Theatre, Not Drama

Burlesque vs. Tragedy

Master_Nick-2015-SideshowI spent several of my formative years around the theatre, and from it picked up a particular work ethic. One of my strongest beliefs is that The Show Must Go On. Another guiding principal, one I’ve come to on my own through hard-earned experience, is Theatre, Not Drama.

Drama in this context is an explosive overreaction to exaggerated or outright imagined issues. That sort of drama can be a true detriment to a show if one succumbs to its madness.

Of late I’ve been deluged with drama which threatened over and over again to destroy my latest show, a burlesque revival of my Sadistic Sideshow, a production devised not only to entertain, but to raise awareness of the abuse of circus animals.

I’ll give a bit of back story. (There’s a lot to tell, so settle in!) Over a year ago, my sweetie founded a burlesque troupe. Her work for the troupe barely ever paused long enough for her to sleep. Dancing and costuming are both work, but for she who runs a troupe, these are just the visible peaks of a very deep iceberg. Landing a venue requires work. Coordinating with the sound engineer is work. Addressing the never-ending concerns of more than ten dancers is work. One really could go on and on, but let’s move on to the next point. Running a troupe is expensive. As ever, for the founder and artistic director, there’s more than just costuming to consider. Renting a venue is expensive. Paying the sound engineer is expensive. Renting tables and chairs, (for such venues which were inadequately equipped,) is expensive. Again, I could go on. Suffice to say that the vast majority of what the troupe’s founder spent out of pocket did not come back to her. Running her burlesque troupe was a costly, exhausting labor of love.

Then came a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Changing the name to protect the guilty, let’s call her the upstart, the usurper, and Ms. Iago Claudius for her habit of at least figuratively pouring poison in people’s ear. The upstart demanded an undue degree of power in the founder’s troupe. The usurper took issue with the founder having funds for necessities like groceries or rent, (despite the founder’s aforementioned great personal expenditures on the troupe.) The founder’s unceasing work was dismissed, alleged to be nonexistent. Ms. Iago even painted the founder as some sort of physical threat, expressing undue fears of a woman in her forties with a bad hip.

Suffering both private whispering and outrageous public smear campaigns, the founder was driven heartbroken away from her own creation.

Skip forward to the Sadistic Sideshow.

ringmaster-roberts-censored.jpgThis one wasn’t my sweetie’s production. ‘Twas a revival of my own show, one I’d originally wrote and directed in 2007. Yet the founder of the now defunct burlesque troupe offered a great deal of assistance in my production. She’s just that dedicated to the arts. (She’s even founded a new revue, because even after all she’s endured, she believes as I do that The Show Must Go On.)

Ms. Iago dictated that those who work with us would not be permitted to work in her own upstart productions. Alas, such threats hold power in this small community. She bled away as many of our cast and crew members as she could sway with her bullying and poison tongue.

Putting any show together is already an uphill battle, especially at the height of flu season. Between the Sideshow dancers and their families, many were under the weather and in some cases, like that of my sweetie’s father, even hospitalized. I myself could barely breath, sleep, or speak with this ongoing throat and sinus issue. Yet even if we hadn’t faced such challenges, the usurper’s attempts to sabotage the Sideshow were downright unconscionable.

Despite it all, we persevered! Appearing with me on stage, our core group of dancers displayed a loyalty and professionalism that lightens the heart, especially impressive in the face of Ms. Iago’s malignant influence.

Master_Nick-Jan-2015-StarliteAfter the performance, I spent the rest of evening tending my art display, when lo and behold, who should disrupt my work and my peace but the upstart, the usurper, Ms. Iago. She told me that she never smeared my sweetie, then in the very next breath, repeated a great many of the skewed tales she’d already employed to besmirch my sweetie’s good name. I’m in a unique position to know better, yet no other perspective could penetrate the usurper’s hateful, cynical view. The greatest shame is that this Iago’s ability to sway the unwary comes from her actually believing her own nonsense. Perhaps I’m too optimistic, never liking to believe that someone lies intentionally, but my impression is that the usurper has some tragically distorted filters on her perceptions. I can pity her, but I will have nothing more to do with one who interrupts me at my work and bashes one near and dear to me.

Perhaps, in posting this account, it may seem that I’ve given in to drama after all. Though there may be an element of venting, I am countering distortions with accuracy. Further, despite the usurper’s attempts to drain my cast and crew, I’m proud to say that we demonstrated our dedication to theatre over drama. The Show Must Go On, and so it did. And despite the usurper bringing so much stress to a frame already much under the weather, I have yet another exhibition running now and through the next two weeks. That Show Must Go On, and so it does.

One last important note, to forestall any confusion. Neither I nor my cast and crew is involved in an upcoming Freakshow event, which – ahem – “coincidentally” comes just after the usurper has drained the more malleable performers away from my Sideshow revival, and after they’d been privy to our script and inner workings. At least one of our dedicated dancers is pictured in their promotional material, but again, is not actually part of their show. It may be naive of me to expect truth in advertising, but I can at least correct mistakes when I see them.

Dancers who have shown great dedication and professionalism will be featured in my sweetie’s upcoming revue. Tried and true artists won’t be kept down, for they know as I do that The Show Must Go On!

Stay tuned for news!
Master Nick Roberts 2015

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