During the run of Festival, I didn't get a chance to update my blog all that often. And because of that, I never got to share one of the most amazing stories of the season with all of you.
I have mentioned that I work with performers. For the most part, they are fantastic. I consider many of them friends. But there are 350 of them, and in a crowd that large, there are bound to be issues. There are always whiners, always asking why things can't change, but never grasping the scope of the Festival as a whole. The 'problem children' as I jokingly call them, who turn in their paperwork mere hours before the gates open. And, worst of all, the people who are truly helpful and kind, but really need more money that isn't in our budget. Three seasons of this had worn me down. I was burnt out, and doubting I would ever return to this position.
And then Opening Day happened. A performer became irate with me over an issue that should have been dealt with ahead of time. Instead, I found myself calmly repeating the words, "I cannot take care of it today, but I will fix it before next weekend," while said performer proceeded to cuss me out at top volume. His face was so close to mine that I could feel the spittle landing on my cheeks. I strove to keep calm.
Then, he said the words I could not ignore, "You are just a bitch. You've always been a bitch, and that's all you'll ever be."
Let me back up a moment and talk of all the hours I had put in over the past three seasons trying to make sure that this performer's contract was acceptable. All of the effort I put into trying to help find him a carpool, since he lives an hour away. All of the conversations I had with him to help mediate issues he was having with other performers, always giving him the benefit of the doubt. All of that work and kindness repaid with one word: Bitch.
I turned on my heel and walked away, needing a few moments to clear my head, trying desperately not to respond with the anger that had boiled up, and was about to spill over. I quickly found my boss and explained what had happened, and asked if I was out of line to fire him. My boss said that it was absolutely within my power to fire him, and that I should do so, if I felt the need.
I marched back, two of my performers flanking me, trying to prevent the fire they could see behind my eyes from getting the better of me. And I fired that nasty, thankless, ungrateful jerk right there. He continued to scream at me, the cussing becoming more and more intense as I asked him again and again to leave, striving not to respond when he pushed me. At one point, I nearly punched him in the face, but Suzanne stopped my hand and whispered, "He's not worth it." I turned and looked behind me, trying to contain my anger.
And that's when everything changed.
A ring of performers surrounded me, nearly circling the now-former performer. And behind that ring, was another. And another. And behind that, I could feel the energy of all of the performers who had gathered for a meeting. Suddenly, I had no desire to hit anyone.
"You may leave now, or I can call security," I said calmly, picking up my radio. He turned to leave, and I watched as two of my performers followed him to make sure he really did. Then, when he was out of sight, I collapsed in a heap, holding back tears. I breathed, trying to center myself, trying to focus on the many, rather than the one.
Then, someone from the crowd said, "You did good. I would have punched him." Several more chimed in with similar thoughts, showing their support for me and my choices. And after the meeting, many of my performers stopped me to give me hugs.
And in that moment, I knew I would stay.