtain call, but we are waiting in the wings to make sure everything is where it needs to be and the cast looks and sounds their best. It is not grunt work – many of the roles require specific skills and abilities and even those that don’t can be done wrong or carelessly if the person doing them thinks its below them or doesn’t matter. I wouldn’t have room on my crew for someone who thought backstage work is beneath them and actors who treat my crew like they don’t matter or are below them are absolutely mentioned to the director. That theater is MY HOUSE – you don’t disrespect me and mine in our home!

        • Obstreperous B said:

          Depressed professional techie here, thanks for articulating this perfectly.

          • highlyeccentric said:

            Seconded.

        • K. said:

          Agreed. Insulting others’ work because you don’t want to do it yourself isn’t okay.

        • Clarry said:

          I live in an area where we’re lucky enough to see a lot of college and community theater. In many (most?) places, the cast takes their curtain calls with the stars going last. Sometimes the director walks on stage. Then the entire cast joins together while the audience continues applauding, and they extend one arm forward, palm up, to point to/present the folks in the lightbox at the back of the theater. The audience turns and applauds for the light and sound people. (We can’t actually see the people inside, but we know they’re there.) Then the cast turns and indicates the sets and the house itself so the audience can applaud everyone who worked back stage. Again, we don’t see them, but they get hearty applause as well. This is a nice touch that I recommend to every theater group. It costs nothing and can be very meaningful.

          • Kyrie said:

            We did that here at every play was in. Sometimes the director would come on the stage, and sometimes the light people would do a little “light waving” (that really depend on the personality of the people)
            However, and I don’t know if it’s a small group thing, or another country/culture thing (I’m French), but we never had (I mean in our little plays) other people than actors, lights and sound techies, the directors, and sometimes the musicians. the set is usually very minimal (usually let’s put a black background and decide what we do with the chairs), the props are few (and everybody helps find them) and even the costumes are very simple, as long as you can recognize the character we’re good. (this years 3/4 of them were from a place that sells second hand clothes to make money for charity) We do each other make up. The actors install the set and helps set up the light and sound. I can guess from context what a stage manager is, but I’ve never seen one.

      • Light37 said:

        Yeah, I get that this hurts the LW, but I don’t think Loki is in the wrong here.

      • K. said:

        I completely agree. If I were Loki, I would try to handle this kindly, but this is likely what I would do.

  3. Kuff said:

    In re: “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?”, isn’t Loki herself the other person? Eight parts + one director + one letter writer = 10. At least, that’s how I read it.

    If Loki is also one of the eight performers, then please burn this note and forget I ever said anything.

    • JenniferP said:

      Ah, that makes sense. I was reading it as 8 actors + 1 director + 1 LW + 1 Loki’s brother = 11

  4. L said:

    As a person with depression, it occurs to me to bring up considering that you may want to do some disclosure (at whatever level you are comfortable) about your depression to the group if they don’t already know. Depression seems obvious to us when we are living in it (like fishes in water) but to others who don’t know what you are experiencing it can look like you’re not engaged with the group. I find that people will be much more understanding when they actually know what I’ve been going through. (Once I get the courage to tell them and stop thinking they’ll judge me for the depression itself.)

    • Kyrie said:

      I did it in a “goodbye for now” type of email to the group. A few people already knew, but I am pretty good at keeping up apparences when I want to, and the group is a fairly big one (play people + improv people) and I didn’t know everybody close enough (even though I was in good term with everybody, I wasn’t friend with the 20-ish of them)
      And it didn’t seem necessary at the time, as I still managed to do the “serious” parts of the play (rehearsals, learning my lines, all that) even though I missed a lot of the social theater-related events.

      • Antrobus said:

        LW, I feel for you and how you’re hurting. I would also like you to please consider how you’re approaching this group and the theatre it does. As a theatre person myself, it raises my hackles to hear you dismiss the ‘gruntwork’, and to delineate between the ‘serious’ parts of the play and… apparently other things that are not serious.

        This sounds like an independently run group, and I applaud all of you for getting that far – it’s a lot of work. That said, it’s a lot of WORK, and if you’re not in it for allll the kinds of work – including the readings and the set building and the costume sewing – then it’s possible that this is not the group for you. Anecdote: When I was a theatre professional in a past life, I have to tell you that we did make casting choices based on who was there for the group, not just for the show. There was actually a small subgroup of us that petitioned the director to NOT cast a specific person who would have been truly great in a role because that person only showed up for the ‘serious’ stuff – rehearsals and performances. They were never there to help find the props, paint the set, do the readings/discussions of what we should do next. It didn’t feel like they were invested in the group, more invested in themselves being in the show. I’m not saying that’s what happened with your group or that’s how you feel about your group or they about you – I’m just offering my lived experience anecdote about how these things happen sometimes.

        I truly don’t mean to pile on, or to undermine what you’re feeling. Your feelings of rejection are real, and I believe you that it hurts and you are angry and sad. I’m sorry that theatre isn’t bringing you joy right now as it should. I hope you find a theatre place and people that bring back the happyfeelings and make you feel fulfilled and valued.

    • Turtle Candle said:

      Yes, this. I am pretty good at putting on a good ‘face’ when I’m in public, so it took me several years (and, sadly, several exploded friendships) to realize that what is obviously a depressed inability to do X from the inside may look from the outside identical to just giving no fucks about X. If I keep flaking out on friends or canceling events, but don’t explain and ‘seem fine’ externally, it’s not unreasonable for them to conclude that the friends/events are simply not a priority for me. Indeed, Jennifer sometimes suggests that if someone says ‘no’ or cancels two or three times in a row, that you stop bothering them, because it’s often code for “sorry, just not that into you.”

