Over a year ago, I got myself embroiled with a community that had been harboring a Wolf.
If you want to begin the journey, there are several entries about the Wolf, but these are two early ones
And this is the last one--
On the one-year anniversary of that interview, I wanted to check in on someone within that community so see how they're doing.
The goal was to find out how a community gets past exiling someone that had caused it trauma, and how to avoid burning the whole thing to the ground.
Here's the interview:
ME: Thanks for speaking with me.
THEM: I wanted to speak with you when you were doing this a year ago, but you never asked me.
ME: We spoke off-the-record.
THEM: You didn't want to hear what I had to say.
ME: (Laughs.) We were on the phone one night until--what? Three in the morning?
THEM: I called out the next day because of you.
ME: I'll send you some money.
THEM: Feel free.
ME: I wanted to check in with you--I wasn't planning on doing this, but--In Rhode Island, where I'm from, we've had a grueling couple of weeks where someone in this community was revealed to be a predator, and there was a good deal of fall-out from it.
THEM: So you're saying turnabout came to Rhode Island, huh?
ME: I mean--
THEM: Should I be anonymously interviewing you?
ME: It's fair play.
THEM: Fair play, baby.
ME: It's a little--Well, it's very different from the Wolf, because this took us all by surprise.
THEM: The Wolf took me by surprise. I did not know about all that s___ until you started writing about it and my girlfriend ______ sent it to me. I had no idea.
ME: Did you know who he was?
THEM: I had heard about him, but I didn't know all the details of the throwing chairs and all that s___.
ME: But you became much more involved in your community after the--
THEM: I had just moved there when all this came out, and I--I got asked to be more involved by some of the other people in the community.
ME: Why do you think they asked you to become more involved?
THEM: Because they had just gotten rid of an old white guy and they wanted whatever the opposite of that was, and that's me.
ME: And straight. Don't forget straight.
THEM: I'm straight too, but I hate men, so I don't know what I would qualify myself as.
ME: You hate men romantically or in general?
THEM: You're trying to get me cancelled now, aren't you?
ME: (Laughs.) Canada is going to ban me from ever going there.
THEM: There's a photo of you up at my theater. Don't let this man in.
ME: That's every theater in Rhode Island at this point.
THEM: (Laughs.) You're crazy.
ME: Even mine.
THEM: Do unto others.
ME: I know you all formed a kind of--committee--to help get the community through this. Can you talk a little bit about how that was formed?
THEM: We called it an Action Committee. It was made up of Artistic Directors from theaters that had been producing theater for longer than three years in the area.
ME: Why three years?
THEM: We have a lot of theaters show up and go away, and we wanted to make sure we were not letting everybody and their mother there.
ME: See, this is crucial for me, because I think that people think when change happens, you need to be as inclusive as possible.
ME: Why wrong?
THEM: Because--you want to talk about what we chatted over on the phone before this?
ME: I can, but I got most of it from you.
THEM: I felt--I grew up in the states and I moved around so I've been in a few different, uh, areas and states--and I think that really all communities, theater or not theater, are the same. You got good eggs and bad eggs, and if you're worried about letting everybody have a say, you're going to be letting some bad eggs have a say, and that's not helpful. Luckily, for the most part, the bad eggs usually can't get their s___ together most of the time for longer than a year or two. I know some people who can get it together long enough to do one show or two shows, but pretty soon they show their hand, and they close down, but they'll go around saying they have a theater for twenty years after that. We wanted to make it so--Your group has to have been doing theater for three years.
ME: Did you get any criticism for that?
THEM: Oh yes.
ME: And what was your response?
THEM: The response to the committee was that we were only letting the bigger theaters take part and our response was that there were a lot of smaller theaters that had been producing theater for more than ten years, let alone three. Let me say--We have to get real with a lot of this. That's how I felt. Everybody knows who in a community is legit and who isn't, and I wasn't interested in holding somebody's hand and making them feel good about their messy-ass theater that hasn't done a show in twenty years just so they can feel important. We had a crisis on our hands. You had people leaving in droves--in DROVES--and I'm worried about victims and I'm worried about the people who can make decisions. That's why we all said--You HAVE to be an Artistic Director serving on this committee, because we want people who can make change in the moment.
ME: What if they said they were too busy?
THEM: Then I went around telling everybody 'This theater is too busy worrying about this, this, and that and not making sure we don't have another wolf running around in our community.' If you have hours and hours every week to lunch and dine with big donors for your theater, then you have time for this. That's what I said to them, and we got everybody signed up.
ME: What kind of objectives did you have?
THEM: We created channels where people in charge at each theater could share information after every production--almost like rehearsal and performance reports.
ME: People were willing to do that?
THEM: By joining the committee, you didn't have a choice. If a vote went through, you had to go along with it. This was about establishing transparency in a way we had never had before.
ME: Because if a show is a mess at a theater nobody wants to talk about that.
THEM: But we all have messy shows. It's--This was last year, but even then--2019. Time to stop pretending. Leave the pretending onstage. You're either part of a community or you're not. Too much stays in-house.
ME: What about people who would say businesses don't share these types of things--
THEM: See, I thought we were all non-profits. So is it a non-profit or a business? Can't be both. I'll tell you that. Cannot be both.
ME: Do you have any for-profit theaters in your area?
