Friday, May 17, 2013

It's Pat!

I'm reworking my JANE EYRE play because a theater group in Virginia has expressed an interest in producing it.

On the plus side, I'm giving the script some much-needed tightening. One of the critics of the 2008 production complained about the many short scenes. And to a certain extent she was right. On reworking the script I was able to find ways to get rid of some of those two-minute scenes. I did feel a little bad about cutting Grace Poole out entirely (she's still mentioned, but she no longer appears on stage) because she added some color to the show, but it just wasn't worth it to have this character who had a total of six lines of dialog. I got rid of all the other minor servants too.

And let's face facts - people mostly just wanted to see Jane and Rochester together. Anything else was just so much packing peanuts around the real goods of the story.

My favorite change is that I turned the bed-burning scene into a Jane monologue. The important information is still conveyed by the monologue but at a HUGE production cost savings. We built a whole fucking curtained bed just for that scene, not to mention the ill-fated smoke machine - lack of ventilation control in the theater meant the smoke hung around for the next several scenes. And the water-throwing tech just never worked well enough either.

So this reworking is definitely a good thing. Except of course that I'm remembering that 2008 production and so suffering some mild PTSD symptoms over it.

Now I definitely made mistakes during the production. But the PTSD is the result of what I am certain was a deliberate campaign of sabotage against me by a member of the cast. It still stuns me the way almost all the members of the cast turned against me when I was killing myself to make the production work. And while they did have some legitimate complaints there was absolutely no reason for the hostility - I was doing my best for them. And they did get paid unusually well. I know for a fact that plenty of off-off Broadway actors have had to work under much worse conditions than the JANE EYRE 2008 cast had to work under and got paid much much much less for it. Often off-off Broadway actors get paid nothing at all.

And I don't think the hostility would have existed except for the saboteur.

When I tell female friends about this, they never doubt that what I am telling them is true. But male friends are skeptical - why would this woman make an effort to poison other people against me? And the only answer I have at this point is that she did it because she could. And because women sabotage other women all the time in work situations.

This is a well-documented phenomenon. Just google it and see. Although as in this NYTimes article the phenomenon is referred to as bullying, but bullying is generally a much more open, direct form of nastiness. It's been my personal experience that women are much more likely to attack through sneaky, manipulative ways, which is exactly what this particular cast member did. And any doubts I might have had about this woman's character by the end of the 2008 production were utterly erased when I discovered that over the course of the next several years she manipulated people who never met me to engage in a number of personal attacks against me, including apparently a case of defamation.

The absolutely most baffling aspect of being targeted that way was that prior to the sabotage campaign I had never done anything against this person. I won't claim that I ever really liked her - when she declared to me that she was a genius during a casual conversation, apropos of nothing, I knew I was dealing with someone with an unusually high opinion of herself (last time I checked the genius worked full-time as an administrative assistant), but I had no motive to work against her while she was employed by me to act in my play. My motive was to do everything I could to allow the actors to do as well as possible, for all our sakes.

And I will say that my spider-senses were tingling almost from the beginning about this person. But until I had evidence (the smoking gun was the stage manager telling me she was abusive to the stage crew, which confirmed what I already suspected) I was loathe to trust my instincts. Instincts are not evidence.

But since I had experience in work situations with female saboteurs in the past, at least I figured out pretty quickly what was going on.

The first time I was sabotaged I thought I was losing my mind.

I was 19 when I got my first full-time job, working for a natural foods wholesaler. I worked in a warehouse as an order picker. Health food stores would order cases of herbal teas, tofu, etc, and my job was to go around the warehouse or walk-in freezer and find the items each store ordered, collect the specified quantity, and put it on a pallet, where I would write the store code on the boxes in black magic marker. Once the pallet was full someone would use a hand truck to move it to the loading dock where it was loaded onto trucks for delivery.

The other order picker was a woman named Pat, who was maybe 12 years older than me. I can still remember her face clearly - she had thin lips, a pointy slightly upturned nose, wire-frame glasses and her mousy-brown hair was cut in the Dorothy Hammill style. I seem to remember she blinked alot. She was of average intelligence, quiet and utterly dedicated to her job. It was a point of pride for her, to be such a good order picker.

And it turned out, she was a devotee of the Guru Mahara Ji.

I don't know if her being a member of a religious cult had any bearing on anything, but the actor I mentioned earlier was not only a Christian but a Christian missionary, she claimed, so I do have to wonder.

Anyway, I wanted to be an illustrator at the time. I had no desire to devote my life to being an order picker. But I certainly wanted to do an effective job of order picking. And I did fine at first.

But then something happened to me, it seemed. The truck drivers would come back to the warehouse claiming that they were missing cases that I was supposed to have picked. So I tried to be better at checking quantities. And some days nothing went wrong. But it happened at least once a week that I would be responsible for a quantity error.

I thought I was losing my mind.

And then one day, right before I quit, I was picking orders in a back section of the warehouse when I came upon a small stack of boxes from an order that I had mis-picked the day before. Except of course I didn't mis-pick them. All the boxes had the store codes written on them in black magic marker in my handwriting which meant that the order had been loaded on the pallet. So what that meant was that when I walked away from the pallet to pick more items, that asshole was grabbing some of my boxes and tossing them away. Just like that.

Why did she do it? Because she could.

Now of course I have my theories about it. My leading theory is that this woman had very little going for her, which is why she devoted her life to the Guru Mahara Ji and the only thing she really had to be proud of was that she was a good order picker. If I was also a good order picker it meant that she was no longer special. She had to make me look like a bad order picker.

But I have no way of knowing if I'm right. All I know for sure is that I have evidence that this woman was deliberately sabotaging me. But until the evidence was staring me right in the face, it never occurred to me that this woman was sabotaging me - because it would never occur to me to sabotage anybody.

These days I would immediately suspect sabotage, because I've been around the block a few times since I was 19. You've heard the saying: sadder but wiser.