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I always knew the thing I wanted to do in was to write. Writing has been a consistent part of my life, from writing super angsty teen poetry to literal videogame fanfiction in my late/early teens. In a complicated world, it’s always been my way of processing, of trying to make sense or navigate through the senseless.
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Welcome back to the hypothetical situation. A general disclaimer that this is a work of fiction. Any events described are, at best, an amalgam of several different stories and perspectives. But realistically - anything that may resemble a real event is purely coincidental.

That being said, let's dive in.

As seen in the last episode:

  • You've witnessed a safe space violation from an artistic leader.

  • You email the artistic leader asking for clarification, and they ask you to talk to them in their office. You respectfully declined because those interactions, those one-on-one conversations, are, realistically, part of a series of other safe space violations.

  • They insist on meeting in person.

This is where you make a big mistake: you suggest to them that a board member should be present for this meeting and give them the agency to schedule this meeting themselves. At this point, you've gone through at least a year of self-gaslighting yourself, blaming yourself for all of the crappy working conflicts you've had with them for over a year, and still have a shard of belief inside of yourself: maybe all of this can be fixed.

It turns out that the leader and board members have a series of preparatory meetings while you go through two weeks of radio silence.

If you could go back and do things differently, you'd contact the board member yourself and go over the artistic leader's head entirely. Looking back now, you can admit that what stopped you from doing this in the first place was a misplaced sense of loyalty. Or perhaps not misplaced. However, giving the leader this amount of freedom only ends up backfiring later.

Later, looking back on it now, you wonder if you should report them to equity. Not because you want to, but because it doesn't seem like there's literally any other route available at all.

Regardless, rehearsal continues. You avoid each other or try to be as cordial as possible. All the while, the date will dwell on you: next Wednesday. Next Wednesday two representatives from the board, the executive director, and the artistic leader will meet with you in the board room.

During this time, you're early one day for rehearsal, so you set up your laptop and plug away some emails. You occasionally chat friendly with the executive director. A surprise: the artistic leader shows up early and is surprised you're there so early.

Later that day, you receive a passive-aggressive e-mail saying that "this is a workplace" and that "you are not welcome in the office until the meeting." You leave the e-mail unanswered but invite the leader over for donuts you bought the show's team later that day. The artistic leader declines.

It's Wednesday.

You were so anxious you barely slept. But you foresaw how much anxiety and mental load this meeting would have on you, so you did a very smart thing. You wrote out responses to all the hypothetical scenarios in your head. Yes - you disasterize. You think of the worst. You write your responses on paper for many different possible outcomes.

It's a good thing you did.

The board members explain that 'one of them is there for you and the other one is there for the artistic leader.' This is, at best, a lie. They presented a full agenda for this conversation in front of you, one that they neglected to send you beforehand. Isn't this supposed to be about your safe space grievance?

From the agenda - most, if not all, of your worst fears were confirmed. So you swallow your fear and get ready to fight.

"I am surprised to see an agenda when I wasn't presented to me before this point," you say, verbalizing and telegraphing every single part of your thought process.

What follows is a series of ostensibly meaningless words.

One board member's statement, "We appreciate the faith you have in this organization by initiating this meeting today," sticks out to you even today. That sentence remains carved in the back of your head. Because now, truly, you have no faith in this organization's leadership or board.

The leader reads out a pre-typed apology that amounts to: "I'm sorry you were upset."

But you're in fight mode. "That wasn't a real apology," you actually say.

Normally you're a pretty docile person. Quiet even. That's not the you that you present today. You are the only advocate you have in that room. So: you advocate.

After about 10 minutes, the conversation shifts to you and your 'performance.' Spoilers: one of the takeaways from this conversation is that you are put on a 90-day probation.

Through all of this, you think: okay, fine. Let's turn over a new leaf. Let's actually try. The fallacy of this hopeful thought is that the artistic leader will also try - like even at all. For the entire 90-day probation, the artistic leader gives you the silent treatment and refuses to really acknowledge your presence.

So, towards the end of the 90 days, you hand in your resignation, which, somehow, surprises everyone.

Throughout this time: the executive director slowly realizes what's happening and actually encourages you to wait until the artistic leader fires you so you can sue for wrongful termination.

The executive director becomes, at least, someone you can commiserate with through a three-month slog. But overall, a fire burns inside of you: You know you're right. You know you were mistreated. It's black and white at this point—cartoonish even.

So you leave on to other pastures.

