By participating in musical theatre, you signed it. But have you read it recently?
You know what I'm talking about... whether it's at Chelsea Grill or on a message board, during the show or at intermission, MT folks can be just so mean, throwing their opinions around like they're scripture, reducing a 130 minute work to a word like "boring" or an actor down to "terrible," stating they "can't sing," when of course they can, and perhaps maybe the director wanted a stronger actress for the role but the haughty MT person seems to know best.
It's frustrating listening to people be so negative about their coworkers, future employees and future employers. I'm not immune, I know that I do it, too... but it got me thinking about the unwritten contract we all signed upon entering into this field.
We're aware of the agreement being broken when other people break it regarding our own work, but hardly recall it when we seek to judge the work of others. So perhaps, once and for all, let's sit down and re-read it together, and better remember it as we go forward, in the hopes of limiting the fuckery and faggotry we bring down on those poor community members who suffer for our bad behavior.
This agreement made this _________ day of ___________, 20____, by and between __________________________ (myself) and The Musical Theatre Community at Large, witnesseth: That in consideration of my involvement in the business of show, I do agree to the following:
1. I agree to be a useful, supportive member of the New York musical theatre community, because I wish to encourage the creation and nourishment of good and potentially good work by actors, authors, composers, directors, choreographers, designers, and other creatives.
2. I understand that musical theatre is a business, whether it is for or not for profit, and on some unfortunate occasions artistry may be compromised in an attempt to do good business. I don't encourage this but I understand it is a reality of the business and understand that is why it is called a business.
2a. I noticed that in the above paragraph the word business was used four times (five now) and appreciate the attempt to really clarify the point.
3. I agree to give every creative the benefit of the doubt, to give my best attempt at respecting each decision, and to believe their goal was not to waste my time, to offend me, or hurt my feelings.
4. I understand that this includes Frank Wildhorn, who is just doing his best you guys.
6. I understand that choreography can sometimes not fit into what I had in mind, and that we can't recreate the timeless impact of West Side Story every year, because Jerome Robbins is dead.
7. Rodgers and Hammerstein, Michael Bennett, George Abbott, Cole Porter, and Jerry Herman are also dead and will not be saving musical theatre anytime soon.
8. Sorry, Jerry Herman isn't dead. Initial that you understand: ____.
9. I understand that writing musicals is like, really hard.
10. Readings, workshops and other developmental opportunities are not a producer's way of tricking me into spending time on something that isn't quite ready and the authors are really sorry that I wasn't entertained at the value of $140. It makes me feel better to know they will do penance for six months of revising the work just to make me happy, like a small dog that is real sorry he piddled on the floor but will do better next time master, honest.
11. Similarly, at a first preview, for which I may spend up to $140, I realize I am watching something that isn't ready to open, because if it were, it would probably be, well, open.
12. I have eyes that see and hands that move when I will them, and I do realize when I am paying money for a preview.
14. I will not behave like a twat during a production no matter how awful I perceive it to be. I will not clutch the hand or knee of the person next to me, will not whisper jokes into their ear, will not "barely contain my laughter," will not leave at intermission because I know that in my empty seat I leave behind a steaming pile of shit that asks the actors onstage, "How does it taste?" and whispers, "By the way your show sucks."
15. Furthermore if the audience collectively decides that standing in ovation is the only way to respond to the work onstage, yet I hated it, I will not remain seated while everyone else stands, because that's just fucked up.
16. I understand that the Tony Awards aren't real and are a figment of my imagination and that of those around me. They hold absolutely no value.
17. I realize that #16 will be eliminated from this contract should I win one.
18. But most importantly, I will never contribute to a message board. This includes writing on, reading (however glancingly), and especially not relinking to a forum where musical theatre is discussed nearly entirely by civilians (i.e. people who do not consider musical theatre their profession). I know that musical theatre message boards are the creation of and are maintained by approximately eleven high school students who each wield an estimated 4482 screen names, I know their identities and I know the colleges they currently attend.
19. Ooh, and I am sorry if I have ever offended Ben Brantley. And I hope he will like me in my play.
RYAN SCOTT OLIVER wrote the music and lyrics for Darling, Mrs. Sharp, 35mm, Jasper in Deadland and is currently at work on Freaky Friday for Disney Theatricals. www.ryanscottoliver.com
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