Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Fifty Shades of Selfish

Let's call him "Chad Withers", the Sensitive Actor

I once hired an actor.  Let's call him Chad Withers.  That's not his real name.

He did a fairly decent job for Upstage Productions, but one Christmas season, he got very angry at us for not giving him the number of shows to perform that he thought he was entitled to.  So he quit.  He quit after he had already agreed to perform some gigs - leaving me to clean up his mess, re-cast the shows he had agreed to do, and cover for him.

About a year later, he called and apologized.

This was a first for me.  I mean, who calls and apologizes for something they once did?  When is the last time that's happened to you?  People just aren't sorry for the bad things they've done, and if they are, they're embarrassed about them, so they keep their mouths shut.

Of course, Chad wanted something from me.  The apology had a point to it.  He wanted me to hire him back.


Now here's where it gets tricky.  We, as Christians, are required to forgive.  And at the very least that means that we are obligated to give up thoughts of revenge or of getting even.  We are called to let it go.  But does it mean we must restore a person who's harmed us to a place of trust where he or she will have the opportunity to harm us again?  Well, that becomes a question of prudence - which means it's a judgment call.

In this case, I decided to err on the side of indulgence, so I hired him back.

And you can almost guess the rest of the story.

He not only screwed us again, he did so big time.

I told him I was going to cast him in the spring season of Theater of the Word shows.  He told me that would work for him, for he was hoping to get bookings in the fall for a one-man show he had put together on his own, and he needed work in the meantime.  I made him promise me that he would commit to the spring season of Theater of the Word shows no matter what - that once he had accepted these gigs he would stick to them, and that after the season ended we would discuss future bookings, depending on whether or not his one-man show took off.


So a week before our long tour began to the Great Plains, he left me a voice message.  In a kind of smug and self-righteous tone he told me that he had gotten some last minute bookings for his one-man show that would conflict with the Theater of the Word tour that was a week away, and so he was backing out.  He thanked me for my time and hung up.

I was furious.

I had to cancel some local gigs that had been scheduled for that same week which Chad had agreed to do, but Kaiser Johnson agreed to step in from Hollywood and bail me out, taking the two-dozen or so shows that made up the Great Plains Tour and the Ohio tour that immediately followed that - and learning all of his lines and blocking at the last minute - saving our skin.

From the basement where we run the businesses, I called our other cast members and told them what had happened.  "I feel like somebody walked into this basement with a bomb strapped to his body and blew himself up," I said.


Now this is a pretty awful thing for an actor to do.

But friends have done worse.  Even family has done worse.

Most relationships are like this.  Most people are interested in us because we're useful.  Chad apologized to me and wormed his way back into my good graces not because he was legitimately sorry, but because he wanted something from me.

He was particularly selfish, particularly heedless of the consequences of his actions.  Most people would have more compunction than he did.  It didn't bother him a bit that he was making a selfish decision that effected the lives of three other actors, dozens of clients, and hundreds of potential audience members.  He didn't care that the bomb he had strapped to himself was going off around other living human beings.

Chad was at the far end of the spectrum, but if sacrificial love is white and use and abuse of others is black, most friends and acquaintances are fifty shades of gray.


So it's naive of me to think that by giving an actor a break, he'll respond with gratitude and good will.  It's naive of us actors to think that by being entertaining or funny we'll not only be useful to people, but that people will like us.  It's naive of us humans to think that any relationship - business or personal - moves much beyond the stroking of mutual self-interest.

That's the way the world works.

But we are not of this world.  We are called to something greater than the mutual masturbation of using one another to address our selfish needs.

We are called to love - and that's an entirely different thing.

1 comment:

Terry Nelson said...

That's people in the arts.

I love the photo BTW. LOL!