Wasn’t sure what to tittle this blog post because “the haters” was not really what I wanted to address. Haters are easy, you know they are wrong, it might hurt your feelings but one big raspberry and several successful shows, later that wound is all healed.
Anchors are a trickier hazard to spot-they often masquerade as something else and are sugar coated in things like concern trolling and passive-aggressive tactics. They will gaslight you and make you so filled with self-doubt that you don’t even believe your biggest supporters any more.
When one performs at the faire, presumably you are there with at least a shred of ego because you are jumping out on a stage and yelling “Loook.At.Meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” But you do need a support system-the person who owns/run the fest, the staff that makes amenities like food and toilets happen, the people who staff the faire and the people who come to the faire. Without those thing-no need for performers. And let’s face it, performing looks easy-any two-year-old will tell you as much and climb on the table to do it. Sadly we are not all as cute as toddlers so we need to develop ourselves to be good performers.
But we all have self-doubts and I’m going to share some personal stories that you may recognize.
The mentor who really isn’t. When you first meet this person you will be so awed and amazed by them, you will kneel at their feet and soak up everything they have to give you. If they are a good mentor they will eventually become a peer and hope that you will outstrip them. If they are a bad mentor they will *seem* to build you up but pull out random pieces of your support system like some crappy game of jenga. I had someone who was there for me when it felt like the world walked 13 paces in a 14-pace fight and fired-we received threats, bad press and evil emails. Initially this person taught me a few tricks, did some fight training with me and invited me to be part of their world. All was pretty good until I started doing additional training, getting bad feedback and being told I was a terrible fighter because I kept changing the choreography. I really thought this was the case so I started documenting everything, asking for feedback from others, and finally I gave up writing fights with this person because I just couldn’t seem to get it right. Other symptoms included random things costing me money or favors. I like to think I’m a “by the books” kind of person but I never seemed to reach that elusive goal of being somewhat equal. In the end, this person gave an ultimatum and it was so laughable that I just shook off the veil and saw clearly. Solution? Have more than one mentor and set yourself an internal scale of progress. If you never make the goals, that’s the sign of bad teaching. And if you are having problems, chances are someone else is as well so it’s good to compare notes. Once this person was caught on camera doing all the things they denied, that was the beginning of the end.
Your comrade-in-arms.(not) This person is beside you and supports you and is a good touchstone-until they aren’t. And it’s often insidious because by the time you realize this person is a frienemy, the damage and self-doubt are already there. I would be told things like
“Well with your appearance maybe it’s better you do more backstage work.”
“You are a bit clumsy so why don’t you leave the acrobatics to us.”
“Maybe you wouldn’t get hurt if you worked a little harder at your skills.” (This was from someone *notorious* for hitting too hard and having fewer and fewer fight partners) As with anything, actions speak louder than words. I used to have self-doubts as my go-to and my reaction is often to work harder-and that will solve two problems 1) your skill level does go up 2) you start leaving detractors in the dirt. When you see this problem from the outside, it’s important to approach the person who is being lied to and re-affirm that they are doing fine. In one case one troupe member was getting blamed for lateness and arguing. They day they blamed this person for causing lateness when they weren’t even scheduled to come to a show was an eye-opener. And on a later date, when the blamer thought I wasn’t around, picked a fight with the troupe member over a flap on a tent, and was shocked to find me standing there. I was a victim of this person as well and sadly some of these manipulators are so good because they are charismatic.
Your trainee (who knows better)-being in a position of power helps to curb this a bit. I have found the best antidote to this one is being self-effacing and humorous. If you are willing to laugh at yourself and admit fallibility, already this has taken away the weapon of superiority/inferiority. And if this person can’t seem to learn from you, then it may be someone else trains them. This person will also reference outside strengths continuously-and if someone comes in with a useful skillset, that’s great. But if they can’t learn what you do as a team, then it isn’t going to work out. I have NO PROBLEM with giving out the names of other groups and organizations and mentioning they might be a better fit. And yes, I hold back on some of the cooler tricks because I’ve been burned before. If this person is just that amazing-well an ensemble is not the place for them, bonne chance!
Your employer-nothing you do will satisfy this person. Perfectly innocent social interactions turn into head-shaking moments. You feel dirty every time you come away from working with them. These are all indicators. My partner and I become The World’s Nicest Incompetents. We make life easy for these folks by apologizing with extricating ourselves from their company. It’s like an uncomfortable date-it’s not you, it’s me. It’s been a real slice, gosh how could we ever do it again…
And we’ve been told we’ll never work in Roswell, Ohio again. But from what I can tell, neither will any other renfaire acts. Sometimes it’s better to give up a job than to come away with a coating of slimy feelings.
What I’m trying to say here is that it is statistically impossible to be wrong 100 percent of the time. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. If you can’t seem to get anything right and no one offers a solution, often it’s a relationship and situation set up to fail. No amount of hard work on your part is going to make it work because you are still the only person invested in a solution or fix. For me it’s been interesting watching the follow-up in how it turns out with these personalities-at least two of them have sworn they were better leaders, performers and human beings and yet, burn through organizations and friends in cycles. I’m not saying anchors are useless, sometimes they are there to stabilize a boat (and we’re grateful when they make us look good by comparison!) but if they keep you from sailing, it’s time to cut them and make your own way. And the Dalai Lama calls these people personal gurus-those who try us, reveal things about ourselves and teach us compassion.