You overhear the executive director also trying to initiate a safe space complaint after you leave. They end up finding another job, and two board members resign.

And the artistic leader remains an artistic leader to this day.

But what you have now is a list of people you know you can never trust: silent board members and a person you still don't really understand to this day.


This is an extreme version of the reality of what it looks like when you follow through many theatre's safe space grievance procedures. This story isn't based on just one event, or indeed any events at all. Any references or similarities to actual events are purely coincidental and are instead meant to encapsulate several artists' experiences, thoughts, and safe space conflicts.

So where does that leave us? What can we do in the face of the injustice these systems have on so many, especially young, artists?

Continue fighting. Continue advocating. And overall: be smart out there.

You should assume:

  • A board never has your back.

  • HR is on the side of management until proven otherwise. (Actions speak louder than words).

  • The offender will never 'play fair' and always try to stack the odds in their favour.

It's not the most optimistic or encouraging takeaway, but it is realistic. We have to stop letting people get away with these things. If that means fighting and bringing out a side of yourself, a strength you never really thought existed, then sometimes that's what it takes.

One of the biggest takeaways from an experience like this is finding your strength. You are always stronger than they think you are. And most of the time, they will do anything in their power to demean you, make you feel small, and try to make you forget that strength you have.

Far too many of us have been there.


I’m sitting in on the first day of a rehearsal. It's a classic table read: the whole show’s artistic team sits around a table, and we start with the housekeeping. The artistic leader reads their company's safe space policies and explains that there are many avenues to report a hypothetical grievance, including themselves, the one other member of their company, and a mysterious board member who exists mostly in concept for the sake of this conversation.

They then explain that things can get heated in a rehearsal or creative process and to be kind to one another but know that if things happen, it’s because people express stress differently. This is a paraphrase, but it’s meant to condense what was said to express what they were trying to say.

Something didn’t sit right with me after they informed the room of this addendum, which was said directly after the official legalese policy. Once again, it’s taken me a while to write down my thoughts and process what I was feeling at that moment.

Yes: it is true. Tempers can flare, and we all have bad days. It is important to acknowledge our humanity in the process, always. But this is only true with a very important addendum… on the addendum that I’d like to add.

In the moment of a breakdown—for whatever reason, be that communication, emotional, or otherwise—the immediate duty of care is to those involved. That is, a person has expressed what may seem like a disproportionately large outburst to a situation. Take a pause, breathe, and maybe take a fifteen-minute walk to get out of the space.

Next, a post-mortem must follow, whether an email, apology, or some sort of closure.

Adding an addendum to a safer place policy that basically says, “If I outburst or say something I shouldn’t, it’s because I’m stressed, and I should get a free pass” is a gateway into allowing a loophole for abuse.

An example of this in a healthy practice: a different rehearsal room, different time, and place, and we’re rehearsing a scene. I’m sitting with the director, and we’re nailing the small, fine details of a particularly emotionally devastating scene for the character the actor was playing. Something odd happens during the run of it, and the director begins to give a related note. Suddenly, the actor has an outburst and declares, “I know! I know. Can we do it again?”

So, we do it again. And indeed – the actor knew and fixed the note.

Later that day, we had an informal check-in, during which the actor came forward and apologized. Immediately, we had a short discussion in which we made the subtext obvious: everyone in the room knew where that outburst was coming from and knew it wasn’t malicious. It was a process moment.

I think a very important key in this process is the check-in part, where we had a moment in a room to check and see that we were all on the same page. Then we moved forward, the play went on, and that actor delivered something to the part—a level of humanity that I didn’t even fully see in the character at first. Truly, it was one of the best performances I’ve ever had the privilege of being part of.

Back to that day when the artistic leader is reading the safe space policies. As they do so, I also think about two or three other moments when I’ve personally seen them violate their own policy. I think about the several stories of my friends from other leaders who have also violated their safe space policies or even have a track record of doing so repeatedly.

The problem with many theatre companies is exactly what I mentioned before. If something happens, your only recourse is to report your grievance to the offender, their one other employee, or a faceless board member. This is part of the problem that arises when a company can only afford to be a certain size, often having the only roles being Artistic Director and Executive Director—or something similar. Back to the scarcity problem, hey? It all comes back to scarcity.

Regardless of the economic reality, the question becomes, to whom are they accountable? If you’re working under a union, there’s one answer. But as a writer? It can be a little wild west out there. Personally, whenever I’m unsure, I go through the Playwrights Guild of Canada. I’m a member, and they offer services around arbitration (should it get there) as well as contracts and other advice and services. The guild has nowhere near the sway of Equity or IATSE, but it’s at least something.