      So while it’s not my fault that it’s my depression that makes me unable to do those things, it’s not really their fault either that they read ‘not interested’ into it, in absence of other information, and it can be useful to clue them in that it’s something else. Not that you need to drop your entire medical history on everybody, but even just a “I’m dealing with some health issues, but I’d love to see you some other time,” or “I’ve got some major personal stuff going down and don’t really have a lot of time right now–can I let you know when things clear up?” or “I’m definitely still interested in being a part of [club], but things are hectic right now; just wanted to let you know I’m still interested and I’ll let you know when it gets better!” makes a world of difference. Really, a world of difference.

      (I have no idea if this is relevant to the LW, but just throwing it out there.)

      • Light37 said:

        Good point- all Loki had to go on was that the LW wasn’t there for 3/4 of the readings and that does suggest lack of interest.

      • K. said:

        I’ve been there, too. From the outside, my flakiness and unreliability looked intentional. I can’t blame other people for not knowing what I didn’t even hint at (never mind explicitly tell them).

    • MuddieMae said:

      This is a really important point. My husband is in a depressive period right now, and even being supremely intimate with someone and knowing everything that’s going on their life, I still sometimes struggle with seeing it as depression rather than apathy.

      It sounds a bit like the LW is taking a lot of things personally that are not personal. I know that is especially easy to do when we are already raw from other emotional/mental challenges, so I’m definitely sympathetic. But as the Captain recommended, if you have a counselor or therapist maybe this is something they could assist with.

  5. rebelipar said:

    Does Loki know why you were absent for the last two readings? From my take, she either doesn’t know and is probably somewhat frustrated that she took on a big responsibility–that no one really wanted–and you only showed up to one of the planning sessions. Or, she does know and is maybe afraid she will be relying on you and you will be unable to perform.

    This is not your fault, LW. But there are unfortunate circumstances to things even if they are not your fault, probably especially when people are trying to make decisions while stressed about a job you admit isn’t easy to do.

    Loki certainly seems like she is trying to justify this decision to herself because she feels bad about it, and wants you to be involved.

    • moss said:

      the two last ones I was too depressed to attend, which I didn’t think would be a big deal

      This part surprises me… missing readings would be a HUGE deal in any theatre production I’ve ever been in. If I had missed 3/4 I would have been shocked to have been cast, not surprised not to have been. LW I totally understand how you’re upset about this but I hope you can see the director’s perspective as well.

      • Turtle Candle said:

        Yeah, I think this must be a very different type of theater group than I’m used to, because missing three of the four readings without a clearly-stated very good reason would have been enough not just not to cast someone, but to replace someone who had already been cast. Maybe this varies?

        • kemmi said:

          Honestly, even with a reason, that is something that would have to be taken into account when casting. Professional casts can afford to have understudies. It doesn’t sound like this one is so big it would. If someone can’t make it *for whatever reason* to 75% of stuff for it, then they probably shouldn’t be in the show.

          It’s not that you can’t make reasonable adjustments (and you definitely should), but– well, it’s might not be someone’s fault that they can’t, but that doesn’t change the fact that they can’t.

      • Maggie said:

        This part surprises me… missing readings would be a HUGE deal in any theatre production I’ve ever been in

        That’s my experience as well. Anyone who missed 3/4 readings would not have been cast in anything I’ve ever worked on. I think that “Loki” went above and beyond most directors I’ve worked with, in reaching out to the LW, explaining the casting rather than just putting up a notice, and trying to get the LW involved with the production in other ways. I don’t think “Loki” is suggesting coffee to make herself feel better, because I don’t think she’s done anything to feel bad about.

        I do understand why the LW is very upset about this, because of course it hurts.

  6. Kyrie said:

    LW here. While I was very confused on this at first, because I received different answers to the question (we don’t know yet vs this guy) The director doesn’t count as one of the 10 comedians. After I failed to pick up on another of her call (not on purpose, but that was just as well) she sent me an half apologetic message explaining that she wanted to cast of 10 of us, but it was hard, and she found a play she really really liked (which once again for me proved that it didn’t really matter other than symbolically if I was there or not, it was her decision and hers alone) But I digress
    From what I gathered, I was the “easy” pick on who to not cast, and the other one is not chosen yet. They, (I guess her) will decide who gets out depending on the scheduling possibilities. I probably won’t be able to commiserate much with the other person much since the main reason for the scheduling difficulties is the fact that several people also have weekly semi-professional theater classes, while I currently have, well, nothing.

    • MuddieMae said:

      “while I currently have, well, nothing.”

      LW, are things going okay outside of this theater group? Throughout your letter and the thread, it seems that you’re struggling with strong negative emotions and a lot of black & white idealization/demonization type thinking about an interaction that it genuinely sounds like Loki handled kindly and reasonably. But this comment made me wonder if you are struggling and perhaps this theater group was something you were really looking forward to or maybe a “last straw” thing.

      Are you seeing someone to talk about these issues? If not, is that a possibility?

    • Mathglot said:

      A minor point concerning verbiage: Kyrie, I think you meant to say “actor” here, not “comedian”. The French word « comédien » is a Faux-ami and means “actor” in English. My French spouse will still sometimes says “comedian” in English when she means “actor”. The English word “comedian” is a synonym for “comic” and means « humoriste » or « comique » in French. Hope that helps!

      P.S. We used to say “actress” for « comédienne » but this has changed in the last few decades. Both women and men are now usually referred to as “actors,” although you still sometimes see the word “actress” in historical situations or where it has become entrenched, such as in the names of some Academy Award nominations, or sometimes just from personal preference.

