Digital Manifesto: Addendum #3

This is the third addendum to the Digital Theatre Manifesto I wrote back in January 2021 for Intermission Magazine.

Kindness and Communication

In the original manifesto document for Intermission Magazine, I wrote: Most artists can take a tiny budget and produce magic. We’re constantly creating new worlds, images and stories with nothing but shoestrings and determination. That is both our superpower and our curse.

This is still very true, but, WE HAVE LEARNED NOTHING!!

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Have ambitious visions, but ambition doesn’t mean speed and does not excuse you from being an asshole. I have had many conversations with artists and creators and somehow we are still doing the same bullshit things we used to do; pushing our collaborators too far or too hard, expecting miracles on little to no guidance or budgets, and generally pretending like the last 2 ½ years haven’t happened and we’re fine, just fine. We’re not fine. Focus and energy are at a premium if they exist at all anymore, along with the ever-present haze of dread that permeates every waking minute.

Words have power beyond our intentions. Through inflection, tone, brevity, vagueness, we must understand that regardless of our intentions, they will be heard and processed by someone else’s filter, projecting all of their own fears and/or egos. We must slow down and make sure we are being understood and simultaneously make sure that whomever is hearing these words, has what they need from you. Stop assuming things – make sense and make sure. Repeat that: make sense and make sure.

Everyone is on edge. Any production is a ton of work, and now we also have to layer in the possibility that whatever show we’re working on could get cancelled, with little warning. We, as creators and collaborators, need to operate with kindness first, and everything else second. Study after study show that when workers are pressured or overworked, they actually perform worse and less. Iceland just finished a 5-year study that proved this. Artist are no different. We are just regular people with a different skill set, not special. So, when we demand that someone take on three different jobs with little to no support or warning, don’t expect their best work. If you are a producer or director and you are not putting your team’s wellness before anything else, you have learned nothing. 

Most of us operate in an industry where leaving a toxic gig is not financially possible. We’ll battle through, suck it up, and we’ll end up underpaid, under appreciated and have not come anywhere close to our best work. Yes, budgets are still tight, then re-think the scope of your production. If you can’t adjust and adapt within a process to achieve a version of your vision that doesn’t give your collaborators the best chance for success – theirs and ultimately yours – maybe you should think about doing something else.

We need to communicate better, from a place of kindness. No gig, no show, no production is worth being mistreated. No job should make you feel less than. The last 2 ½ years have been brutal, and yet we’re still doing the same shit, and treating each other like garbage. Stop it.

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