Always think: How can I best protect myself? The sad reality is that too many leaders abuse their positions outright.

Let's do the hypothetical, shall we? An Artistic Leader of a company, who is also directing your piece, violates their safe spaces policy. Whether it's towards you or another member of the cast, what do you do? These are the options that you are most likely to have presented to you:

a) Talk to them and get yelled at in their office.

b) Speak to the one other employee who tries to defuse the situation without any other actions.

c) Talk to the board member and play the luck of the dice with someone you've never met.

This is a situation I've sure definitely never been in personally before, but what I can say from other people's experience: it doesn't feel great.

What I will say is that if you are on the receiving end of abuse, you do not have to play by or follow any of the rules they said you should. Be careful out there, but also know that structures are usually in place to protect companies over people under capitalism. That almost always means a board will go up to bat, take the side of, and protect their abusive artistic leaders.

One really helpful thing we can do and continue to practice is utilizing our whisper networks. Our nudges to friends in the industry, "I'm going to work with X; have you ever heard of them?" Nine times out of ten, if you have a good network, this is your safest bet.

Sometimes this is how you discover your situation hasn't happened in isolation. Spoilers: it often doesn't. Those sorts of people almost always have a track record. And all I have to say about that is: when someone repeatedly shows who they are, the best you can do is believe them. Hopefully, we will stop letting them become artistic leaders, though.

And other things Capitalism has wrought.


I always knew the thing I wanted to do in theatre was to write. Writing has been a consistent part of my life, from writing super angsty teen poetry to literal videogame fanfiction in my late/early teens. In a complicated world, it’s always been my way of processing, of trying to make sense or navigate through the senseless. I think of it as a sort of life raft on the rough ocean of ‘reality’ where my neurodivergence played a massive part in my feeling isolated and disconnected from the world in my twenties.

There’s an interesting pattern that I’ve noticed since the very beginning, since the first time one of my plays went through a workshop process, and I’ve only now – almost a decade later – been able to put it to words. There have always been folks older than me who seem to have some sort of internalized resistance to listening to me or treating my work seriously. I’ll be the first to admit – I have a baby face. Blessing/curse moment for sure. Or a humblebrag? I leave that interpretation to you.

When I was just starting off in theatre – I got it. I laughed along with them. I sat and tolerated questions from folks interrogating my work as if testing to see if I understood what my own work meant. I thought that was a normal part of the process – justifying myself, proving that: yes, I do really know what I wrote. I wrote it, after all.

The turning point for me in this journey was when I turned thirty. I was sitting down in a workshop as a dramaturgical consultant, and I talked about the genuine emotional feeling I was experiencing transitioning out of my twenties into my thirties and the experience of ‘growing up.’ We all know the artificial milestones, right? Arbitrarily marked by decades. 20, 30, 40… In any case, in the workshop, an actor older than me turned to me and said something to the effect of: Oh, you sweet baby. You haven’t seen anything yet.

Not their exact words, and forgive me for the indulgence, but the subtext was there.

I’m thankful for that moment because instantly, I realized: there will always be someone older than me. I don’t mean that pejoratively. It’s just kind of a fact, right? There will always be people who look down on me and immediately judge me based on my age.

I get that this comes out of anxiety. Age in our Capitalist society is essentially something to be shunned, to be medicated away, surgeried away, moisturized into oblivion. There’s the motif of the younger artist ready to replace you in the wings. There’s also the spectre of jealousy, which I want to touch on especially.

A lesson that has stuck with me my entire life was in grade seven Social Studies, when we were reviewing a test the class at large did poorly on. We encountered the question: “How do you solve Scarcity under Capitalism?” Out of everyone in the class, I was the only one who got full marks for the response. I got full marks because I qualified the rest of my answer with: “You can’t. But here are the ways we try.”

I think there’s both a hyper-perceived and real scarcity in theatre. Especially when you’re a playwright writing new work trying to compete for a spot in a season against all plays that have existed since the dawn of time, including Shakespeare et al. A very real discussion I’ve had when I was in talks for a theatre to produce my play was, ‘Sorry, we’re not doing new work this year. Instead, we’re doing Hamlet.’

