Hiding the Magic Extends Beyond the Stage; a.k.a. Don't air your dirty company laundry online.
File today's blog post under "things that shouldn't have to be said, but I keep seeing this problem so here we are."
Don't blatantly complain about your company, production, and/or castmates online.
Remember, the internet is forever, and we call social media the “highlight reel” for a reason. Don't put the bad stuff out there.
Look, I get it. Truuuuuuust me. I've been there. I've been there FAR more times than anyone would ever guess.
You know why?
Because I don't expressly complain about it online. Sure, I've made funny yet vague references to things, but I don't blatantly bitch about the bad things happening during a production online.
1) Nobody wants to hear ya bitch and 2) no good can come of it.
Complaining about your company, production and/or castmates online is problematic for a myriad of reasons including:
- You don't know who is watching. That person who sees you complain could be a friend of a friend for that company you want to work for or be cast with. The community is small and with social media grows even smaller by the day. Everyone knows everyone. And nobody wants to work with the chronic complainer.
- It turns off your audience. If the audience gets a whiff of discontent among the performers or staff, they lose confidence in the company. Lost confidence means not buying tickets or donating. Never do anything to dissuade the audience from wanting to support you.
- It undermines marketing efforts. Someone out there is working their ass off to get attendance to a show, and you're cutting them off at the knees. They’re trying to make the company and show look compelling enough for people to give their hard earned dollars while you’re making it look bad and not worthy of seeing. Marketing is challenging enough these days without having efforts thwarted by someone who's mad and can't keep it offline.
- It undermines development efforts. Second verse, same as the first. People don’t want to give their money to organizations that aren’t doing good things. If they feel that the organization isn’t properly run or doesn’t treat its artists well, they’re going to give their money to the organizations that don’t present that image.
So let’s say you’re in the middle of the shi...ahem…chaos and need to get that frustration out. I got you:
- Vent to your bestie. That's what they're there for.
- Treat yo self. Cocktail. Dinner. Hot bath. Long run. Yoga. Dance break. Whatever you need to take a break and feel better.
- Channel the energy into something more productive. Fixing the problem. Improving your work. Whatever will better benefit from the energy.
- Write it out. Make a list of all the things going wrong. Which will come in handy in case you need to...
- Take it to a person that can affect change. If there are serious problems within the company that can and need to be fixed, take them to the source so the problem can be fixed.
Pro tip: sometimes we’re overly compelled to put something online. Let’s face it, sometimes it feels good to get things out in a bigger way.
If you absolutely must, have-to post something about it online, make it vague and really entertaining. So entertaining that people don’t realize you’re complaining. (Other than the people who are in the thick of it with you.)
If you absolutely must, have-to post something online and you can' t make it entertaining, get off the internet and go do something else. Go for a walk. Take a bath. Watch some TV. Anything else except airing out the issue on social media.
Unfortunately, there are times when this gets tricky.
Bigger issues like labor disputes and poor management from a professional company are two scenarios that immediately come to mind.
There's venting, and then there's defending yourself.
Even so, you MUST keep it out of the angry/petty/salty zone. Again, I understand and empathize with how hard this is. The performing arts are personal, but you can't let it get that way in a public forum.
In these situations you do have options:
Get others to weigh in for you. If something incorrect is out there online, have supporters not associated directly with the organization comment online. Public support carries so much weight. (Multiple factors of which are their own blog post in itself.)
Is what's happening newsworthy? For example, in some labor disputes with professional orchestras, management will stop talking to the musicians. They'll release announcements from minor to maaaaajor to the audience and media without having informed the musicians at all first. Learning things about your job on social media? Not cool. However this seems to be part of the management playbook. It can also be newsworthy note within the context of the full story and of interest to your local arts reporters. (If you're lucky enough to still have them...many media outlets are shrinking or completely removing their arts coverage.)
In these larger situations, when you put your information out there keep the negative emotion out of it. Sometimes you're not going to get unbiased news coverage or the coverage you get doesn't go the way you thought it would. (Happens in all industries.) In these cases it's good to get the facts out yourself. When writing them, make sure you stick to the facts. I know this is hard, especially if your organization is literally on the brink of shutting down forever. However too often I see things written too personally. This makes it harder for, as well as turn off, those who are looking for the straight facts and details of a situation. Passion is good, but it needs to be put forth in a way that doesn't sound pettyAF, (Which is how quite a few audience members have described reading artists' comments.) Have a trusted person outside of the immediate situation edit for too much negative tone. Be the level-headed voice in the dispute.
Angry writing pro tip: "Write angry. Edit Happy."
Hemingway once said, "Write drunk. Edit sober."
It's often been said that I've turned the velvet, verbal bitch-slap into an art form, and that I wield facts like a sword in my writing. When things make me mad, the best way for me to get out my frustrations is through writing. However, that often doesn't read kindly or productive when I'm finished with that first draft. To make sure that I'm ultimately helpful with whatever I write - especially when it's because I'm angry and looking for a solution - I give it some time and space to breathe.
To do this:
- Write in anger, and get everything out.
- Step away from your writing.
- Go do something else - especially if it's something that makes you happy. Get yourself into a better mood in whatever way you need to do that.
- Come back to your piece and edit it for anger. Turn that anger into either flat facts or entertainment. (Depending upon where this will be posted, gifs can help add levity.)
- Step away again. Take a nap or get a good night's sleep depending upon the time of day.
- Re-read and edit the piece again.
- Repeat stepping away and coming back happy to edit until the anger is removed and the helpful facts remain.
With all seriousness and honesty, I get it. I've been there more times than I can count or would ever admit to. Often, the performing arts can feel like an abusive relationship. Maybe you're good and have landed in a horrible production. Maybe you're not being paid and deserve to be. Maybe you're being paid but are made to feel as though your contributions aren't valued.
There is a longstanding history of treating artists poorly and getting away with it. Not only getting away with it, but many in the industry act as though it's expected and part of the "process."
This is utterly ridiculous. Nobody has to be treated poorly or paid with a can of beans and a six-pack to become a real artist.
This said, complaining online isn't going to make it any better. It's going to make it worse. People won't want to work with you. It'll affect your reputation. It'll affect the audience.
Never, ever, EVER openly complain online. Curate yourself. Fix the situation. Change the situation. Or go do something else.