News and Notes 4/1- Is it okay to be difficult to work with?

by Levi Weinhagen • Apr. 3

News and notes |

Last week I asked the following question on Facebook and on Twitter: “Have you ever chosen to work with someone despite knowing they’re difficult to work with because of their talent?”

There was a wide array of responses. Here are a few:

Valerie Bjermeland Borey said, ”Yes! And often their talent is just the flip side of that other less pleasant quality. As long as you understand what you’re getting yourself into (and prepare yourself for it) it can work out beautifully.”

Linda Sue Anderson said, ”it depends on what “difficult” is … if difficult is unreliable, undisciplined or just damn mean to actors or designers, then no. I choose not to be a part of that whenever feasible. Other kinds of difficult are annoying but not deal breaking.”

Duck Washington said, “I have but weigh those choices very carefully before hand.”

Adelheid Berg said, “No. I'd rather have team players who will stand for my vision and for each other than a difficult hyped 'talent'. Life is too short to be miserable and my work means too much to me to let someone else's BS ruin it. Also, chances are there'll be nonsense from other quarters that you aren't planning on. Why invite it?”

I posted the question on my personal Facebook wall as well because I’m curious about whether there’s more tolerance of difficult people in the arts than in other work places. One response in particular stood out to me.

Wendy Ruyle said, “I can't speak for the theater world but in the design world there is always someone else just as talented who is not a jerk. The whole point of surrounding yourself with talented people is to make the work easier and more fun. If someone is difficult, the talent is meaningless.”

Obviously, this isn’t a scientific study but there seems to be a high degree of willingness on the part of people working in the performing arts to work with people they know are difficult to work with. This makes me sad.

I think the reason a lot of people continue to be difficult to work with is because they are allowed to get away with being difficult. There seems to be some calculation that if a person has a certain amount of talent they are allowed a certain amount of being difficult.

For me, a significant part of the joy of making theater comes in the producing, rehearsing, and getting ready for the stage. There’s no artist who is good enough on stage to offset their souring the theater making process. Certainly, there a difficult and challenging moments in the rehearsal process even when everyone involved is lovely to work with and there are inevitably personality clashes that don’t necessarily mean one involved personality is always difficult to work with. But if you are a director or producer who has complained many times about a particular artist because of how unpleasant they are to work with but find yourself casting him or her again and again because you think there is no one else who can do the role justice think about whether your encouraging that difficult behavior from that actor and also showing other artists it’s an okay way to behave.

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Steve Dietz recently announced that Northern Spark 2012 will consist only of events taking place in Minneapolis. In the past one goal was that the festival serve as a bridge between St Paul and Minneapolis but several projects slated for 2012 didn’t work out and as a results according to Dietz, “we felt it was better to do Northern Spark really well in one city and hopefully start working on June 11 to help make it happen again in St. Paul in 2013.”

While it is disappointing that Northern Spark will only be in one city this year I do think that’s better than it not happening at all.

Go here to the State of the Arts blog’s coverage.

Go here to learn more about Northern Spark.

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New Plays

The new work I want to highlight this week is Expiration Date, presented by Sunset Gun productions. It’s a one-woman show created and performed by Candy Simmons. Here’s part of the show description from the press release-

“Through a multi-character performance, layering traditional monologue, video, music, and movement, we experience the story of Lucille, a young woman struggling with the realities of a terminal diagnosis… The creation of this work is a blend of fiction and personal experiences woven together with stories Ms. Simmons has collected via video interviews around the subject. Zenon Dance company member Tamara Ober contributes to the project as choreographer.”

I’m interested in this show because I think one’s impending mortality is a very rich topic for theatrical interpretation. Also, I really like the incorporation of real life experiences and fictional narrative as well as the melding of dance, monologue, and video. This show appears to be making a real effort to generate conversations that continue on past the curtain fall, which is always a welcome goal.

There are three performances left in this production on April 5th, 6th and 7th at the Old Arizona theater in Minneapolis.

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Well, that’s all for now. I know a lot of other stuff happened last week but I’m under the weather so while the show must go on it isn’t going to be as comprehensive.

Have a week

-Levi

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