THEM: We do, but they signed up too. Because we all know, it is not your mother going to the store buying Frosted Flakes or buying Cheerios. People see theater at different places. It is not competition in the way businesses are competitive. But even then, nobody was asking you to share the minutes of your board meeting or your fundraising meetings. We were asking for what was going on in rehearsals at your theater and backstage and onstage during performances, because that's when most of these issues happen.
ME: But what about issues where people are being harassed online, in messages, in emails--
THEM: Here's where forming this committee--the Action Committee--came in handy. Once it's publicized that it exists, if an actor is being harassed by an actor at a theater, he or she doesn't even need to go to someone at that theater, because the chain of command there might be tainted. What if the Artistic Director is the problem? What if the union rep is the problem? What if the Production Manage is the problem? Who are they going to go to? So now, they can come to me, who doesn't even work at that theater, and I can bring the concerns to the people at that theater on that person's behalf, and give them a chance to deal with it, and then present how they dealt with it to the committee. So I'm not trying to have all this drama where I show up at a meeting and announce that this theater is protecting somebody. It's still a chain of command, but it's much much bigger, because victims need to be given as many options as possible to come forward.
ME: Someone told me recently that predators are great at figuring out what kind of system is in place and then working that system to their advantage.
THEM: That's true. A chain of command is a system. But very few people are going to be able to manipulate the kind of system we set up after your interviews, because it's so far-reaching. There's nobody that everybody likes. Somebody isn't going to have a problem turning your a__ in if you mess up. That's what we're counting on. I could be wrong, but it was a good first step.
ME: I've been telling my friends something you told me, and something I see happening, which is that when something like this occurs, you don't just see victims and enablers distancing themselves from the community, but people who had nothing to do with the situation, but just back away because things get toxic so quickly.
THEM: We saw that. People dropped off the radar, and I called them, because I wanted to know how they could help, and they told me they wanted nothing to do with it. Not because they didn't want to help victims, but because they saw those people I talked about, those bad eggs, using the situation to elevate themselves and get themselves back in the game, after they had either hurt somebody themselves and then laid low long enough so nobody remembered it--
ME: A lot of people do that.
THEM: A lot of people do it, and it worked on me. I brought somebody into the fold, because, like I said, I hadn't been here that long. I didn't know who the good and bad eggs were. There is no--We don't keep a history of our local communities, and we really don't do that when it comes to the bad bits that we don't want to memorialize, and I get that, but that makes us vulnerable to those people coming back--
ME: And what about giving people the opportunity to change?
THEM: The opportunity to show that you've changed is not in the wake of someone else's tragedy. That's not showing you've learned not to make everything about you. If somebody sees a fire and they go around shouting about how good they are at putting out fires while the rest of us are carrying buckets, then I have a hard time believing you're somebody that's going to be a force for good.
ME: How much of this played out on social media?
THEM: I think social media needs to be a place of action, not reaction.
ME: Can you talk about what you mean by that?
THEM: Victims coming forward on social media and getting support and demanding action is useful. Everybody in a ten-mile radius then going and posting how they feel about it, how sad they are, how upset, how shocked--Nobody needs that. I don't need it. I've been where these victims are. I don't want to talk too much about that, but I've been where they are. It wasn't helpful for me when I came forward to have everybody posting about what I had to say. It's done. We identified the person. They're done after that. The hardest part is getting someone to point that finger and say what it is and what's going on. After that, that part of the problem is taken care of for the most part. What I need to know is how do we stop it from happening again? That's how you know the difference between problem-solvers and s___-stirrers, because s___-stirrers don't want to solve problems. Why would they? They've been tossed out the same way the predator was, so why would they want to help rebuild a community they're not going to be allowed back into? And why would you give those people a voice in that conversation? You don't let somebody yell 'Fire' in a theater.
ME: But by just letting the people in power sit at the table, and usually these are people who have profited off of a culture of silence--
THEM: I think if when we had the list of who was going to be participating--If I looked at that list and said--The majority of these people have profited, yes, I would have felt differently. But it wasn't the majority. It was a very small--You're talking four or five theaters, and one college, that profited off of an involvement with this person, and that meant the rest of us were going to have a lot more influence over them.
ME: Then why would they come to the table?
THEM: Because like I said, if they didn't, we were going to get messy ourselves. I am not scared to get messy. I think there are easier ways to get change, but if you hold back because you don't want to look bad, then I'll make you look even worse. They understood that, and they agreed to the terms the committee put down. Kevin, this was all about fixing a problem. We weren't trying to tell them what snacks they could sell at the concessions stand. We wanted them to promise us they would do better with protecting people. Why would you say 'No' to taking part in that?
ME: To play devil's advocate, what if they said 'We know how to handle this ourselves and we don't want input or we don't want--'
THEM: Good luck saying that after all the things you uncovered and called them out on. How you going to tell me you got it under control when for all that time it was not under control? There is no shame in asking for help. There's not even any shame in asking for help from people who are not as established as you are. The bigger you get, the harder it is to control everything that goes on in your organization, and that's common sense. How could you ever argue that you could be worse off with more transparency and more accountability and more relationships with other people doing what you do? How could you argue that? Unless you want to keep getting away with s___.
ME: I think that's a good place to end it.
THEM: When you coming for a visit?
ME: I'm banned, remember?
THEM: That's right. You're not allowed.
ME: Until you take my picture down.
THEM: That picture is glued to the wall, honey.
ME: (Laughs.) Uh oh.
THEM: That'll be there for years and years.
Them is the Artistic Director of a theater and just celebrated her first year in the job.