Starting a performance troupe is awful, you have to make ALL the mistakes, learn the boundaries and fork over stupid mounts of financial outlay.  But once it’s up and tottering, it can look pretty good for short periods.  Some folks don’t want that first step, they just want the tasty bits-and that doesn’t include you, the owner.

TL;DR If you are not the power behind the group, you are not going to get the group if you don’t work your ass off.

More than once there have been power struggles within our troupe. In “The Faire that made me cry” I referred to some of the inadvertent issues we created.  Because we were, at one point, doing so many shows we had concurrent events running and had to split ourselves up and we had sub-leaders who would look over these shows.

We thought we were team-building and all we did was make bullies and antagonists.

Specific example:

We had a member who was popular and had a bit of a cult of personality going. Although they and I never saw eye-to-eye and things weren’t done until the direct order came from my partner. We still had some good work and ideas come from this person and their demeanor attracted people to shows and the troupe.  This person helped me develop my a-hole to productivity ratio. As with movie production, you can stomach a Lot of Prima Donna behavior…until you can’t. They were very fine-tuned at riding that edge.

They had expressed an interest in performing professionally along with some others. So my partner and I took them at their word and started booking weekday shows and additional appearances. We had a troupe member who did school visits who gave pointers and we upped our insurance and tailored our materials. My partner and I had perfectly nice jobs with health care so we had no interest in this AT ALL.

In this person’s mind, we were rat bastards who tried to shovel all the work onto this person. They were not ready for the job they requested and in fact, logic factored NOWHERE into the following;

They began bully and threaten others with us as the bad guys (Evil Overlord TM) will “fire you if you don’t do what I say.”
Would change job logistics last minutes or even show up late
Would demand money for props that we had never authorized
Asked for outrageous sums of money for gas

Was targeting/gaslighting anyone with whom they were not boinking and was female.

But the beginning of the end was when (one of) the girlfriends was doing an extensive fight with me that was being choreographed by a professional coach that cost us per session.  She called in and my partner asked that she reschedule.

*I* received a phone call calling me things I won’t repeat here but we had to pull the car over because I was FURIOUS.

And that person was suspended rather than fired because my partner is better at human interactions than I am.  In his words, “we’d all be fired if we left these things up to you, including me.” And he wasn’t wrong-I’m definitely a reactionary person.  But cooler heads prevailed and they didn’t go to the next gig. And we started to find out the extent of the bullying and behind the scenes.

And it was the right call but did foment rebellion

There was a chunk of the troupe that lived together and socialized together and sometimes, when you get an echo chamber going that starts some ideas being reinforced, focused and strengthened. If they are GOOD ideas  some really cool stuff happens.  If they are BAD ideas, well, things start to get strange and go sideways.

Have you ever heard the truism

“Shit-stirrers should have to lick the mixing spoon.”

Well this turned into a sit-in of a number of members for the next big job, the one with the tightest contract.

The top of my head exploded.

This escalated me to implacable, glacial, napalm the bridge, rage. That’s the rage that had us start the troupe. That’s the rage that got me to pull a 70s-era couch down four flights of stairs by myself. That’s the fury that says
“it’s worth losing money to cook this effing set of crabs in a bucket

Started shaking trees and calling in favors. To be fair, some of the *ahem* contingent were on the fence and came with us.

We subcontracted an entire other troupe. Just as we have never been able to break past the Mississippi to the west, they had never made it to the east coast so we brokered a deal.

Some unexpected things happened at the faire;

We worked together well

They were grateful someone else was doing the heavy lifting (they found our hotel however-which is a two-beer story) like booking, travel expenses, pay setup and show plans.

We were grateful and happy to work with people who were pleased to be there. Because we hadn’t had that in some time.

And I have to say, it was a love fest where everyone was grooving on the excellent vibes. We had other contractors as well and they hadn’t seen one another in some years so it was a mini-reunion of sorts as well. Post-faire We went to the beach, we ate seafood, some folks saw the ocean for the first time. Many, many stories came from this weekend.

Just a really great time with super shows. And solidified that sub-contractors are just what you need for the bigger shows if you aren’t being sabotaged.

For the splitters, did not turn out as they’d planned and in fact, backfired spectacularly. They proved we didn’t need them.

This initial person had also floated the idea to some mutual friends that they would either “take over” or start a rival troupe. They couldn’t as we had the bank account, web site passwords, access to the practice grounds, and contact information for all of our customers.

They knew they couldn’t or would have done more than grouse about doing better.

So if was an 90’s cartoon this is probably the “spin the wheel of morality” message.

If you are not paying the bills, booking the shows, and providing a framework…you are, in fact, not running the group. (Even if you are important and make things better.)

There is a fine ratio of assholery to performance and employers will only let that scale tip so far before you will be termed a “bad egg” who is only causing your coworkers to resent you.

Keeping you leads to bad feeling and dissent in the ranks.  Your termination is like a cow who has stomped the garden. We’ll get rid of you, fertilize the field with your waste and beautiful things will grow and obscure any sign that you were ever there. Burgers anyone?

Yes, the boss is the jerk. The jerk who is legally liable for you. He who holds the purse is king, sadly.

Showing up is half the battle.

We will always take a good, new person we can train over someone who knows everything. If you are so wise, then by all means, take that show on the road and teach others a thing or two.

Someone has to do the grunt work for the stars to shine. If you keep kicking behind the scenes people you will soon find yourself with no stage.