Find a Community that Supports You - How one bad experience hurt me but didn’t stop me
Updated: Oct 1, 2019
“So, how do you think it went?”
“Good, the young actors really got a lot out of it.”
I was in “hostess” mode and sharing what I thought he wanted to hear. Truth is, I had signed up for this very expensive acting workshop from an LA based actor and writer, (who I shall now refer to as Mr. LA) because I had my own script that I had been working on. It was my hope to gain insight and further develop the work. But, instead of focusing on that, I ended up coordinating the workshop.
It was 2015 when an actor friend from LA reached out to me because a friend of his was putting together an acting workshop in San Antonio. She needed some assistance with finding a location and marketing.
I agreed to help.
When the date arrived, only three people signed up for it (that included me and the other LA actor). I finagled getting a free space at my job if Mr. LA would allow the students at an arts academy free admission.
I did the driving, made copies of scripts, set up the space, coordinated and sent out press releases to various arts organizations and universities to market the event.
The night before, I picked Mr. LA up at the airport and got him to his hotel.
The day was finally here! It started with a morning workshop. I took copious notes. If I would have notated each time he name dropped, I would have had a full composition notebook. Have you ever heard of an energy vampire? That was this guy. EGO.
“So how do you think it went?” “Great” I said, “the kids really got a lot out of it. “ He said “good, the buck tooth, hunchback troll in the back was taking lots of notes.” I just smiled and nervously laughed. He was referring to me. I was the buck tooth, hunchback troll. I wanted to leave so badly and run home to the safety of my husband, but I knew my husband would be furious and I didn’t want a confrontation. I was stuck there because it was now affiliated with my job . I played along with a smile on my face and a positive attitude. We still had a scheduled reading of excerpts from his book to go, as well as the evening event, which I was so very excited about (and had paid extra for). It would be an intimate dinner with him where we could read our work and get feedback.
I was exhausted, coordinating the space and the meal. My husband was such a help, toting my young kids around and making deliveries of food to us. He even bought a white button down shirt for Mr. LA because he had forgotten his own shirt. Wow, as I think back, what a support my husband was and still is to me.
It was my turn to read my script. It was just that, a reading, not acting (I was too exhausted and nervous). As soon as I began to read, Mr. LA placed his head in his hands and rubbed his face as if he was forced to endure the worst torture. I died a little more inside.
I paid money to be demeaned by the biggest LA asshole.
The other workshop participant wanted to share a novel she was working on. Mr. LA took an interest in her. She was young, thin and pretty.
When he gave feedback to her, his tone changed and he told the young writer to buy some sexy lingerie and write in her bed with candles and a sexy environment (her novel was not a romance novel). He even went so far as to tell her to write in the bathtub naked. His tone was disgusting and gross. I was so uncomfortable. I could feel whatever embers of life that still remained in me barely flickering. (dramatic? yes - but true)
I was so disillusioned. I thought I’d get some wonderful feedback and encouragement from a person who had some success’s in the acting business. Instead it was just the opposite.
I was already exhausted and my energy was being sucked away by an ego with an insatiable appetite.
The last event of the night was to carpool him to a restaurant on the Riverwalk for drinks. I couldn’t even pretend to enjoy myself. I was done. The next morning I had to run Mr. LA to the airport. He had fussed all night because his ego was bruised that the San Antonio arts community hadn’t embraced him like he thought they would.
Truth be told, the workshop was too expensive for San Antonio and his name was not a draw.
When I dropped him off at the airport I felt a weight lifted off of me. I went home and slept. I didn't even want to process the events of the weekend.
I never told my husband about how horrible that experience was for me. My husband not only knew the time I put in to organize it, get the space, materials and volunteers to attend, but also, the hope that I had put into sharing my work with that one person.
I did however, tell my best friend the following week when she generally asked me how it went. I broke down in tears and told her everything.
A few years later, I heard that Mr. LA lost his job at a big network because he allegedly may have been inappropriate at work #metoo. It is my wish that those events humbled him, yet I wonder if that could even be possible. One thing I do know is that ego is driven by fear and for that, I feel sad for this individual.
This business is tough, but you don’t have to tear people down.
This work is personal. Not getting an audition, a callback or a role is hard enough. Getting a bad review or tough feedback on a performance over and over again is HARD ENOUGH.
I believe the more people YOU help the better “YOU” you become.
San Antonio isn’t LA, it’s different, way different, but it’s special, very special.
San Antonio didn’t have the room for his ego.
I’m happy to say that with a great mentor who has worked in New York, LA and abroad (ahem) but isn’t an asshole or a huge egomaniac, my one woman show has been successfully produced twice and will tour in the spring. This is much in part to the safe community that he has created of artists who support one another.
My takeaway is that when you are discouraged, find a community of people who support you. Find a community who look for the good in you and your work. Seek a community of people who build you up.
Generosity of spirit, kindness and humility eat ego (fear) for lunch time and time again.