    • Jack V said:

      FWIW, that does sound very positive, like, if they’re not casting someone else as well, it suggests that Loki isn’t dissembling, she wasn’t angling to get rid of you, what she’s saying is basically right, that she wanted to do this play, and needed to not cast two people. And it sucks that she picks you, but that’s the sort of normal human failing, it’s not necessarily “they dumped you” but “everyone can’t be in every production”. And Loki dropped the ball a bit in not checking in with you, in finding out that you were ill, not just flaky, but that’s a normal human sort of mistake, not necessarily one from someone looking to dump you — when you’re handling a big project, you’re naturally focused on that, and LOTS of people ARE flaky, so it’s natural to just downplay them a bit, and not every time follow up.

      And I don’t know for sure. My other guess was maybe people were made uncomfortable by something you hadn’t realised was a problem, and were looking to go forward without you. But this sounds a lot more like, “they didn’t really think either way”, not “they don’t like you”.

      Even if everyone had been communicating well, some people would sit out some plays. Even if there are parts, often some are just less interesting than others. Maybe it helps to think, “well part of doing this is sitting out a play every so often” even if the reasons why are very frustrating. And if you are still around the group, (with some distance for Loki so you don’t explode), you can push, “hey, it’s a shame but no big deal, but I really want to be in the next one”, show willing, hopefully people will take on board that you’re committed.

  7. tinyorc said:

    LW, building sets and sewing costumes isn’t “grunt work”, it’s important and necessary. You seem to have your heart set on being onstage, but as someone who worked in theatre for several years in various technical capacities, I can say that actors who also had experience doing back stage stuff were my absolute favourite people to work with, largely because they didn’t treat me like a grunt.

    So yeah, I would echo the Captain’s advice on that point: staying on in a non-performing role says “hey, I’m invested in this group as more than just an opportunity to be in the spotlight!” You’ll gain some valuable experience in a role you were previously dismissive of and it also will also allow you to continue nurturing your relationships with the not-Loki members of the group, which could lead to more not-Loki-related opportunities to perform with them. (No rule saying you can’t form break-off sketch group and do some open mic nights, right?)

    However, DON’T do this if you don’t think you can manage it without being bitter and resentful about it the whole time. That won’t be good for you or the group.

    • JenniferP said:

      Seconded and thirded. What’s the worst thing that happens if you take Loki at her word and help out?

    • moss said:

      I totally agree, the people who work backstage are usually really amazing and they may have leads for you on other groups to be in!

      I sympathise with the LW and I also sympathise with the director, who is doing a job nobody else wanted and wants to succeed at it, I’m sure, and who needs people she can rock solidly rely on.

      Best of luck to you LW and don’t let this stand in the way of your dreams, there are lots of people to work with out there–maybe even online!– and you have a lot to offer!

    • RSVP said:

      As someone who actually prefers to be a behind the scenes support person, I applaud your post!

    • S said:

      I agree! But as wav actor who recently got cast as basically moving scenery in a musical (non speaking, non singing) it is super hard to make that transition after being rejected. (even though the woman who got the role was legit amazing and I totally failed at my callback.)

      I ended up having some work conflicts, but if they had given me time to decline the “role” before releasing the cast list I would have. It is just too wrenching to stand by she watch and feel like a reject.

      But I would love to do tech stuff on a show that I just wanted to be part of.

    • Kyrie said:

      About the “grunt work” part: those were angry words, and while it is how I felt when she offered it, I don’t actually see it that way when I’m not overwhelmed by negative emotions. The person who did our costumes last year (one of the comedians) did a great work I wouldn’t have the skill or the patience to do, but I admire and respect her very much for what she did.
      It’s not so much about being in the spotlight as it is about doing something that make me feel good about doing, that I can do with other people, that make me move a bit my body and take me out of my own brain.

      • thathat said:

        “It’s not so much about being in the spotlight as it is about doing something that make me feel good about doing, that I can do with other people, that make me move a bit my body and take me out of my own brain.”

        While I definitely get how being on stage is the best option (my preferred one too), it also seems like being a stagehand would fill a lot of those needs. It’s been ages since I was in any theatre productions, and while I preferred getting to be on stage and pretend to be someone else with all my lines laid out for me, I also enjoyed my time as a stage manager as well.

        The truth is, sometimes there just AREN’T enough roles. I don’t think it’s callous or unfair of a director to pick a play based one what really appeals to them rather than what has a specific number of roles. We’ve got a couple of local theatre troupes around here, and what I’ve noticed each there are definitely members of each group, but they don’t always get to be on stage. Even the good ones. Sometimes it is scheduling conflicts. Sometimes it’s just because they more actors than parts. It happens, and while it stings, it’s not really malicious.

        Making costumes is tedious work, I don’t blame you for not wanting to do it. But set design usually involves a lot of sit-down-and-do-it-in-a-group labor, like painting backdrops or props. And being a stagehand has you very involved IN the play, just not on stage.

        • thathat said:

          Also (adding onto my own comment), MAKING things just…feels really good. If you can step back at the end of a session and say, yup *I* painted that wall, *I* found that prop, etc…it’s just a good feeling. Doing stuff is great too, obviously, but sometimes having a tangible Thing That Exists Because I Made It is just really encouraging when you’re down.

          • coffeespoons said:

            THIS. YMMV, but making things has been one of my best resources when my depression is trying to get the best of me. It’s a strategy that works twice. First, doing something is immersive, and distracts me from the negative feedback loops my depressed brain will try to get me to spiral down if left to my own devices. Second, at the end, I can look at a thing and see visible results that help to refute the little voice in my head telling me “You can’t do anything.” Painting walls or furniture or stage sets has one of the very best things I can do for myself when I’m in a depressive period. It’s an instant gratification activity because you can see results immediately. Look! Here is this thing that was a blank space, and now, by my efforts, I have made it not-blank! Achievement!

