Do As I Say, Not As You See Me Do
By Casey Bell
Do as I say, not as you see me do, is the way ignorant people raise their children. They actually think they can do and be a different person from what they want their children to be. The wise, know if you want good children or a better generation (descendants), you need to be a shepherd, not a slave master. The older generation criticizes the millennials all day long and the only question I have is, “who raised them?” The next generation is simply doing what they see their parents doing, but their parents won’t admit their wrong doing. So, I ask, what are we teaching the millennials?
Not just in general, but in theater? Have we really shown them how to be a good person or are we telling them to be what we haven’t been ourselves? The HUGE mistake adults make is thinking children do not see what adults are doing. Children actually see more then you think. So as a theater community, what kind of an example have we been to the next generation?
As mentioned in a previous article, Broadway, Hollywood, and the whole entertainment world has had an ugly habit of discrimination since it began. Handsome, white, young looking, with awesome bodies, males with nice height, are the only people on this earth who have never had to suffer in the entertainment business. Everyone else has had to miss out on getting casted or have been mistreated. But if you are a person of color, a woman, short, plus size, not ugly, but not HOT, no matter how great your talent is, your looks have either cast you or rejected you. And that has not stopped as of yet. When Broadway returns are they truly going to address that issue or ignore as they have been? The problem with pretending as if it is not an issue is the millennials are watching. They will keep the ignoring game going just as long as that is what they see.
Right before the pandemic hit, I received an email from Change.org. They are a website that allows anyone to start a petition on any issue. I received an email from people who wanted to boycott the latest Broadway revival of West Side Story. They had recently casted an actor (whom shall remain nameless, no shade here, just using this as an example) who was known for doing inappropriate things to other female castmates backstage. There was a sexual assault case that I believe was dropped, but the petition was to get Broadway to fire him. During this time of emails, I did not notice any announcements, apologies, or statements from the producers of the show or from the actor. In fact, someone accused Twitter of removing tweets about the incident. I could be 100% wrong, but from my side (which I know is very narrow) it looked like the issue was being ignored.
This is not the only time sexual assault, rape, or molestation was mentioned in the entertainment world. But, just like incest it is one of those things we prefer to ignore then deal with. But again, the millennials are watching. Have we really been a good example when it comes to these issues? Again, from my personal point of view, and from my viewing side, I believe we have failed the millennials in these matters. We have been taught by the baby boomers how to hide and pretend, and we have yet to do what is right, which is deal with the ugly truth. So, why criticize the millennials when we are no better than them?
Catch 22. Broadway unfortunately has been a hypocrite when it comes to the old Catch 22 rule. Before we dig deep, allow me to ask, can we remove the Catch 22, in these new days?
For those who have no clue what the Catch 22 rule is, in Broadway it is considered difficult to audition and get on Broadway without being union, but the only way to be union is to be in a Broadway show. So, the question is how do you become union when you have to be on Broadway, but cannot be on Broadway unless you are union? Not only has Broadway encouraged you to join the union, but they have put thousands, maybe even millions of artists in debt by suggesting college. But every day Broadway hires film and television celebrities to star in shows and most of them are not a part of the Broadway union, they do not have college degrees or even theater training, and most of them have never stepped foot on stage.
What kind of example are we setting to tell talent to get a college degree and break your leg, foot, and neck to become union, only to give someone with little to no talent a chance to get on the stage, just to “try” to get an audience? With the internet (YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, etc.) today’s entertainment world is different. So, why not make changes?
There are many college graduates with degrees in theater, working everywhere except the theater. Why even create theater programs if there is no promise to get on theater? Why not take children right out of high school and make apprentices out of them? Apprenticeship used to be the only way to train prior to the creation of college. So, why not go back to that? Why put great talent in debt with a student loan only to reject them time and time again until they give up and work elsewhere? Why not allow them to work on projects with professionals. Hands on training is always better than books and number two pencils. Our brains obtain information better when we are using it as opposed to just trying to remember it for a test. If you can put a no experience celebrity on the stage and train them, why not someone who has been on a regional or community theater stage? Again, what are we teaching the millennials? Remember talk is cheap, and actions speak louder than words.
During this pandemic just about every business learned how to pivot except the theater world. Some theaters started movie drive-ins, some are doing live streaming and asking for donations, and others pitched a tent, but for the most part no one is finding new ways to provide amazing live theater. Theater and even Broadway has had a history of finding it difficult to change. Even though Americans voted for change for two terms, they still want to go back to normal instead of change. Us trying to wait for normalcy instead of pivot, again, is a bad example to the millennials. Other business has shown the millennials the importance of pivoting and changing with the flow of things, but not the world of theater.
When Julie Taymor tried her best to bring a new kind of entertainment to Broadway, Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, people just told her it was a bad idea. No one even tried to make it work. They just closed it and said never again. It was too much change for Broadway. They didn’t even consider to find ways to make it work or find different ways to make shows similar to it. We are teaching the next generation to stay far away from change. Don’t pivot. Do things the same. Hair, one of Broadway’s most successful musicals, was considered the most innovative, because the producers used all amateur actors who have never been on a stage. Many of them were street singers. Of course, that is not something Broadway can ever do again, it is not professional.
When you find it difficult to be unique in your creativity and do things never done, never seen, never heard, is it really creativity? We are setting a bad example to the next generation. How will anything new be born if we all stay in our comfort zones? Broadway could have easily found ways to take the show to a park, a museum, maybe outside of a church, or a cemetery. Many changes would have had to be made, and maybe the same amount of money would not have been made, but how will you know what will and will not work if you do not at least try? This is just another bad example we are teaching the millennials. We’re telling them, if it makes you uncomfortable don’t do it. We often forget there is no comfort in success. So many pivots have happened during this time, but not many in the world of theater and there could have been if only we weren’t afraid of change, afraid to pivot.
I do not remember exactly where, but I remember taking a class in college and the professor talking about the antics that went on during auditions, people stealing each other’s dance shoes, so someone couldn’t audition, tripping people, stealing people’s bags and belongings, and so much more, all to compete for a role. Then of course you have the award shows where people feel snubbed or great when they “won” a trophy. When people ask me if I would feel bad for losing an award, I always say, if I wanted trophies, I would have been an athlete.
I am not sure when theater became a sport, but it needs to stop. All of this competition is petty and unnecessary. We are supposed to encourage one another, not sabotage each other in hopes to make our dream come true. I don’t understand why people in the arts care so much about recognition. Did we forget art is about the art and not the artist? Why have we made art, a competitive sport? We should be causing the guilty to confess, those contemplating to choose life, those in gangs to leave, and those doing wrong to straighten up. We should have, could have, would have, ended a lot of the hatred going now if we cared more about the art then the awards. Most artists think about the awards they may get more than they do the art and that is not good.
These police shootings have been going on since the 80s, molestation in the church, women being underpaid, a corrupt government, global warming, and the list of this world coming to an end goes on and on and on, but where is the art that is supposed to warm the hearts? Where is the art that is supposed to change this? Where is the art that can heal the world? Do we create art to heal the world or win an award? Art is not supposed to be a competitive world. No one should ever have their dance shoes stolen at an audition. That is not art. And again, the millennials are watching.
In conclusion, as artists, have we’ve been a good example to the generation coming after us? Have we been true examples of what art is, what it is for, and how to create it? Or have we been a bit on the selfish side of things and not even care about what the next generation is seeing in us. I myself am not happy with the way the art world is now. There is too much care in the artist and not enough care in the art. The art should be the only star of the show. Never the artist. It is time for us to be shepherds to the millennials and not slave masters. Don’t just tell them what you want them to be, be what you want them to be.