Anthony J. Piccione
Quite often in theatre, we have the chance to meet some of the best people that we’ll ever meet in our lives. Some of them tend to become very close friends whom you spend lots of good times with outside of rehearsals and performances, and whose company you’ll enjoy for the rest of your lives. Then, there are the less fortunate times when people who you meet in theatre aren’t who you think they are. The times when you might realize that you’ve trusted someone too much, and later come to regret it.
I’m talking, of course, about when someone you meet in theatre turns their back and suddenly does something to hurt you, without warning.
I’ve seen and observed plenty of examples of such situations that have occurred during my teen and young adult years in theatre, and those are often the memories that I try to overlook, even if reflections on more recent events in my life have caused me to reflect on those memories, as well. Sometimes, such a situation could involve a close childhood friend whom you realize isn’t the same person that he was when he was younger. Other times, it could be a romantic relationship that ends in an extremely sour manner. Perhaps it could even be something that happens with a coworker, that could not only affect the future success of a production, but the life or death of an entire theatre company itself. (I’ve seen that happen before too, yes.)
I could on and on with examples, and go into detail about each of them, but I’m sure you get the picture, at this point. As I’ve indicated in past columns, one of the more unfortunate occurrences that are far too frequent in theatre – especially at the community and educational levels – are the inability of some to keep offstage drama away from the onstage drama, and how this can often have a toxic and emotionally-draining effect not just on the people involved, but on the people surrounding those individuals.
In my case, it comes from someone who I once considered to be the best friend I ever made during my community theatre days in Connecticut. I’d performed alongside him in four shows, went to see multiple shows and movies with him, and eventually, he had become one of the few people with whom I thought I could trust with some of the most confidential aspects of my personal life. Then, when I least expected it, this person goes behind my back and attempts - I suspect had been for very selfish and sick reasons, to put it kindly – to subtly sabotage my personal relationships with other individuals whom I had just been getting to know.
In hindsight, I probably was initially more forgiving of this person that I ought to have been, but over the course of the next year – after this person proceeded to then behave publicly as if we’ve never even been friends at all, while continuing to show little to no regret over what they did – I slowly realized that this was a trojan horse who I needed to cut out of my life. Part of me still feels sad about that, but when I look back on what he did last year, I am reminded that – for the sake of my own personal well-being, if nothing else – I did the right thing.
There’s nothing like placing your trust and your confidence in someone who you once considered to be one of the best friends you’ve ever had, only to have them do something that leaves a potentially negative impact on the rest of your personal life outside of your relationship with him. Whether it’s out of malice, jealously or even sheer ignorance, there’s no excuse for betraying the trust and loyalty of someone who tried their best to be as good of a friend as possible to them, in return.
I wouldn’t be taking the time to write an entire column about this subject if I didn’t think there were many other people out there who’ve also felt similarly in situations that aren’t all too different from my own. It’s those people out there for whom I wanted to share these thoughts, so that they know that they are not alone, and that these situations are merely unfortunate speedbumps along the way, as you continue your journey as an artist in theatre.
So here’s the best advice I can give to those people who may be reading this: If there’s someone in your life who you feel has become more of a force of negativity that positivity in your life, don’t be afraid let them go. It’s not always easy to admit that someone isn’t who they once were, but when you do, you’ll feel much better for it.
Carol Burnett once famously said “Only I change my life. No one can do it for me.” As cliché as it might sound, truer words about one’s path and decisions in life couldn’t be spoken, and it includes the personal relationships you decide to keep or cut loose in your life. While theatre certainly depends on being an ensemble effort, it also depends on whether the individuals are enjoying a life free from stress and off-stage drama. So please, take this as a chance to cut toxic ties from your life, let go of the people who hurt you when you least expected, and look forward toward a better life. By the time you get to that point of true happiness, who knows? Perhaps the people who hurt you will find themselves wishing maybe they hadn’t done what they did to you, and perhaps you’ll find yourself pondering how to respond…
Oh, and one last bit of advice: Be sure to remember the names of anyone – in theatre or elsewhere – who is a consistently loyal, caring and trustworthy person in your life, because those are the people who really matter. I try my best to do that, and I believe all others should, as well…
Anthony J. Piccione is a playwright, producer, screenwriter, activist, essayist, critic, poet and occasional actor based in New York City. His plays have previously been produced in NYC at various theaters and festivals such as the Midtown International Theatre Festival, the NYWinterfest and Manhattan Repertory Theatre, as well as Connecticut venues such as Playhouse on Park, Hole in the Wall Theater, the Windsor Art Center and Windham Theatre Guild. Additionally, his one-act play “Ebol-A-Rama” was recently published this year by Heuer Publishing (www.hitplays.com), and he has also previously worked as a teaching assistant at Hartford Children’s Theatre and New Britain Youth Theater, in addition to his work with OnStage Blog. He received his BA in Theatre from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2016, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild. To learn more about Mr. Piccione’s recent and upcoming productions, please visit www.anthonyjpiccione.com and be sure to follow him on Facebook (www.facebook.com/AnthonyJPiccione.OfficialPage), Twitter (@A_J_Piccione) and Instagram (anthonyjpiccione).
Photo: Lee Adlaf