    • Turtle Candle said:

      Yeah, I flinched a little when I saw that–I was active in theater for many years, always behind the scenes (by choice; I am not a performer, I just love building sets/finding props/making costumes), and honestly, the reason I quit was because of the perception by the actors (across several different groups) that it was, well… grunt work, not interesting or artistic, and done by mildly pathetic hangers-on who weren’t good enough for one of the ‘real’ roles.

      To be clear, I don’t think the LW thinks that way, but it is something I noticed as a fairly common attitude about that kind of work, and something I try to gently push back on where I can.

      • Yeah, that made me flinch too. Sewing has become my number 1 escape and hobby, and it can very rewarding work, that’s great for focusing your brain and making you feel accomplished. (“LOOOOK AT MY BEAUTIFUL FRENCH SEAM!!!”)

        I admit, I’m having a hard time seeing how Loki really could have done anything differently, if her heart was set on a play. Theater, even community, is a tough game for exactly this reason. I do really sympathize, LW, as depression is a tough beast, but it kinda seems like you’re verging into black/white thinking a lot in this letter, the “grunt work” comment being a glaring example…

        • Oh French seams! Bound buttonholes! 5/8″ seams I could let out to make that dress flattering instead of too tight.

          How well I remember quality sewing from when my mom taught me to sew. How much I miss it in the clothes I see in the store.

        • When I wrote an article about the backstage work required for a play, one of the folks I interviewed quoted an old techie credo: “If not for the crew, the performers would be standing unclad on a bare, unlit stage.”

          Pretty much.

      • neverjaunty said:

        Right, and even people who consciously don’t think that way can unconsciously find out that they do have those underlying attitudes that pop up when we’re not thinking clearly (like being under real stress).

      • Yup. I’ve had people say, “Why aren’t you in the show? You’d be great! Have some self confidence!” – as if the only reason I don’t want to act is because I have stage fright or something. It’s very difficult to explain to someone who Doesn’t Get It how satisfying the other elements can be.

    • Maggie said:

      Yeah, as someone whose theater experience is almost totally behind the scenes (I don’t act; I don’t WANT to act, and I hated college, where to work backstage you had to audition for an onstage role first), I got a bit miffed at the LW’s description of backstage work as “grunt work.” (And if that’s really how she feels, maybe she *shouldn’t* work backstage…)

      • Turtle Candle said:

        I was hesitant to say that, but yeah, I had a moment of “well if you think it’s grunt work or a step down, maybe you’re right that you shouldn’t do it.” Not because I want to punish the LW for having that feeling (god no!) but because I can say from experience that it’s pretty demoralizing to be working crew with someone who clearly thinks that the job I love and am good at, is to them a demotion.

        I do think that it would probably be good for LW to keep a connection with this group and not cut ties entirely due to this, but I would say only if they can find a role that doesn’t feel like an insult to them–because chances are good that others will pick up on that, and it sucks pretty hard to be doing a thing you love alongside someone who thinks it’s unworthy.

      • LW specifically said “grunt work” was Loki’s words not LW’s

        • No, that’s incorrect.

          From the letter: “She [Loki] repeated she was sorry, and I could still be part of the group by doing the grunt work (my words, not hers)…”

    • I was going to say this exact thing. It’s not an insult to be expected to do production work when you’re in a small theatre group. It’s part of being in the group. With only 10 or 12 people total, it’s essential that everyone pitches in on different aspects of the work. It’s one thing if they’re demanding you do costumes and you’re like, “Um, I will 100% sew all my fingers together and it’s best for everyone if I don’t–How about I do props?” but to just dismiss tech work altogether because you’re “not interested” makes it SOUND like you’re just there for the ego rush of being onstage and you expect everyone else to facilitate it. That totally might not be the case with the LW, but if I were the director in this situation that would be my assumption without more context, especially coming from someone who was relatively new.

      LW, my advice would be to take some time to grieve this particular opportunity (and from comments it sounds like you’re doing that, so yay!), but don’t make any permanent decisions about your future with this group until you’ve gotten a little distance from the situation. When you’re hurting it’s really easy to just say, “Yeah, and the horse you rode in on,” but you might find later that you’ve burned a bridge you wish you hadn’t.

      • Jackalope said:

        “Um, I will 100% sew all my fingers together and it’s best for everyone if I don’t.” Yes, this is EXACTLY what would happen if I were to try making costumes. It’s better for EVERYONE if I don’t.

  8. Kyrie said:

    Having to work with her and be bitter the whole time :/
    Not doing it well and disappointing people.
    Starting and not delivering on time. I have a history of doing just that, which is why I need the structure a group work and weekly meetings bring.

    But I am taking to heart all of the advice you are giving me, and I’m considering asking the guy who does the lighting if I can help him. I did a bit of it years ago and I really liked it. It would also have the added advantages of 1)not necessarily working with the director, as the improv group also need lighting 2)if I do work with her it won’t be before a few months, by which time I might feel a bit better about the whole thing. Maybe.

    • JenniferP said:

      That is an excellent plan.

    • Mary said:

      LW, massive props to you for the positive and open way that you engaging with some of the more critical comments here! I think everyone is answering in a productive and kind spirit, but even so,it’s not easy to read even mildly critical responses of sometimes you feel hurt and upset about without feeling defensive, so I’m really impressed with how you’re doing it. ❤

    • Aff said:

      Helping out with lighting seems like a great plan. It’s something you’ve liked to do before and you’ll learn more and add to your skills while still being part of the company.

