Please Keep the Drama Onstage, Not Backstage

Please Keep the Drama Onstage, Not Backstage

Anthony J. Piccione

At the time in which I am writing this column, we are now around the time of the season in which many local theatre productions have just opened, or perhaps are approaching opening night within the next week or so. As always, there tends to be a mixture of both excitement and anxiety among all those involved. I know I’m not alone when I say that I’ve have experienced these feelings in the lead-up to shows, on many occasions.

However, this also tends to be the time of year when one of the more unfortunate parts of being part of a large cast or crew tends to rear its ugly head. It’s when we are most likely to see something that occurs far too frequently, but for the sake of both ourselves and our art, would ideally occur far less often.

I’m talking, of course, about backstage drama.

You see, there are two types of drama in my life, and in the lives of many other people that have been doing theatre, as well:

There is the good kind of drama, which refers to the literature that many of us seek to transform into live theatre.

Then, there is the bad kind of drama, which refers to the reality of what goes on backstage during rehearsals, and even during performances.

All too often have I noticed people making rude or disrespectful comments about each other behind their backs, turning some theatre people against others, and generally speaking, making it far more stressful during the lead-up to opening night. One could argue that for some productions at some theaters, this is more likely to be the topic of discussion among actors than the production – or theatre, in general – itself, and few things make me sadder than that.

I never liked being part of it – or being a witness to it – and I have gradually become less likely to understand it, either, as I get older. Indeed, I’ll admit that as a teenager, I myself have been guilty of contributing to this drama.

Today, however, I would love nothing more than to try and make up for it by starting a conversation about this topic, and figuring out how to make it happen with less frequency, at least assuming that making it disappear completely is unrealistic.

The fact of the matter is that many of us go into this community with a variety of different backgrounds, experiences and personalities. However, what we all have in common is that we all love and appreciate the beautiful art of theatre, in a way that not too many other people truly do. If we could all just try to be friends – while maybe using that one thing we have in common, as a starting point – then maybe it would be much easier for us to get along and accept each other for any other differences we may have, thus decreasing the amount of this backstage bickering that I refer to.

Perhaps I’m just being a little naive, and I don’t presume to have all the answers on how to fix what I consider to be an extremely prevalent issue. However, as many local theatre people reading this approach tech week or opening night for their shows, I hope that this is something that maybe they’ll start to think about more often, to try and make putting on a show a far more pleasant experience for everyone involved.

Personally, I think that it would be much better if we could make that happen, for as much as I love and enjoy being involved in shows, I think it would be far more enjoyable for all of us, if only we could spend more time focusing on the drama that occurs onstage, and little to no time focusing on any drama that could occur backstage.

This column was written by Anthony J. Piccione: Playwright, producer, screenwriter, actor, poet and essayist currently based in Connecticut. To learn more about Mr. Piccione and his work, please visit his personal blog at www.anthonyjpiccione.tumblr.com. Also, be sure to like him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AnthonyJPiccione.OfficialPage), follow him on Twitter (@A_J_Piccione) and view his work on the New Play Exchange (www.newplayexchange.org/users/903/anthony-j-piccione). Photo: Sarah Lawrence

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