Much better than some paltry excuses I’ve heard some (generously – perhaps unintentionally rude) Artistic Directors give, like: ‘There are too many scene transitions.’ We work in theatre. If you can’t imagine the scene transitions – that speaks to a lack of imagination on your part, not on the writer’s. We can be straightforward with each other, no? We’re professionals, after all. Rejection is part of the job as a writer. If you can’t accept that. maybe you shouldn’t be a writer.

Back to the scarcity question, a real thing I struggled with in my twenties was a destructive feeling of ‘why not me.’ I saw folks I felt I compared with (largely determined by age) succeeding or winning awards and felt a real sense of jealousy. Now I’m in a more stable position (thank you therapy & medication!) where I’ve worked through this feeling and landed in a much healthier place.

Scarcity breeds this kind of competition mindset. The feeling – imagined or otherwise – that someone getting an opportunity inherently means an opportunity was taken away from you.

The feeling still happens to me sometimes. However, it’s less jealousy, and more irritation usually manifesting when I see a theatre show I don’t like. In fact, quite a few theatre shows where I sit back and can’t help but shake my head. ‘THIS show? People are saying THIS show changed their lives?’ While the show in question felt performative and superficial to the highest degree in my eyes, I witnessed many others leave the show moved. That’s the beauty of theatre in many ways. What may seem cheap and artificial to me may mean something else to someone else. The curtains close, the ghost light goes on, and on to the next show.

A couple of years ago, I was on the selection committee for a playwriting competition, and a well-known Artistic Director in that city’s community applied with a new play. We read it—and, let me be clear, they’re an incredible playwright. Truly, their work always sings. But compared to the many other plays submitted and the collection we were curating, their play just didn’t fit.

Fast-forward to the day after we sent out the rejection letters, and this Artistic Director shows up at my colleague’s office. “When are you making the selection for [Playwriting Contest]?” They asked.

My colleague, completely overwhelmed by this incredibly aggressive act of being, let’s face it, accosted in their workplace, had to explain face-to-face to this Artistic Director why their play wasn’t accepted. Apparently, this playwright ‘hadn’t gotten their e-mail yet’ but somehow coincidentally showed up in my colleague’s office the day after. I think we can all agree that stuff like that needs to stop. The sense of sheer entitlement in this story baffles me even today.

But it begins to get to the heart of a more complicated matter, the very real anxiety that I think many writers have where ‘someone younger’ will ‘steal’ their spot. I’ve put that very crudely, but I trust you understand what I mean.

This bias toward the young is an interesting one that I’m not sure I’ve heard many folks talk about in theatre. Allegedly, yes, there are more ‘opportunities’ for emerging writers. Shouldn’t that be the case, though? Like – I don’t think anyone advocates that we should remove any of those opportunities. Really, what I hear when people say this is: ‘What about me?’ Or, more to the heart of the matter, ‘Where are the opportunities for the mid-career playwrights?’

The former is undoubtedly a better question and leads me all the way back to how we’re attempting to solve ‘scarcity’ in arts. What kind of weird universe do we live in that we must constantly pair theatre, an art form that notoriously makes no money, with Capitalism?

It’s almost like taking a hospital and saying: this is for profit! No… I’m pretty sure a hospital’s goal is to make people ‘better’, not turn a profit. Or a transit system saying: this doesn’t make any money! Sorry, but again, I think the goal of a transit system is to get people from place to place as efficiently and speedy as possible, not to turn a profit. So why are we letting the big ‘C’ Capitalism bleed into the way we think about our art, ourselves, and our artistic practices? Short answer: time is money.

I love to use this thought experiment, where we pose the question: How do players behave when they play the board game Monopoly? We’re cut throats, we argue, we barter, and we make all the rest of our opponents go bankrupt until we ‘win.’ We don’t carry any of that into our real lives, though, or statistically, we don’t. If Daryl Katz is reading this, my message to you is: Maybe you should stop playing Monopoly.

But the question stands: is how people behave under Capitalism how people are? Or do we tend to bend towards particular inclinations because we’re rewarded for it under Capitalism? I certainly don’t know. If someone could solve Capitalism, they might get an award before they tear it all down.

In my mind, the central building blocks of theatre are based around community. It takes a community to put on a show, and it takes a community to see a show. Emphasizing the ‘one’ as a genius or the ‘one’ as the featured artist is inherently antithetical to capital ‘t’ Theatre, and it’s a misrepresentation of what healthy rehearsal rooms should look like.