      I’m a bit confused about everyone saying you should be making costumes or props. I’m working hard to one day be able to live off my costume design/production. The idea of having an actor who has no skills or interest in costumes be the one to do the job lots of people actually live for, just because they didn’t get cast. It just makes me sad.
      I’m glad you thought of a thing you might contribute with, besides performing, that is actually something you could enyoy doing and care about.
      Good luck with everything!

      • Knayt said:

        Just about everything in theater has a professional version – I was mostly a set guy in my theatrical days, but I did enough with lighting to appreciate that it’s also a very deep skill set that a dabbler is only going to scratch the surface of. There’s still a role there in the shallow end of the field, and the same applies to costuming.

    • K. said:

      Awesome. If you like doing that, I’m glad you’re considering it. Doing well there could give you some confidence, too, and help Loki see you want to stay involved.

    • purps said:

      LW, I am definitely of the “curl up in a ball when I feel rejected” disposition, and I really admire and think you’re brave for trying to uncurl and try again, in a different way.

      I don’t know if you ever did DBT (I did!) but one of the skills I took away from it, that I think the Captain is trying to get at here, is definitely “how to not make it worse when you feel rejected”. I used to do the Big Furious Feelingsmail when I perceived social rejection, and definitely the thing that helped me was thinking “yes, but ten days from now, when I don’t feel this terrible, what will I want to have done? This situation feels really really bad, but what will make this situation actually Stop Being Bad the fastest?”. Sometimes that involves compromises that I wish I didn’t have to make. A LOT of the time it involves a really annoying balance between advocating for myself when I’m upset and trying to sit out that first shocked feeling of “oh my god I’m being rejected I’ve somehow done something wrong that I didn’t even know was a thing EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE”.

      I only have some of the BPD diagnostic traits (mostly the extremely fast-to-kindle freakout, which is probably more on the biological side of the biopsychosocial model – my brain goes zero to EVERYTHING IS ASHES AND DESPAIR really fast when it feels bad) but I worked in my DBT group with lots of people who met the full diagnostic criteria, and I really learned a lot from my group comrades. I really admired the job some of my seniors in my group were doing of learning to cope with table-flip mode and think strategically about what they wanted to be true several weeks from now, when they no longer felt terrible. I always want to tell people about this, because BPD is such a stigmatized and hard-to-cope-with diagnosis, but I learned so much from a couple of people in my life who were working to cope with BPD about how to deal with people and rejection and emotions healthily. Anyway, that’s my periodic hymn to DBT group, which in fairness does not work for everybody and isn’t perfect, but it’s really a good thing for a lot of us.

  9. TyphoidMary said:

    LW, the way you framed this letter with your fear of abandonment was very interesting and informative for me. At first, I read this letter and thought that it sounded like a pretty run-of-the-mill theater rejection, and, if I’m being perfectly honest with myself, ungraciously wondered why it was so upsetting for you.

    Then I thought back to when I was involved in theater. And I thought about how it was often the only place where I felt I belonged.

    Then I thought about fearing abandonment, and how powerful that fear is.

    Then I remembered times when I wasn’t cast in a role I wanted–very reasonably not cast, even–and how much that rejection stung, even if I recognized that it was fair.

    All this is to say, it makes a lot of sense to me that this would loom large in your mind and heart right now. I can see why doing tech/backstage stuff for a show (which is still my favorite part!) would feel too raw, or why being asked to step back for a production might feel like your whole social family kicking you out. I am so impressed with how you are already able to identify your reactions (sure, calling her Loki was petty–but I did laugh!), and acknowledge that occasionally speaking out of bitterness (“grunt work”) is just a temporary thing that doesn’t reflect your actual values (hey, we all do it). I hope that same wise voice also reminds you that you can still have a future with this group, if you want! And if you don’t want, you will find something else, or pursue friendships with these group members independently!

    I am wishing you warmth and strength right now. I am glad that you have found a home in theater, and I truly hope that you find the best way to keep engaged with it.

    • Flash Bristow said:

      What an excellent, and kind, comment.

    • Paulina said:

      Thank you for this kind comment.

      The LW’s issues also resonate with my memories of my amateur-acting days, including that I found acting, that taking on of a role not my own, to be very therapeutic for my depression. No matter how well-done my tech work was, it couldn’t be that for me. And losing out on something that helped, that’s a very hard thing to deal with.

  10. resili0 said:

    I have a BDP diagnosis too and I wanted to say that you have a degree of self awareness and fair mindedness that is hard won when abandonment issues are at play. I’ve had to work through some vulnerabilities about being rejected and it was lonely to struggle with something most people assume is easy. So I admire your clear sightedness here.

    • What is the non-acronym form for ‘BDP’? I tried Googling, and Google is showing me results for BPD instead. Is that what you and the LW are referring to?

      • Flash Bristow said:

        I wondered that too.

        Also, BPD can mean either BiPolar Disorder, or Borderline Personality Disorder – which are two different beasts. So I’m always careful not to assume I know which is being referenced.

        • resili0 said:

          I assumed the abandonment issue means borderline personality disorder but I agree, the acronym gets used for both. It gets confusing!

      • resili0 said:

        It is. 🙂

        • Thanks for the reply!

