Originally posted: June 15, 2017
I’m a bit late commenting on this, as by the time I was made aware of the Intermission article*, I became a father to a beautiful little boy. I had all this in my back pocket between sleepless nights and diaper changes. So yeah, there is hope after GB.
Considering the socio-political climate we live in (cough cough President of the United States, cough cough Ghomeshi), a so-called liberal environment such as live theatre is not free of the shackles of misogyny and emotional abuse. This in turn most likely accounts for some people’s brash refusal to believe the victims making themselves heard. Deniers need to check their privilege.
And speaking of privilege, I was just your average straight white male at GBC from 2002-2005. So I never received any abuse on a gender-driven level, and because of my tender age – coming straight outta high school – I wasn’t aware of the concept of ‘speaking out’ and ‘standing up’. Unfortunately, everything I saw came back to me in retrospect.
If you don’t mind, some observations on my experience. I credit Patrick for waking this up in me – I fucking love you, man.
1. I suffered through a terrible depression at the beginning of second year. I lost a live-in relationship and self-medicated with food, thus gaining lots of weight. Things were bleak, but I found the gruelling second year schedule beneficial to my ‘working through the pain’; in other words, it kept me too busy to remember how numb I am to everything else. During this time, I had some amazing classmates who stayed up at night with me on the phone. However, with the exception of a kind hearted voice teacher who was a joy to be around, not one instructor reached out. I’m not expecting special treatment here, but seeing that the classes are so intimate, I was surprised that the core faculty didn’t ask if everything was going smoothly. Only at my Christmas second year report card did the Artistic Director write “you seemed sad this year. Are you okay?” Very academic and helpful response (more on the report cards later). On second thought, we went through so many of those bullshit ‘therapy’ exercises and circles that I should be entitled to some support.
2. One instructor… for avoiding slander purposes let’s just call him, oh, I don’t know, Francis Flute. Anyway, at the end of third year, I was on the mend for my depression thanks to some rigorous work in the summer and a clearer schedule during that semester. Francis Flute approaches me in the hallway and asks “Robin, have you lost weight”? I answered “yeah”. He leans in and whispers playfully to me: “We LIKE that here at George Brown.” After that, I went to the variety store and ate a bag of Smartfood to spite him. It made me wonder why some of our bigger (and brilliant) actors got Fs in classes like movement.
3. On the subject of useless report cards: our guest instructor – I can’t remember what she did exactly – wrote that I should “get out of Stratford” (where I did most of my growing up) and insinuated that I was a bit white trash. It wasn’t until she found out that I came from a relatively famous theatre family that she was nice to me after. Yay! Nepotism!
4. My cousin was shot and killed randomly in Gastown, Vancouver. This came during Period Study. I was too scared to attend her memorial because I didn’t want to fail.
5. A so-called famous and celebrated agent, who happened to be my aunt’s agent, came into our class and gave us a talk about the biz. We all came from movement class or something, wearing our sweats. She barked out from her throne “it would have been nice if you all wore some makeup” or something to that effect. Then, one of our students, a First Nations woman who is now a respected and damned talented playwright, asked about the future of major theatres and their hiring trends for POC; i.e. why is the Stratford Festival so white? She brushed off the comment and said “we can all be as politically correct as we want, but there’s no need to force minorities into classical theatre.” I was stunned and too chickenshit to say anything. I regret not speaking out to this day.
And yeah, our acting teacher was insecure and kind of a prick. My issue when I left theatre is that there isn’t enough critical thinking and activism. It’s places like George Brown that exacerbate this problem.
Anyway, if anyone wants to talk to me, I’d love to help make sure that future students don’t deal with this ever again. I don’t work in theatre anymore, so I don’t give a shit about my reputation. All of you, especially the women here, please keep speaking out. Don’t let their intimidation get to you.