aka, This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
aka, Don’t Poke the Showbear
aka, I Will Turn This Car Right Around
aka, Dangrrr Doll Passive Aggressively Calls Out All Your Passive Aggression
Ladies, gentlemen and all,
I’m not going to beat around the bush with a fancy introduction. Lately, it feels like our “community” is like a 12 year old boy’s acne-riddled face; Each time one festering pustule of drama finally starts to dry up and scab over, two more angry whiteheads pop up beside it full of oil and disease, until eventually our entire pubescent facial landscape has become a hideously scarred volcanic apocalypse of doom, germy oil, and absolutely zero excitingly awkward sex.
I’m over it. I for one would like to go see a doctor for some metaphorical prescription skin ointment. Our inner workings can be so convoluted that we’re risking the stagnation of our own scene.
The drama is pervasive. I’m not talking about one instance, I’m talking about many instances. I don’t need or want to call anyone out; focusing on one circumstance hides the guilt of all the others.
We are all guilty of this. Even if it’s not technically our drama, we let it continue to affect our shows and surroundings for fear of not getting booked, hurting the feelings of our friends, or being outcast. “Not My Problem” syndrome is the world’s leading cause of issues growing until they are completely out of hand.
I say this to my colleagues, my friends, my employers, myself: Please take a moment to read the following list and share it, not just because I selfishly want you to promote my article for me (true story), but also because, if we truly believe that burlesque is, has, or should have any sense of a community, we need to start taking responsibility for actually making it into one. And when you share it, don’t just do it passive aggressively in hopes that the people you don’t like will read it and “learn their lesson”— read it and learn YOUR lesson, too. You are not innocent. I am not innocent. Let’s be better together.
- Honor Your Commitments
Let’s start with the basics!
Remember: First and foremost, this is a job. An artsy, creative, awesome job full of rad people: but still a job. As a producer, you have a responsibility to pay your performers within a reasonable time frame, keep them safe, make them feel happy and welcome. You also have a responsibility to make sure that if something happens and your show gets cancelled last minute, you still take care of the performers you have just displaced. You have a responsibility to promote like a pro, especially if your performers are working for a door split- the onus for promotion is not on them, it is on you.
As a performer, your job is also not just the five minutes you’re on stage. You have a responsibility to show up on time, send your music on time, rehearse and communicate with your producer. They’re your boss. If it would get you “in trouble” at an office job, it’s not ok at your show job.
- Business Isn’t Personal
You don’t have to like everyone with or for whom you work: and you shouldn’t have to anyway, in order to act like an adult human being around them. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had very few bosses who I actually wanted as friends. Your producers? They are your BOSS, not your bro. You don’t need to like them personally, you just need to respect the job they do and do yours in return; you know, like they’re paying you to do.
Similarly, you don’t need to like your coworkers—other performers—you just need to work with them. Community is great and all, and it’s wonderful if you can also be friends with your colleagues, but the problem with viewing our fellow burlesque industry members as friends first and coworkers second, is it means that when we don’t like them as friends, we often wind up treating them like enemies instead of continuing to treat them with equality and courtesy—which is a massive backfire. I’ve had many coworkers I couldn’t personally stand in my office job days, but they did their job well and they conducted themselves towards me with professionalism, and I returned that courtesy.
- Not Your Show? Not Your Problem!
This one is really simple: How other people run their show is none of your business. Why? Because it’s not your show!!
People have different visions of burlesque and want to create different types of shows, in different types of venues, with different levels and qualities of performers and different ticket prices. That’s AWESOME—variety is what helps performers grow and gives them a chance to stretch their creativity. It’s also what separates shows and keeps the audience fresh. Literally all live entertainment works on that sort of scale, not just burlesque. Just because you produce your show one way, does not mean that everyone else must also produce in the same manner.
Sitting in the audience when something happens during the show, and you feel like you HAVE to say something? First of all: Don’t. It’s condescending and inappropriate. But if you absolutely must, leave the producer alone about it until the next day. Chances are she or he already knows and is taking care of it however they can, if they can, on top of whatever they are already doing during showtime to make everything go on as planned. By interrupting them you will only add more stress and almost never help the problem.
- Back Up Your Shit Talk
We are all shit talkers, all of us. We all do it. That’s just life. We go home after a stressful show and we moan to our roommate, “Boobie Bourbon Balls* was so lame tonight; she hogged the mirror and would not stop complaining about having too many gigs as though that’s a problem and ugh she sucks on stage 75% of the time!!!”
