Allison Page= iron fist in iron glove.
We’ve all been there: you’re working on a show (any end of it) and you’re feeling disgruntled, dissatisfied, and generally like a big old grouch, but you don’t feel like you can say anything. It’s not your place. No one wants your opinion. They want to rule from the top of a mountain covered with statues of their own faces cast in gold. You’re not in charge. Who cares what you think? So then you wait until the show is over, or until you’ve left the company, to bad-mouth everybody responsible for what you see as the downfall of a production or organization.
Leadership positions in arts organizations are weird. Well, leadership positions in any situation have the potential to get weird. Of course, if you’re happy to have people not tell you the truth, then it’s fine. There are all kinds of places I’ve worked (both in theater and other places) where no one was truthful with the people in charge for fear of getting fired, never being cast again, or just having someone be angry at them. But generally speaking, honesty is the best policy, right? Especially if you actually give a shit if your co-conspirators are happy with what they’re doing.
So, as someone who finds themselves in a position of authority in a company full of comedians, how do I get people to tell me truth – as that is something that I foolishly desire? How do I convince them that I really want to know what they feel is working and what is not, and that if they disagree with me I’m not going to tar and/or feather them, or throw them to the rabid dogs, or publicly mock them in a well-attended Comedy Central Roast that isn’t actually on Comedy Central but just happens in my studio apartment?
I’ve been just straight up asking people pointed questions, but it was posed to me that it’s possible that even though I’m doing that, someone may not feel like they can actually give me an honest real answer, and that I’m just looking to hear what I want to hear. Which, to me, seems ridiculous. But I guess people are ridiculous anyway.
So I made an anonymous survey for people to fill out, prompting them to be as honest as possible with no consequences. We’ll see how that goes. It’s interesting that going from being on an even playing field with everyone, to being in a position to make this call or that call, starts to change how other people see you. I feel the same as I always have. I have really strong opinions about what kind of art I want to make, and how I want to make it. But I want other people to have their strong opinions too, and then we can work together to figure out how best to achieve our goals. I guess it’ll take some time for everyone to get used to how our ship is being sailed, but ultimately I want them to know that they’re sailing just as much as I am. Because sometimes I’m only scrubbing the poop deck.
I want to be the kind of leader that I would like to have lead me: passionate, deliberate, someone with a strong vision, but who will listen to the input of others. I don’t want to be the kind of leader with a high turnover rate. If your crew isn’t with you, sailing is going to be pretty hard. I’m not interested in having a mutiny on my hands – wow, it really sounds like I want to go sailing. Someone get me a boat and fill it with comedians.
Allison Page is the Co-Creative Director of Killing My Lobster. You can hear her talk about how she’s changing the way their shows are made at http://pianofight.com/bornready/born-ready-ep-5-being-a-derelict-w-allison-page/ You can also follow her on Twitter @allisonlynnpage