Empty chair
Type
Article
Category
Sexism
Theatre

Scenes from the life of a theatre watchdog

2013 Thigh Monster

Working With Children Checks are as easy as buying something from Coles. Ba-da-bing-ba-da-boom: you’re child-proof and safe to be around.

I was involved in a no-budget community theatre play in the west. He was a cast member in his sixties. I was twenty-three. He’d put his hand on my thigh, on my back, give me hugs and the only other female in the cast, a thirteen-year-old, agreed – he was handsy. I gathered the cast and crew and told them I was afraid of being touched completely. I did this so I wouldn’t have to confront Old Man about him making me feel uncomfortable. Everyone offered me a hug (the fucking irony) except the Old Man. Old Man gave me the silent treatment. During that show he cried during the scene when his character apologised to mine, something he’d never done before. I ended up telling the other two male cast members who offered no words of advice. Old Man told on me (‘They’re talking about me behind my back!’). So I told on Old Man. Stage Manager said I was over-reacting. Director cried and cried when Old Man walked out.

 

2017 The R Word

My mentee told me that her drama teacher repeatedly yelled the word ‘Rape!’ to one of her fellow classmates during a monologue. To make her cry.

 

2013 Feelings

My drama teacher yelled (I don’t remember what) at a classmate during her monologue until she cried then yelled out ‘Finally! You’re feeling what the character is feeling!’ she replied back ‘No, I’m not! I’m just feeling a lot of pressure’.

Part 2: The same teacher dislocated my classmate’s shoulder trying to get him angry. He needed an ambulance and, probably, therapy.

 

2016 Hunter

A Male Drama Teacher used the term ‘Paki Hunters’ to describe two characters with London accents. We were working on an accent project where we took real audio dialogue and performed it verbatim. The Male Drama Teacher was enjoying the work of my classmates and it came out as complimentary. I wanted to voice how uncomfortable it made me and brought it up in a meeting a few weeks later.

Andrea: ‘I want to bring up the incident between…’

Male Drama Teacher: ‘Lets see how you can learn from this … let’s be productive … do you have any questions?’

Andrea: ‘No I don’t have any questions I just wanted to express…’

Male Drama Teacher: ‘It’s not your job to police us. You’re not our watchdog. ’

 

2014 Student Housing

I travelled to study drama for a year and lived in student housing. I had a really noisy roommate and I confronted him a few too many times. He started spreading rumours about me. Except they weren’t even proper rumours. He couldn’t be bothered with a narrative. He just said I was a bitch and because he was the Patriarch of our acting company everyone fell in line. I already had no friends and after that I felt I had even less. I expressed to my nineteen-year-old dorm leader that I was feeling bullied, which was a fucking lowlight of my life, and she wanted to organise a time to get coffee with him. She said she could be there too. I had to change housing.

Part 2: I woke up bleeding from my ears and tried to wake her up to drive me to the hospital but she yelled at me through the doors to ‘Go Away!’. She later told me she thought I was drunk. I guess because of all the sobbing.

Part 3: Before I left that housing I got drunk and threw up all over the communal space. I had to pay $200+ in carpet cleaning.

 

2018 Toxic, death!

It was the next day after those asbestos aka toxic death clouds erupted over Footscray. Alright, they weren’t toxic but they looked pretty fucking bad on TV. I had rehearsals right near there and the director insisted I attend after numerous refusals. I went to go see Crazy Rich Asians instead.

 

2019 Did you hear something?

We had to cancel the opening night of a show because I’d been offered a gig in a different state. This upset my forty-year-old male cast mate and he began ignoring me – off stage, completely and on stage, as much as he could. I felt like an idiot doing a whole scene with someone who was trying their hardest not to look at me. The writer of the play suggested I make time to have a coffee with him. Sound familiar?

 

2017 SP

I WAS HAVING NIGHTMARES EVERY NIGHT AND THE FEAR OF THEM WAS PARALYSING. THIS WAS DURING REHEARSAL AND PERFORMANCE WEEK OF A THREE-HOUR SHOW, SOMETIMES TWO SHOWS IN ONE DAY. I WAS SCARED I WAS GOING TO PASS OUT FROM LACK OF SLEEP. I COULDN’T REMEMBER MY LINES, I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT WAS REAL. I FELT LIKE I WAS GOING TO DIE.

 

2016 ‘Shave, bitch!’

My scene-partner and I were doing that scene from Who’s Afraid of the Working Class? The day before the show he tells me that ‘the sex workers his character would pay for would shave’. That is the last time I will ever shave to make up for somebody’s bad acting abilities.

 

2016–2019 and probably tomorrow too

In the office of a drama teacher, she tells me: ‘You have the body of an old lady.’

 

 

Image: Flickr

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Andrea is a Salvadorean actor-writer from Melbourne. She is the co-recipient of the 2018 Emerging Writers Award and was recently a guest speaker at A Raven, A Desk – a storytelling event on mental health and disability as part of the 2019 Emerging Writers Festival. Upcoming acting roles include Her Hour Upon The Stage at The Butterfly Club and a feature in SAFIA's new music video Runaway.

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