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Theater and Cancel Culture

Today I get to talk to one of my favorite people all about cancel culture.

They have been working in theater for over twenty years, and we talked for so long, I had to spend a few hours editing the interview down to something you could actually follow, so you might see the unedited seventeen-part series at some point in the future.

But for now, here's the (condensed) interview--

ME:  How are you?

THEM:  I am tired.  How are you?

ME:  I'm pretty tired.

THEM:  You still starting these interviews asking 'How are you?'

ME:  Listen.

THEM:  (Laughs.)  You ever get anybody saying 'I'm doing so good, Kev.'

ME:  I haven't gotten that in awhile.

THEM:  Wait, I was supposed to say something.  What was I supposed to say?

ME:  I've been better.

THEM:  I'VE BEEN BETTER.  Yes.  That's me.

ME:  Can we do this damn interview now?

THEM:  Boy, you better watch that tone.

ME:  It is--what time is it?

THEM:  (Laughs.)  Oh, you deadass tired.  Not even a little.

ME:  Not even a little.

THEM:  Get to it then.

ME:  You recently had someone in your, uh--where you are--

THEM:  Yes.

ME:  Get cancelled.

THEM:  Yes.

ME:  Now, before we start, we should both say that we love cancel culture.

THEM:  We do.  I do.

ME:  I do too.

THEM:  You're always in my DM's showing me somebody cancelled.

ME:  Well, you sent me this local cancellation of yours.

THEM:  Girl, it's been a week.

ME:  So what happened?

THEM:  This man--white man--

ME:  Yup.

THEM:  Ain't it always the way.

ME:  Sometimes it's white women, but--

THEM:  We don't need to be talking about white women right now.  That's for another day.

ME:  I can't be part of that conversation.

THEM:  Why not?

ME:  Because I'm a man.

THEM:  You're right.  You're right.  Sit that one out.

ME:  So this man--

THEM:  This man made some comments years ago while he was directing a play and a few of the actors came forward and talked about things he had said, and from there, it was--Everybody was coming forward.  Everybody.

ME:  Multiple comments from multiple actors--

THEM:  And tech.

ME:  And tech about multiple productions where he made--

THEM:  Yes.

ME:  They were racially-based comments?

THEM:  I think there was a sprinkling of homophobia in there as well.

ME:  There always is.

THEM:  (Laughs.)  A little homophobia, a little sexism--

ME:  They usually check all the boxes before they get cancelled.

THEM:  (Laughs.)  Oh, Jesus.

ME:  So what happened?

THEM:  He got called out. The pile-on goes down on Facebook.  Everybody gets on the theater where he works Facebook page and starts posting and commenting.  They fire him--whatever that means, because nobody's doing theater right now.

ME:  Yeah.

THEM:  He posts an apology. They all pile-on on the--the apology and then he deletes all the accounts.

ME:  His social media accounts?

THEM:  Yes.

ME:  And then you came in with--I don't want to say a take, but--I think a contribution--

THEM:  I like that.  A contribution.

ME:  You came in with a contribution that I thought was very interesting coming from you, because you do make it very clear that you love cancel culture.

THEM:  I think that what I said goes with me loving cancel culture though.

ME:  I agree with you, but I just want you to walk through that with me, if you will.

THEM:  I can do that.  I said that I needed to see accountability.

ME:  Everybody's new favorite word.

THEM:  It's the Age of Accountability out here.

ME:  I'm going to quote you--

THEM:  Oooh, she did RESEARCH.

ME:  I have NOTES.

THEM:  Let me hear it.

ME:  Your own quote.

THEM:  I love my own voice.

ME:  I want to see cancel culture evolve into accountability culture.

THEM:  Sounds good, doesn't it?

ME:  What does that mean?

THEM:  It means that, yes, I am a person of a certain age, but I have people trying to convince me that consequences for f***ing up can be--Can I swear?

ME:  Yes.

THEM:  Okay, so, consequences for that can be--You can't go on social media anymore or you'll see people saying nasty things to you.

ME:  What about the fact that he lost his job?

THEM:  Kevin, you know that man--Okay, you know, there is no documentation anyway--because I don't know other theaters that are going to go online and scan through all these posts--This man's name is [Name] and that is a common name, so what's going to happen, or could happen, is that he has no social media presence right now.  He can go to another town, another city, and all he has to do is fix that resume a little--I don't even know that the theater he left would give him a bad recommendation letter, because people are scared to do that.

ME:  One of the theaters I looked at for possible interviews found out their accountant was embezzling money from the company, and they didn't want to have a scandal, so they let him go with a glowing recommendation letter and there was this article--a few articles--all about wishing him well in his new career.

THEM:  That's what I'm talking about!  Who is going to follow through to make sure this person doesn't just move onto the next victim?  What responsibility do we have to the next community?  To the next group of actors?  To the next town?  Is that not our problem?