We have all said this or something similar about someone. Hell, we may even actually really, really like Boobie Bourbon Balls as a person, or really love that 25% of stage time. But that of course doesn’t mean that we don’t get fed up with her sometimes.
It’s natural to express this stuff to our friends, and to feel this way, but remember that because our job is also our social network and we’re all a bunch of passive aggressive cookies (excepting those of us who are simply aggressive cookies,** no passive about it—Hi mom!) basically everyone knows everything negative you’ve ever said about everyone. That just means you need to be willing to own your words. Own them. It’s ok to be critical of your friends sometimes (again: as COWORKERS.) Being a bad performer or producer doesn’t make you a bad person. Equally, being a bad person doesn’t make you a bad performer or producer!
I’m not saying you need to go up and tell everyone all the flaws you think they have; what I’m saying is that it is okay to be self aware of the fact that neither you nor the people around you are perfect: and by knowing that, and knowing that you have said mean shit about people you love, maybe the next time you hear that someone’s said some shit about you, you’ll take a second to remember that it might not be the whole story before you get all incensed.
- Mob Rule is a Bad Rule
As a group, we have a tendency to jump on something that’s been presented as a clear one-sided injustice and run at it blindly with pitchforks in hand before we know the big picture. I’ve totally been guilty of this. We can’t do that. There’s two sides to every story.
Perhaps for disagreements that seem so bad that we feel the community needs to get involved, we should first have some sort of “community conduct” board that can handle things privately between parties before someone gets publicly thrown under the bus, since oftentimes the issue isn’t even remotely as bad as how it was presented in the beginning.
We ruin people’s reputations in 160 characters or less, and we need to stop. Mob mentality is not progress.
- Respect Your Competitors
Remember #3? Competition and variety of shows means more work and more potential for growth for performers, producers, and audience members alike. Healthy competition makes people work harder and create a better product so in some ways, just by existing your competitors are actually helping your own show to improve.
6a. Don’t Vandalize Your Competitor’s Promo
Every original show has a right to exist. Leave other shows’ promotion alone. If you can’t promote your show properly without sabotaging another show’s promo, then your show is a failure. And if you sabotage another show’s promotion for any other reason—revenge, boredom, money—then YOU are a failure.
6b. Don’t Sow Your Seeds In Your Competitor’s Backyard
When you go to see competing shows, you help support your community and your scene. But when you do it to tell the venue that they should book your show instead, or to poach audience for your competing event without permission, you’re just being an asshole.
6c. If You Wouldn’t Do It To Your Friend, Don’t Do It To Your Competitor
Just because you don’t like someone personally, that doesn’t mean that it’s suddenly okay for you to act disrespectfully—no matter what they’ve done to “deserve it.” If you’d get pissed off if someone did something to you, you should not do it to anyone.
- Your Drama Is Yours ALONE
Your personal business is YOUR personal business. Unless you’re paying your performers enough money that they don’t need to work other shows and you’ve made them sign an exclusivity contract, you simply can’t expect them not to work with your ex-wife or your arch nemesis. It’s not their problem, and they need to work.
Similarly, as a performer, you just can’t expect producers to be aware of all your hangups with each individual person in town. If you really, really, really can’t work with someone, get used to having to tell producers every time they book you; it’s not their fault if they don’t know otherwise.
- Don’t Get Even; Get Better
So someone’s wronged you in all these ways and more? Well, put on your best business hat, remember #6c, and instead of getting angry, use it as fuel to make your show even better. Two wrongs don’t make a right, they make a fucking uncomfortable scene where literally everyone wishes you would all just stop it but no one says anything about it to you directly but they all make passive aggressive facebook posts which you probably assume is about the other person when it’s actually about you! Phew—was that vague enough? I bet most of you think I might be referring to you specifically with this one and if so, well… you’re wrong! This happens absolutely everywhere I’ve travelled AND I’ve clearly (vaguely!) proven my point with this article.
Want to be the leader of your scene? Then be the first one to raise the truce flag when things get tough. Want to prove that your show is better? Then put tons of effort into making your own show awesome without any concern or worry about the shows of people you dislike. Want to prove that you are ethical and well-meaning? Then be ethical and well meaning. Remember: Without a doubt, success is the best revenge.
*Disclaimer: As far as I’m aware, Boobie Bourbon Balls is a name that I made up for the sake of explanation. If there really is a Boobie Bourbon Balls out there, my apologies: this is not about you, and also that’s a terrible name if I’m going to be totally honest here.
**Oatmeal Raisin’ Hell
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