As I mentioned earlier
, I was assaulted by one of the actors in the show I am (or possibly was)
stage managing. Here's what happened . . .
When the producers rented this space, they agreed to a few very absurd provisions. The most annoying involves where we store our props and set dressing. When we are running the show, we have to keep our stuff backstage right, but when we're not, we have to keep it backstage left. So when we do the last show of the week, we have to move all of their stuff out of the way, so that we can move our stuff into its new home, then put their stuff back where our stuff used to be. All of which is lots of fun because, since the actors are generally out front networking (read "drinking wine and chatting with friends")
, it's Rwth (my co-stage manager)
and I who have to do most of the moving.
To streamline this process, Rwth and I decided to rearrange part of the back stage before the show, so that we wouldn't have to stay out for so long dealing with the movement. In the process, we apparently blocked part of the backstage area used by two male actors as a dressing room. I learned this when one of the two, (I shall call him "the Whackedor")
complained about our positioning of a large table with several props on it. It blocked off the sofa they liked to use to relax (not ours, part of the theater's rotating set pieces)
, and made it difficult for them to reach a mirror. I explained to them why we had moved it where we had: we were going to be doing a lot moving after the show, and we we usually can't count on the actors to help, so we were doing as much before hand as possible. He asked if we could put it somewhere else, and I said that next time, I would think about it, but for now it was best to leave things as they are.
I should note that during this conversation, I said something I immediately regretted. I can't recall what it was, but I remember thinking that my voice and word choice had made the statement slightly more acidic than it should have been. It wasn't anything horribly bad, I didn't see (then)
any noticeable effects, and I couldn't see a way to immediately backtrack to it, so I just moved on. In fact, that was my tone toward the entire conversation. I didn't really care to much about it. Everyone had been given a later call, so we didn't have much time to care about it, and there were plenty of other things I was going to have to do.
Now, the Whackedor is cold. Always. When we moved into the theater, we kept the heat on. We soon realized, though, that the only person complaining of it being too cold was him. Eventually, the director, Rwth and I agreed that we'd keep the heater on before the show in most cases, but we would turn it off before we let the house in. Between the hot lights and the large crowd we often got, there was plenty of heat for everyone else, and keeping the heater on occasionally made it sweltering.
At about five or ten minutes to house open, Rwth came into the office next to the booth and told me that she turned the heater off. She wanted me to make sure I double checked it, because the Whackedor had recently been turning it back on after she turned it off. I told her that I was going into the booth and that I'd keep my eye on it from there. If anyone tried to turn it on again, I'd tell them not to.
At about three minutes to house open, I was surprised to see the Whackedor leaning over the heater. I had expected that he might have earlier, but now, we were minutes away from letting in the audience, and he was minutes away from leaving the theater to wait in the office anyway. The booth had no god mike, so I opened the window and asked, "Are you turning on the heater?"
"Yeah, I'm turning on the heater."
"Can you turn it back off? We're about to open up the house."
"No, I'm not going to do that."
"Whackedor, you can't turn the heater on right now, we're letting the audience in in a few minutes. Turn off the heater."
"Hey, fuck you. I'm freezing up here, and I'm turning the heater on. So just fuck off, all right?"
At this point, I got pissed. If he wasn't going to turn off the heater, I'd go down the and turn it off myself. If I had to stand there for the next three minutes before Rwth returned to take him to the waiting area, so be it. But the climate control of the house was my responsibility, I was the stage manager, and I do not going to back down.
I came into the theater and turned off the heater. Because the theater was small, the thermostat was located on the wall at about the line where the stage ended and the audience began. The stage was not raised, and so I was effectively on stage. The Whackedor turned to me and said, "What do you think you're doing." "I'm turning off the heater." Then the Whackedor begna to fully live up to the name I have here given him.
I can not remember the stream of invectives hurled at me. They weren't interesting at all, just verbal standins for the primal primate yell of anger that it was. There were several witty things that shot through my mind. The one I remember most clearly, in response to the Whackedor moving mere inches away from my face then screaming, "You'd better get out of my fucking face," was "I haven't moved an inch in the last sixty seconds please get out of my face." I didn't, partly because I knew it couldn't help, but mostly because I never got a chance to even say anything non snarky. After each harangue, I would start to say, calmly and quietly, "Whackedor, I am responsible for this theater." Each time, I managed to get as far as "resp." I said I don't back down, and I didn't. I wouldn't. I didn't feel the need to match his insane anger, but I didn't move an inch. Not when he started yelling at me. Not when he moved within an inch of my face, not when he threatened me.
In fact, I didn't move at all until he grabbed my shirt and shoved me backwards, still swearing at me.
There had been several actors on stage preparing for the show. I don't know specifically what they had been doing up to that point, but when the Whacked grabbed me, they immediately ran forward to hold him back. He didn't calm down. In fact, at this point, he began insulting the other cast members as well. As far as I can tell, he never calmed down. He claimed that I had disrespected him so much, between the backstage conversation and refusing to let him adjust the heater that he had no choice but to do what he did, what he was continuing to do. He threatened that if they tried to fire him, he'd refuse to go and that they'd need to call the police to haul him out.
Eventually, the director, who had been out front covering for the missing box office attendant, entered the room. At this point, seeing someone higher in the hierarchy than either myself or the actor, I relaxed and let him take the steps necessary for the situation. I didn't try to explain my side of what happened. The Whackedor seemed to want to say much more, and it seemed that any case I might want to make was better made letting him rant and threaten everyone in the room. I did say, softly, to the director and to a personal friend of mine in the cast who was also a producer, that I refused to work with him. And that if he continued to be on the cast, I would quit.
They considered cancelling the show, something they were loath to do because it was full house and a benefit performance to boot. They considered spot-replacing the Whackedor, something I think most of them were frankly afraid to do. Ultimately, they decided to go on with the show, so I informed the director and producer that I was leaving. I believe the director took my place with Rwth in the booth.
So that's why I was shaken up yesterday. I'm still a bit shaken up, but it's getting better. Last night, I had a momentary flashback to the episode. I remembered the Whackedor screaming face in front of mine; I remembered the adrenaline; I remembered grounding myself and steeling my face. But I had to laugh when I realized what had happened. I was watching The Bernie Mac Show, and Bernie Mac's girlfriend had angrily called him a whiny baby. The flashback had been triggered by thinking about how insecure, whiny, and self-centered the Whackedor is.
Yeah, I think I'll be okay.