    • Same — LW, you are very gracious and from what I can tell — extremely likeable (insider’s point of view here)

    • I am in the PTSD with abandonment issues camp and feel it very hard. LW, you are being incredibly gracious (and I know firsthand, how hard that is when related to one’s personal trigger) ::hugs from afar, if wanted::

  11. Amorette said:

    I have belonged to a community theater my entire life. Literally. My mother was performing in a play my father was directing when she found out she was pregnant with me. EVERY activity in the group is considered “important.” Anyone who only wants to act or direct and refuses to help out with anything else because it is beneath them would not be welcome. Sometimes a person stars in a play. Sometimes a person is a spear carrier. Sometimes a person helps build a set or sell tickets or clean up afterwards. If you are stuck on being only an important actor, I can see why you have problems. You need to rethink whether your want to be PART of the group or just the star.

  12. Aunt Vixen said:

    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.“

    Only if you send some version of this message, I would not use “your” to refer to any next show. I would use “our” or “the.”

    • JenniferP said:

      Great point.

  13. bneeweenee said:

    I sympathize with the LW, but I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to find a play that has the exact number of characters as the group, not to mention one that matches any gender specifications that might be helpful to production or the talents of those involved,. If the criteria for the chosen play is simply numerical, the group is cutting itself off a ton of great material.

  14. Emmers said:

    As a non-theater person, I have a stupid question: what are reading sessions, and how closely are they related to rehearsals and other things where showing up is crucial to the whole thing working for everyone?

    • Emmers said:

      Errrr that was already covered…sorry for the duplicate (mods can delete if necessary). I should not comment on my phone. ><

  15. rosered said:

    I used to be depressed and when it was at its worst I used to interpret everything in the worst possible light. You may want to consider the possibility that Loki is being sincere and was not trying to exclude you. I distanced myself from people who cared about me because I severely misinterpreted things that they said and did.

    I have also been Loki. I was the leader of a student group and a member stopped coming to mandatory meetings. They were responsible for an important event and refused to give updates on what was being done to prepare for it. When I tried to meet with them to discuss what the position required and whether they felt able to do it or not, they flew off the handle, refused to meet with me and said that I was threatening them. I was completely shocked by the response. Luckily it was over e-mail so I was able to have people double check what I had said to see how they had misinterpreted me. Everyone else was as confused as I was.

    You may want to consider meeting with Loki or other members of the group to get a clearer picture of what happened. It may help you to feel less rejected.

  16. Annie said:

    I can sympathize with the LW, because to her, her feelings are real, and she is aware that she has depression and BDP.
    There is however nothing that I see wrong that Loki did, especially given her role to make this play work and considering other people that do show up. Saying that not showing up to most readings as ” not a big deal” also shows lack of consideration for the other people in this situation.
    I’d recommend using some time for therapy, taking care of oneself, because the depression and other issues are clearly having negative consequences.

  17. Does this group not have some manner of board of directors or organizing committee? How is it the decision of someone in a rotating director’s role that you even are cut from the group, anyway? Has it always been the case before that every company member was cast in every show, and that not being meant that someone had been dumped from the company?

    • e271828 said:

      She was not fired from the company; she was not cast in a play. She can still participate in the group’s activities.

  18. greg said:

    I’m not going to pretend that I’ve got brilliant insight beyond “that sucks” for LW’s specific situation. But based on my experience, such as it is (I did improv in Chicago for about 10 years, with occasional forays into sketch shows and plays) I’ve got a couple of generalized suggestions. Obviously, adapt to your situation as makes sense. (Or ignore entirely. You know better what’s right for you.)

    1) Regarding taking a behind-the-scenes work, I’ve got a cautionary tale. I did this once, becoming stage manager for a show for a company I had just started working with. Seven shows later, I was still the company’s go-to stage manager, with almost no opportunities to perform but lots of opportunities for massive stress. (The first show nearly bankrupted the company and had enough Theater People Drama Fights that about half the company angerquit in several incidents during the process. Then the producer got pregnant and I became the go-to-guy for everything else while she was being pregnant [I apologize for not having better words for that; I’m a single, gay male and it hasn’t come up.]) I absolutely believe in doing the behind-the-scenes work, because it is necessary and important—but if you chose to accept a behind-the-scenes role as your entire role (or, in small amateur company calculus, doing more than your share of the behind-the-scenes work rather than your share), I’d recommend at least considering making it clear that, while you’re happy to contribute in this way, you do want to perform in the future.

    2) Almost exactly the opposite of point one: Consider producing your own shows. Now, producing is a terrible, terrible, intermittently spectacularly rewarding but often terrible job, so it might not be right for you right now or at all. But it has the advantage that you get to make the decisions. When I’ve done it, it was tough and even draining, but it was also more feasible than I’d have expected, if that makes sense.

    • moss said:

      As someone who worked in IT I can relate to the perils of competence. Once you’re known as the person-who-can, it’s tough to get into a different role doing stuff more enjoyable to you.

    • goddessoftransitory said:

      I’ve got to support point number one. Stage managing is a real camel train in the desert brutal bitch of a job, and it’s hard to find somebody to do it/who can do it. So when you prove yourself there you sometimes get stuck: “He/She’s so reliable! I know they want to perform and their audition was great but we won’t be able to talk anybody else into doing ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ….”

      I’m not putting down ANY aspect of a live show production–just pointing out that the “becoming the person who makes the coffee” is a hazard in all kinds of professions/fields.

  19. AltoFronto said:

    I think Loki was not being malicious, nor trying to freeze you out. She chose a play that really fired her imagination, and she made her casting choices based on who had attended the readings, i.e. who is most up-to-speed on the lines and has already demonstrated their suitability for a role. I think she made a reasonable decision in not casting you for a part, and was kind enough to reach out to you specifically to offer other ways in which you could be involved in the play.

    Take up the offer of doing back-stage work, if you can throw yourself into it with consistency and a positive attitude. Demonstrate that you hold no hard feelings and that you want the play to run smoothly, so that the group can meet with success.