ME:  So are you suggesting following these people for the rest of their lives and making sure they don't work again?

THEM:  I'm talking about saying 'We need to see you change.'  All these people are deleting their social media when this happens.  Get your ass back on social media.  How am I going to know if you're changing if I don't see it?  You want me to come to your house every week?  You want me to take your word for it?  If you gotta listen to some people coming at you in the comments thread, oh well.  Get your ass on social media and DOCUMENT. THAT. GROWTH.

ME:  You want documentation.

THEM:  And if it's so bad--if it's assault, if it's something like that--then yeah, somebody needs to follow your ass around and make sure you're done for awhile.  I don't know.  I don't like hearing about the court of public opinion, because the real courts keep f***ing this s*** up, so what are the choices?

ME:  I agree with that.

THEM:  You want to be real?  I don't care if your ass goes and gets a job at a desk pushing papers until you die, but if I see you trying to get back in a theater, I'm going to have something to say.

ME:  You could do damage in an office.  You could--

THEM:  But an office has HR--not that it works a lot of the time, but it's there.  We don't have that in theater.  We don't have people looking out all the time.

ME:  Didn't this theater--or this production--have an equity representative?

THEM:  I don't trust equity with that.  The truth is--If the Artistic Director and the staff at a theater--want to keep somebody around, equity ain't doing s***.  You disagree with that?

ME:  From what I've heard, I think that's right.

THEM:  So what good are they?  Hm?

ME:  Do you think someone like that can be redeemed?

THEM:  I'm not interested in a white man's redemption.  I don't care.  I'm interested in what we think we're doing when we go in the comments section and drag people.  What are we doing?  That's self-interested.  Cancel culture was born--You know I wrote about this--

ME:  That was a good article.

THEM:  Tell them to go find it.

ME:  I'll think about it.  I have to hide your identity.

THEM:  That's so I can spill the real hot tea.

ME:  As hot as it gets.

THEM:  You get this thing with theater people--other people too, but--with theater people where you can't trust their motives.  They're trying to get theirs and that's why when I see people coming in to say 'Shut this theater down' that's not an answer to it.  Fire the man.  Fire the people who helped him stay there.  Keep the theater.  We don't need to--We don't have a lifetime supply of theaters and all of them have people there who have done some bad things.  I'm worried about the language of 'Shut it down' instead of just saying 'Bring in all new people.'  Let's do that.

ME:  And you still want the community to interact with the person who was cancelled?

THEM:  They don't need to interact with whoever that is if they don't want to.  I just want to know that if this person--I'm talking ten years later, twenty years later--wants to come back, we have something to point to other than time that shows they're different and they've learned.  Right now, we leave it up to time.  You just need to go away for a couple of years and then you can come back.  What does that solve?  It's about the people who moved on to cancelling other people.  They got their tweets in, and then they move on, and what has been accomplished?  Answer me that.  What has been accomplished when we know--we KNOW--that person can come back if they wait long enough, and most of the time, we know they will.  So then what?

ME:  I think especially when you're talking about smaller communities where with enough turn-over in talent and no real documentation like you said--it's easy to just wait out your own reputation.

THEM:  We have to make people document their own--

ME:  But what about privacy?  Are people entitled to privacy?

THEM:  People ain't entitled to s***, first of all.

ME:  (Laughs.)  Okay.

THEM:  You can't have everything.  You want to say some dumb racist s*** in a rehearsal, and stay private, so you stay off Facebook, you stay off Twitter, and then you get forgiveness later on because nobody remembers what you did?

ME:  But you can still find all that stuff on the Internet years--

THEM:  Not if the person just deletes those accounts.

ME:  Celebrities won't do that because then they have to start over with new followers--

THEM:  Locally they don't care.  It's the first thing you do--you make the account private if you really don't want to delete, but it'll do the same thing.

ME:  Do you think the idea that being cancelled is this horrific punishment comes from the fact that the people who brought about this culture are younger and being forced off social media really would be a punishment for some of them?

THEM:  Yes, but honey, I'm forty-six years old.  You think you're going to scare me by coming for my accounts?  Take 'em.  I'll go live my best life.

ME:  Did you get that guy back on social media?

THEM:  I did!  I contacted him and I said 'Get back on there and take your damn lumps.'

ME:  Then what happened?

THEM:  He got some more hits.  He did.  Now everybody's over it.  But they're not hiring him, because it's all there.  We're going to see what's next.  I'm not going to be personally responsible for his growth, but I think he's in an interesting place because he has to listen and watch and he can't say s*** because he knows if he does, everybody will jump down his throat.  I think that's what might bring about that growth if it's possible.

ME:  Being forced to be on social media, but not engage with it.

THEM:  Yes.

ME:  I guess we'll see.

THEM:  We shall see.

ME:  (Laughs.)  Okay, I love you, and I need to go to bed.

THEM:  You go to bed, baby.  Love you too.

Them is an actress.


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