Tuesday, July 20, 2004


Well, although publicly bad-mouthing another theatre company is considered to be bad juju, I think this merits it. A friend of mine sent this to me after having a pretty shitty experience at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival (fortunately, she had enough $$$ to return home). I keep forgetting that there are just some genuinely scummy people working in this field.

We Don't Strand People in Canada: THAT'S the Nosedive Promise!



“I write you from a house in Winnipeg, Manitoba. I came here for the Fringe Festival, on a show I auditioned for a week and a half prior. I was too trusting. I left my new job, subletted my Brooklyn apartment for the summer, to begin a fringe theater festival tour, which promised bookings in Winnipeg, Minneapolis and Dublin.


“Yesterday we had our 4th show, which had an audience of 5 in a 286 seat house. The problem? When we arrived here, we realized that the ‘artistic director’ had not brought a single poster, flyer, postcard, press kit or program. When we said we wanted flyers, he and his partner acted like it had never occurred to them. We were encouraged to focus on "the art", while we practically waded through thousands of flyers for other shows that virtually filled the streets of Winnipeg! (And for those of you that know me, you know that I don't get speeches about focusing on the art, I give them.) The festival was pissed,
because the company had falsified information about specs, in order to get a great venue in the festival, but then didn't care about filling it.

“The long and the short of it, the Fringe suggested Jaime (the ‘co-artistic director’ and ‘lead actor’) pull the plug on the show, but rather than discussing it with the actors, he booked an airline ticket, cancelled the show, and skipped town, discussing nothing with any of us, and leaving all of us to figure out how we're getting back. It's pretty clear that there will be no stipend either.

“I'm staying with a lovely Canadian woman named Ruth, and given that I have no job, and no place to live in New York, I am returning home for a couple of weeks, then heading to Cali for a vaca. The festival is only half-way over, I'm going to volunteer (this is a great festival, if you ever have the opportunity to come up here do it, but not without a contract!)

“Please take this moment to visit the Firebrand Theory Theater Company's website:

“It's so important that we stick together, in this business especially when we're taken advantage of. Right now, I feel pretty powerless, but I do have the power of word of mouth.

“Please visit the site, make note of the names (they're out of the Gene Frankel theater), and watch out for it on backstage.

“Warn your friends, and beware: they are not legit.”


This will be a vague and tangential response (as most of my responses to other ‘blogs being vague and tangential) to Patrick’s Philucifer ‘blog (I know these things are all about anonymity, but let’s get real here. If you’re reading this, you know who Philucifer is).

There really are a number of people in this film and theatre world who doesn’t take their craft seriously, yet insist on being taken seriously by others.

This actress from Utah wanted to be taken seriously. I’m a bit amazed that she thought she would.

I agree with Philucifer (obviously); if you have a very timid and close-minded ideology, you shouldn’t act. Or write. Or direct. In my view, an actor who says that they refuse to say certain words or play certain roles is kind of like a dentist who says that he’s not going to deal with people with gum disease.

I also find it fraudulent and cowardly to refuse to do certain things as an actor* because “it may damage their career.” Well, isn’t that really the point? I mean, how can you consider yourself a good ANYTHING unless you dare to take more than just calculated risks, but risks that could ruin you? If you’re not afraid of completely destroying your reputation, you’re a hack.

I remember seeing Tarantino being interviewed by Charlie Rose, and they were talking about a filmmaker Tarantino admired (I’ll omit his name because, personally, I find said filmmaker to be a hack, and I don’t want to undermine the point, so let’s call the filmmaker “Ricky”). Rose had asked Tarantino if a critical and commercial disaster Ricky made proved that Ricky was a hack. Tarantino’s reply was: “Hacks don’t go that far. Hacks don’t fail that spectacularly.” That always stuck with me.

In a lot of ways, you see the greatness of Shakespeare by seeing or reading some of his horrifically awful plays (“Titus Andronicus,” anyone? I defy any playwright to write something that awful; I wish I could). I often admire very ambitious failures.

Many actors reading this may be saying, “But, James, that’s not fair. You’re a writer. You get to control and create your projects. We, as actors, are stuck with OTHER people’s projects, and at the mercy of others.” For those of you out there who are thinking that, I do have to say: grow up, get over it. Or stop acting. Seriously; it’s not like there’s a shortage of actors. That attitude, to me, is completely invalid and I’m totally unsympathetic to it. You chose the craft, deal with the pros and the cons. If you take your craft seriously, then, go whole-hog with each project you accept. If the director and/or writer are/is incompetent, still do everything to make it what they want. That way, even if you’re in an embarrassing show, you can feel good about yourself and your craft.

And know you’re not a hack.

(Tangent: I’m amazed that the actors who always have this complaint are often reticent to accept a role in an experimental work but consider it winning the jackpot if they land a role as Neighbor #6 in some shitty Julia Roberts “meet cute” romantic comedy.)

Being a TV repairman is not a profession that allows for bravery or experimentation. Being an actor, playwright, director or designer is. If you want a profession that requires steadiness, stability and livable and consistent income, go into TV repair. You’re never going to be required to do something that may conflict with your (close-minded) ideology.

Ruining his own life,

James “Walking Career-Killer” Comtois

July 20, 2004

*And by “certain things,” I don’t mean upstaging Divine in “Pink Flamingos,” people. But then again, I don’t think anyone would describe Divine as a hack.


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