    You didn’t get your first pick this time, mostly because your depression got in the way, but there will be plenty of other opportunities – as long as you are gracious, you will always be welcome back. And whoever directs next time around might even favour you with a starring role to make up for this year’s disappointment.

    If you decide that you’re just not up to the job of doing the play this year, even as part of the backstage team, then that’s ok too – just let Loki know in advance so that you are not flaking out on her. A simple “Hey, I really appreciate the offer to do [backstage work] and I really would have liked to be involved in this year’s production, but I have some stuff going on that I really need to attend to at the moment, and I’ll have to sit this one out. Sorry for any inconvenience, but I look forward to next term’s workshops, and I’d love to reserve a ticket to see the show on opening night”
    Show that 1) You’re not mad at her, 2) You appreciate being included in the group 3) but circumstances prevent you from participating this time 4) You’re definitely coming back for the start of the next production cycle 5) You wish the group well and want to support them.

    If you don’t take part in the production, be sure to get a ticket to see the play as an audience member, and offer to bring some snacks to the after-party, or whatever the group does after the final curtain. Be sure to find at least 3 positive things to say about the performance, and enthusiastically compliment the group. “Man, that deadpan delivery was hilarious!” or “Using puppets for that scene was ingenious!”, “Who designed that cool set piece, it worked so well?”.
    Aim one compliment towards Loki’s directing in particular, e.g. “Wow, this was a really great choice of play, I can see why you were so excited about it”. Positive feedback will convey that you respect her directorship and that you are still friends. She has probably worried about making you feeling included.

    Then when the next production cycle starts, all will be cool, and it will be as water under a bridge, because you handled your feelings, didn’t make a big deal about, and stayed focused on being a convivial group member.

    I hope this perspective gives you more confidence in relation to the group and frees up some energy to make/ do something that you can be really proud of – gnawing insecurities are the worst and they can really take it out of a body. Assume the best in people as much as you can, and fake it for the sake of harmony if you can’t. 🙂

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      Thank you for this. It’s all very well for people to sympathise (being left out of a group thing hurts like hell; having people ‘get it’ and affirm that ‘yes, this sucks’ helps to deal with that). And it’s also very well (and necessary) for people to provide a more neutral perspective (it’s ok and common for a director to cast a play that not every member of a troupe can play a role in; it’s unsurprising if a person missing three out of four readings is the one who will be dropped [and if the shoe were on the other foot, the perceived injustice would be far greater: one person turns up, does all the work, and another gets picked]) – but your comment addresses some of the bafflement I would have felt: ‘they’re showing me the cold shoulder, nobody reached out to me, I’ve lost my chance to do something I love to depression, now what’ – and I think it shows that some of this stuff, damnit, can be _learnt_ – the options aren’t just to be hurt and confused and hope that next year will go better (or that someone else will appreciate us more), but you’re listing a number of things to deepen the relationship with a group.

      LW, I hope that you can manage to recast the events in the light they’re presented here (which I agree is a more realistic take on them) and that you continue to enjoy your theatre hobby for many years to come, on stage and behind it.

  20. LW, I feel your pain, and Captain and crew, I cannot thank you enough for the very, VERY timely advice.

    I’m not in a theater group. My people are my crew…literally. My partner and I row competitively with a community club. He’s been with the team 4 years and I’ve been there for 2; our practices are on opposite schedules. I joined to rebuild my core after surgery and it rapidly became My Thing. I fell head over heels for it.

    I learned fast and did well. I raced hard and we won a lot. I won an award after my first year. I volunteered to work on the team’s web content with good results. When my teammates nominated me for the Board of Directors, I accepted.

    None of this has been particularly easy. We’re a one-income household and rowing isn’t cheap. We’re a one-car household because my partner is legally (and functionally) blind–he gets rides to practice from teammates. We have a young child and another on the way–I’m almost 24 weeks pregnant and still training (although I stopped racing in July). We’re the only ones who need sitters for regattas. My volunteer hours tend to count for both of us; we can’t both be at the boathouse at the same time without considerable logistical wrangling or expense.

    But we’ve made it work. We love the sport (a surprise to both of us, as we’re band nerds and bookworms from way back). We’re committed to the team and the friends we’ve made.

    And now, after months of consideration, the Board and our new Executive Director will be changing our practice schedule at the start of the new year. The first proposed schedule would have been difficult for our family–we had to come to terms with the expectation that I would be on the more competitive squad and my partner would be on the club level. The coaches were prepared for me to miss one practice a week so we could each get three days on the water. It sucked in a bunch of ways, but we figured out a way to work it out, and I felt heard and supported by my coaches and fellow Board members.

    Then a group of teammates raised a concern about the schedule canceling out their land workouts, which they prefer to do together at the boathouse. As a result, a new schedule option was presented, one that has all men and women practicing at the same time on the same days.

    I was the only one who voted no. There was still an option on the table that would work for the team and for us, but everyone went for the simplified version.

    Every single person at that table knew the new schedule meant only one rower in my family could stay on the team. Most of them know that it cannot be me–of the two of us, I can move to another team more easily because I don’t have to rely on someone else for a ride.

    I’ve had a really hard time managing the feels from this. As a Board member and our ED’s biggest fan (seriously, I knew he’d be right for the job about 10 minutes after I met him), I support the vision behind this change. I’ve put a lot a work into supporting this plan and trying to influence it in a way that would allow my partner and me to keep rowing. I’ve been in all the discussions and I know–and have argued to my partner–that this is not personal.

