Songs for the Struggling Artist


Boys Behaving Badly

The drama teacher I was working with had a concept for the scene he was directing. He wanted five couples – five boys and five girls.

On the first day of his rehearsal with them, six girls showed up and three boys. One of those boys clearly had no real interest in being there but had been talked into participating, probably by the offer of extra credit. Throughout the class, he acted out, ignored directions and eventually just disappeared. Everyone else soldiered through, eager to work – but often they were distracted and derailed by the disinterested one.

The next time I turned up for this class, there were five boys and instead of just one badly behaved boy, we had two. Their behavior was distracting but their gender made them necessary and they knew it. Because their teacher needed boys for his scene, he had to tolerate their disrespectful, uncommitted and generally flaky behavior. And so did everyone else.

This precedent, set here in high school is something that I continue to see as actors get older and start to make their way into the professional world. In directing my own work, I have, just as this teacher did, tolerated some grade A shitty flaky behavior from men, just because I needed them. For their gender. I needed a king. I needed a father. And that maleness was important for the story so I put up with it.

It’s not that women aren’t shitty and flaky sometimes. Believe me, they can be. But, it’s a lot easier to call them on it, partly because it’s a lot easier to replace them and most women know this.

Starting as young as middle school, or even in elementary school, boys learn that they are valuable and that they can get away with overly entitled behavior because they are indispensable. And girls learn the opposite. Girls learn that they are interchangeable, disposable and that no amount of good behavior on their part is as valuable as simply showing up male.

In the last year or so, I’ve been working on unscripted improvised work and one of the benefits of that is that it doesn’t matter what gender anybody is. One young man who wanted to work with us failed to respond to several emails and couldn’t be at the first rehearsals and seemed shocked that I wouldn’t bend over backwards to have him. I didn’t need that sort of headache, no matter how brilliant he was reported to be.

Just like I advised the teacher I worked with to do, I now try to work with who is showing up consistently, eagerly and ready to work and allowing those who are entitled and flaky to fall by the wayside.

I don’t know yet how I will handle the imbalance of behavior when I return to scripted work. Luckily for me, I write mostly for women so I don’t tend to need a lot of men. And there are, of course, many well-behaved men who are a delight to work with. I choose them whenever I can. But you bet your boots, that I’d rather have women read the men’s parts than a badly behaved boy. I’m done reinforcing that kind of behavior – from children on up.

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