Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cue Bette Midler: "You don't own me"

I’m a great believer in transparency when it comes to issues of ethics. That is one of the reasons I have this blog. It gives me the opportunity to talk about issues surrounding theater and the coverage of theater.

What I am about to write next applies to very few people in this community. The vast majority of the arts community in Lansing is populated with individuals I am honored to be associated with. They are people who enrich those around them through their art. They are amazing, generous, and brilliant individuals. I have many times expressed my love for this community because it is truly filled with dynamic, caring, and talented people whose diverse individuality make Lansing a wonderful place to live. What I am about to write is something 98% of this community would wonder why I even find it necessary to state the obvious. To those folks reading this, I apologize. I also thank you for not treating me the way I am about to describe.

For all that I believe in transparency, that does not mean that I believe I have to share everything about myself. There are some explanations that I don’t owe anyone because they are of a personal nature that has nothing to do with my ability to cover the theater community. Even more important, my covering the local arts community does not mean that the community owns me any more than I own it. We are wayfarers with similar destinations, but how we take the journey is for each of us to determine.

Setting Boundaries: "I'm not one of your little toys"

So allow me to set a few boundaries for those few who need it. You don’t get to dictate what I see and what I don’t see. You can choose to take it personally if you wish, but you don’t get to tell me how I spend my time. You don’t get to tell me which shows I have to see or that I have to see each group’s show in even amounts. You don’t get to tell me the type and quantity of experience that I need to have in order to cover you—only my editor gets to do that. You don't get to tell me who I can write for and who I can't. You don't get to tell me what I'm allowed to write and what I can't. In truth, the second amendment gives you the right to say all those things, but I don’t have to listen and from now on, I won’t.

You are welcome to pass whatever judgment on my character that you wish. I couldn’t stop you anyway nor do I have any desire to. However, I also don’t have to be subjected to your tirades and I choose not to.
You don’t get to tell my husband what he can and cannot do. You don’t have the power or the right to tell us that one of us must choose a career and the other must drop it. You don’t get to tell me who I’m “allowed” to be friends with and who I must not be friends with.

You Probably Don't Own the Media Either

Also, while this may disappoint some people, I must advise that no newspaper is required to cover you. They aren’t required to give you equal coverage. They aren’t required to have a single policy which equally spreads coverage around. Their obligation isn’t to you. Their obligation is to their readers (though, nowadays, most newspaper executives would say their obligation is to their shareholders). If you want to be covered, then make a compelling case to the media as to why you ought to be covered. If you simply say, “I’m here and I’m doing something,” well, not too many editors or readers are going to find that compelling. You’ll fare even worse if you say, “You covered this exact same thing when another organization did it.” Telling a newspaper that they need to be redundant in these days of reduced news hole isn’t going to get you very far. Their response will be—“we already told that story.”

If you want the newspaper to cover you, tell its editors why your story matters to their readers. Tell them why it will appeal to a broad group of people. Tell them what makes it compelling and what makes it different. Tell them how it will make a difference in people’s lives. If you can’t do that, don’t be surprised that they don’t jump when you say boo. Don’t be surprised when they are merely bemused at your attempts to tell them how to run their business.

I'll talk, talk, talk about it

I welcome discussions of anything I write—I relish passionate debate on issues, debate that challenges word choices, that examines ideas. Tell me what I've written is wrong and why. Who I am as a person is not up for debate or discussion. At least, it isn’t with me. You can have whatever conversations about me that you want with other people, though I am not so egotistical as to think that I am very frequently a topic of gossip. I will not discuss my personal life choices (including how I spend my personal time) with you simply because you think that I ought. Nor will I engage in debate with you about me as a person.

I’ll gladly discuss journalism, theater, the arts, and the Lansing community with anyone who is interested. However, I’m still old-fashioned about manners. I will treat you courteously and I will expect the same in return. If you abuse me or attack me personally, I will cut off any future dialogue with you that isn’t strictly professional. I’ll do my job and cover you when you do something newsworthy. I’ll be as objective and fair as possible when I review you. I will not, though, allow you to threaten my health or well-being by tolerating abusive behavior. I won’t bear you ill will, for I have no desire to poison my outlook or become cynical about people in general. I will, though, refuse to allow you any further access to me than what is strictly necessary.

Celebrating Everyone Else

The real advantage to cutting abusive people out of one’s life is that you are able to be more open to the vast majority of people who are not. By refusing to engage with people who make unhealthy choices in their dealings with others, I have more time and energy to engage with everyone else. Once again, I will express gratitude that so few people need to be told what has been written here.  

Friday, September 17, 2010

Twelfth Night: The Shakespeare Club

One of many reasons that I haven't been writing here is that I've been helping Waverly High School by writing their fall play (it opens in a month, and no, I'm not done with the script yet). To go along with the play, I'm putting together a rehearsal blog to provide dramaturgy on not just Shakespeare but the plays time setting--the 1980s (which you already figured out from the subtitle, right? If not, your hint is: Scrambled eggs and bacon.

If you'd like to read my theater writing over there, the link is

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

*cough, cough*

Hi! Still here. Still recovering. Will write more once things are on a more even keel.