    And here I am, re-programmed right off my own team in spite of all the blood, sweat, and tears I’ve poured in. No matter what my brain knows, my heart is shattered. In looking forward, I’ve had to separate “rowing” from “my team” in my heart, and it fucking hurts. This decision doesn’t affect anyone else this way…which is both good from a management perspective and bad for the one person who gets singled out and booted.

    The Captain’s advice makes me feel like I’m doing the right things right now. Even though I’m quite visibly pregnant (especially in spandex), I have not quit. My last water practice is coming up, but I will continue to cox my teammates as long as I can–hauling a pregnant lady around our home waters should make them wicked fast when they race with a real/much lighter coxswain.

    Partly, I’m doing this because this is how I row. I can still be there for my teammates–this isn’t their fault. This doesn’t change what rowing means to me, or what kind of teammate I try to be.

    I’m also doing this because it’s my goddamn team, too, and I will *not* let them (the Board) forget it. I will *not* fade away and let (in particular) the Board president control the story of what happened. Everyone knows I’m planning to be back on the water next July, and I will *not* let anyone pretend that I chose not to come back because I had a baby. My teammates will know, when I leave, that my only option, when my training ramps back up, is to race against them with another team…and that it was not my choice.

    tl;dr: I’m there with you, LW. Even when it isn’t personal and you know and accept that, it really hurts. Jedi hugs to you–I hope your way forward brings you joy.

    • Emily said:

      That sounds heartbreaking, 8junebugs. ❤ Here's to hoping that the rest of your pregnancy goes smoothly and that you find a wonderful new community when you're ready to get back to competitive rowing.

    • Friendly Hipposcriff said:

      First, congratulations on finding a hobby that suits you and that you’re good at. That sounds like a lot of work and a lot of awesomeness!

      The situation, of course, sucks. And it’s not malicious, but it’s not fair, either, and I don’t know whether there *are* any good solutions to this that would suit both you and the club, but it sucks. I wish that in your situation I’d have half the grace with which you’re handling this; I wish you all the best for the remainder of your pregnancy and that afterwards you’ll find a situation that suits you to a T.

  21. I'm in the Wrong Story said:

    My apologies for the off-topic tangent, but…

    OMG, if you were a Georgetown Phantom in ’94-’96, then I’ve met you.

    Sorry, I’ll just be over here with my blown mind and squee.

    • JenniferP said:

      You probably have! Hi!

  22. cherrona said:

    LW, I wonder how much of your hurt is from your depression distorting things to make it feel worse and more personal than it really was. From personal experience, when i was suffering from depression, every little slight against me was blown out of proportion in my mind. You name it, it didn’t matter what it was or how small it was. There were times I had convinced myself that my friends and coworkers hated me, etc. It was hard to admit to myself that my depression was distorting things so much, but once I accepted it, things got so much easier to deal with. Of course, I don’t mean to diminish your hurt. It was still a real dick move. She could have handled things a hell of a lot better, but what’s done is done. Now it’s up to you how you handle it; you can let the hurt impact on your future with the group, or you can try to power through it, be the bigger person, and stick around.
    Good luck, and I hope your depression gets better soon.

  23. borderline said:

    Hey, LW, I have BPD also. I get how it is. I really, definitely get it.

    As an outsider with no knowledge aside from what you’ve shared, it sounds like you missed three meetings in a row and Loki thought you weren’t interested. It also sounds like Loki should have (could have) let you know she was thinking about excluding you because you weren’t showing up BEFORE she excluded you because you weren’t showing up, but what it DOESN’T sound like is you getting dumped.

    And I’ve been dumped, LW. I’ve been dumped by friends and classmates and family. My BPD symptoms would weird them out, so they would dump me, which would then exacerbate the BPD symptoms. Mental illness is great and fun. The point is, I know what a dumping looks like and while Loki obviously has no idea what you’re going through or what she’s making you feel, she’s not trying to dump you. She’s trying to move on with the theater group.

    I would urge you to follow Cap’s advice and keep things in perspective. I know it seems like the whole group doesn’t want you. I know it seems like Loki did them all a favor and banished you and you’re lost and alone. Those feelings are legit and I know it feels like it’s eating you up inside. But look: the actual truth is probably just that you’re out of sight and they assumed that’s for a reason.

    And though I’d agree that you might want to avoid the Feelingscoffee, and that she’s probably trying to assuage some guilt wrt excluding you, that’s not the only possible narrative. Maybe she’s desperate to show you that she’s not “kicking you out.” Maybe she still values you and wants you to feel welcome and wanted.

    If you need them to be more considerate of what you’re going through, you have to tell them what to be considerate of. You don’t have to tell them exactly what’s happening, but you do have to tell them SOMEthing is happening.

    “I have a chronic illness that I had to miss a couple meetings for, but I’m still very interested in the group, so let me know when you’re choosing a play/doing the casting/having auditions.”

    “I’m going through a lot right now; please understand that I didn’t miss last week because I don’t care.”

    “It really sucks that this happened while I was sick, Loki. I don’t appreciate the implication that my illness means I don’t care enough.”

    If you don’t tell them, they won’t know.

    If you’re really not interested in helping them out behind the scenes (which isn’t throwing you a bone, it’s what everybody does when they’re in a theater group and not in the cast), then that’s totally cool. Just say, “I’m really disappointed that you didn’t tell me this was happening before it was too late, but it’s fine. Just hit me up for the next play.”

  24. thebearpelt said:

    Another tip, LW! If you’re not sure how to talk to the other members of the group about it without it feeling like a big deal, I recommend simply telling them “yknow, to be honest, I’m sort of frustrated and hurt about it still and just need to get some space from it for now.”

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