Two posts in one day. I'm like a little kid with a new toy.
One of my call signs as a Navy flyer was MadDog. Aside from the title it has no bearing on this post, except I like the sound of it.
Up until the week before last Thanksgiving, I had never been fired from a job. I've had lots of contracts end, as I was a contract software developer from 1994 until 2004. Most of the time at Microsoft. I was extremely fortunate at Microsoft, in that I always worked for people I got along with, and usually respected and trusted. In the groups I was associated with severe dysfunction was the rule for upper and middle management rather than the exception. Yet, I almost always got to work for the exceptions.
Even so in numerous groups at Microsoft and when I worked at Corbis
I watched morale tank and quipped to a few friends, "I wish I was the first one they let go." I rarely meant it, because my direct managers were so great to work for, and took good care of the people who worked for them. Well, it seems I got my facetious wish this year. Twice.
My last contract at Microsoft started out great. I had two of the best managers I had worked for at Microsoft. Enter a new project manager building an empire, and not much else. As an actor and writer I enjoyed her at first, as a kind of research project. She appears a little older than I, yet wore the clothes and heavy makeup of a junior high girl. Then, she had some words with my manager at a meeting one fine Friday morning in November. She was upset about a project, and in no uncertain terms he pointed out the underlying problem was a lack of accurate or coherent requirements from the project manager. That Sunday evening I got a call my contract was up, and I should pack up my office on Monday. I'd tried to get some direction for the same issues at a later meeting on that same Friday. My questions were misrepresented, a lie or two added, and escalated directly to upper management. It seems I was an easier target than my boss, the senior development manager. Several people showed me the E-mail thread she initiated, and it was skewed in a way I have only experienced in the past when having to deal with heavy substance abusers.
Surprisingly, I was ecstatic. Five years ago I would have been in a rage for months. I cheerily packed out on Monday, just in time to give myself a nice long Thanksgiving holiday. The group was turning sour, and I was giving thanks for my escape. My peers weren't so happy or thankful, and my manager at the time was livid, as he found out in pretty much the same manner as I, one of his direct reports had been summarily dismissed. My peers and both my direct managers found me leads and provided wonderful references, which led directly to a full-time position with Expedia
before I had even started a job search. So here I am at Expedia working in the best group, and for the best company I have ever worked for.
Several months later I accepted a role in a dinner theatre show that was being directed by a friend of a friend, and needed someone right away. It is the first time I have worked on a production and not had any fun. I was miserable.
The obvious practical lessons:
Never accept a role until I've read the script, as it might be a role I am not suited for, or a terrible script. A lot of friends told me "Duh!" on that one.
Don't accept the role unless you really know what the schedule is. Until you work with someone you've no concrete idea of whether they will respect your other commitments.
Be cautious about joining a cast that has worked together on the same show. The two other times I joined ongoing shows were wonderful, so I don't want to limit myself either.
Every choice or offer I tried was at best ignored. That was the source of my misery. I felt humiliated and insulted from the get go. Intellectually I knew no meanness was intended, but it didn't make me feel any better. It felt as though the only goal was to create a caricature in the mold of the previous actor, or some preconceived notion. I have served as a stage manager, assistant director, and technical director, so that bad experience that was critical. While I currently have no desire to direct, when I am assisting or stage managing I don't want to shut down anyone's creativity, and I gained insight into how it could happen.
Sadly, my professionalism broke down. I don't mean that I poisoned the atmosphere, as I maintained a cheery disposition hoping I would grow into it. I wasn't able to do the homework I needed to do in a timely manner. As a professional, albeit a new one, I needed to find a way into the character more quickly. I was finally at a point where I thought I'd figured out a way to do the homework and produce something close to the desired effect, without feeling like a cartoon. The same day the director called to say the previous actor was available after all. I was delighted.
This freed me up for a small role with a director I greatly admire, and have wanted to work with. Vince Brady is originally from England, where he co-founded an equity theatre with Maggie Law, and is currently artistic director and a founder of Exchange Theatre
. I saw his production of Henry V several years ago, and asked him to speak to my Kiwanis club. I was enthusiastic, and he invited me to join the board of directors.
I resigned from the board last September, because I had been accepted in a year long intensive acting program, and simply wouldn't have time to devote to the board. A week ago he asked if I take a non-speaking role in "LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES." It is the perfect role in the perfect situation for me at this time. Something juicy to work on, and a schedule that won't interfere with my training, and a chance to get on the boards. Again, getting sacked was the best thing that could have happened to me, as it provided me with this opportunity.
So I've been sacked twice this year. In both cases it was a big relief, though it stung the ego somewhat. Both sackings also led to much better situations. Maybe I'm being premature. My first rehearsal is this evening...