A couple of weeks ago a small, independently owned Chicago performance space --a "storefront theater," if you will-- shuttered after allegations came to light regarding the treatment of a former contributor and player. This happened less than a year after another performance space shut down shop because of egregious abuse of its actors and crew. I have nothing but respect for the people that were brave enough to be vocal about what had happened, and I believe the management of these establishments deserved what was coming to them.
These two incidents, both valuable learning experiences in how not to run an artistic venue of any shape or size, reminded me of an awkward scenario that occurred this past September. Even though I don't think I did anything wrong, I felt the need to come clean about an altercation of sorts I had with another performer:
About once a month, I send out a feeler to potential acts for the show. There was a comedian/actress I was acquainted with that was doing solo material; I was going to ask if she was interested in testing material in our show, I hadn't seen her on social media recently. I had an email address, and that was it. I sent it out with a few other candidates, and within an hour I received this reply:
Stu--I am not interested in a professional or interpersonal relationship. Please respect this and don't contact me again.
I was baffled by this reply, as was Dan my business partner, who shares the account. Dan's most educated guess was that she was weirded out because I had her email. In the time that I had been acquainted with this actress (less than four years) I had never said or done anything to suggest going out on a date, nor considered doing so. I vaguely recall sending her a LinkedIn request earlier in the year, one in a binge of potential professional connections. I never considered that I have been blocked on Facebook and Twitter, without a semblance of an idea as to her rationale for doing so.
I've only been in a handful of situations before where I had some sort of falling out with other members of the Chicago comedy community. I can think of one or two scenarios where personalities clashed, but in the other cases it stemmed from miscommunication. I make a valiant effort to treat my peers as equals, and I have never been in a situation in my eight years of performing improv where I intentionally burned bridges. I attest to my social awkwardness, but no acts of malice or deceit. When it comes to booking acts, however I go in with relatively modest expectations.
As for the actress, if she doesn't want to build connections with certain members of the Chicago comedy community, then that's her decision. If she goes on to alienate other producers and performers, than my part was a small and passive one. I might be one of many or a very singular case, I'm not sure. If I've lost one performer, than I still have a litany of comedians, improvisers, writers, and dancers whom I can still reach out to. This community is a rich and wonderful group, and I'm proud to be part of it regardless.