Early in my career, I got a lot of bad advice. I also got a lot of good advice. But it means that I carry the following disclaimer every time I talk to Student Artists; it’s something I’ve had to sort through and learn for myself:

“You’re probably going to get a lot of guest speakers in this program. They’re here because they want to impart what they’ve learned in their careers. Now: an important thing to consider is that a career in Arts is not straightforward, and it’s usually anything but consistent. These people who come and speak to your class may preach certain things or practices as gospel. And they say that because those ‘things’ they speak to are probably gospel for them. But they won’t necessarily work for you. Instead, I encourage you to look at the commonalities. As an example, in these three playwrights’ resumes, they list the same theatre company that produced their show. That’s important. I guess at the end of the day, what I’m trying to say to you is that these speakers are passionate. And what may be gospel to them may not work for you. Take their advice with a grain of salt.”

I’m just going to come out and say it: there’s a lot of abuse in the arts. And by arts, what I’m specifically speaking to with my own experience is Theatre, but I know similar kinds of abuse exist in many other art forms.

There’s a tragedy at the core here: why so much abuse in something like Art? Perhaps it’s because folks who are usually drawn to the Arts have many questions inside themselves, a lot of things they’re trying to work out. But I don’t think living a hard life directly correlates to 'good' art.

This is another thing I learned when I was in theatre school, and I wrote a piece with a, I’ll be honest, terrible ending. The ‘payoff’ felt cheap, and the dramaturg rightfully called me out on it. But I was uncomfortable, something was off, and I couldn’t identify in the moment what was wrong. Several years and some therapy and reflection later, it’s because that dramaturg was there only for the story, writing a good story. But neglected her duty as an instructor to me, as a student. The event I was writing about was based on a real moment in my life, and it was tough, or even harmful, for me to talk about it. It still is.

I don’t know where the adage came from, where people seem to continually champion good ‘art’ over the wellbeing of people. I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard someone say: yes, X was abused, but look at this beautiful painting! To that, I say I would burn all the ‘good art’ in the world if it meant all that abuse never happened. The sheer multitudes of silenced voices, disenfranchised – primarily women – who have been abused in the name of ‘art’ completely towers over any perceived value of the ‘art.’

People always come first.

So how does all of this relate to age or being perceived as a ‘young’ playwright? This is where we need to talk about generational abuse in Art.

In a similar way where we’re understanding generational abuse in families, I think there are a lot of parallels to be made in Art. Number one: if a workplace calls you a family, that’s at least an orange, if not a red flag. You are not my family. You are my workplace. Number two: Folks who were abused frequently fall into the pattern of passing on that abuse to those who come ‘after’ them.

We can talk about the many, many forms of abuse in theatre school. Using acting programs as perhaps the most egregious example with phrases like the following as commonplace: “In the first year they break you so they can rebuild you.” I think, even from a language level, there should be a lot of alarm bells with this sentence. But this is how a predominantly ‘older’ generation of theatre practitioners learned their craft. This is how those theatre makers who came before us began their practice as artists. And do genuinely feel that there is no other way to ‘teach’ than to trace the same lines of abuse and inflict this upon their students.

I think reconciliation needs to happen here, and that’s going to involve a lot of emotional work from our theatre teachers. A lot happened in your training that shouldn’t have, and that’s not fair. I’m sorry if I’m the first person to tell you this, and I truly grieve for you in your process. But that doesn’t give you the license to continue the cycle of this abuse and pass it on to a new generation.

We should question structures like the almighty, genius, unquestionable director with absolute authority in the room. That’s only true if the director takes on the responsibility of care with the power. And it seems like there are many, many people who don’t, all in the name of what they see as good ‘Art.’

Here’s one more thought before I wrap up this now somewhat unwieldy blog. Art is subjective. Sure, there are shows that resonate with many people, and then there are shows that will only resonate with one person. Which is more valuable?

And does that answer come with the baggage of Capitalism? Does the question of asking which art is more ‘valuable’ only exist as a question under Capitalism?

In the pursuit of capital ‘T’ truth, Theatre is so heckin’ subjective. The same performance on the same night may make someone feel moved while their audience cohort is bored and unamused. Theatre is too subjective to ‘torture people’ into a good performance. Who knows—not feeling the ‘emotion’ at all and simply telegraphing it could, will, and often does illicit the same response in an audience member. I'm deliberately being facetious when I quote Laurence Olivier when he said, "Just Act."

I’m not sure how to wrap this up, because the work very much isn’t done. It’s only beginning. I guess all I can say is: how do we move towards a more people-focused theatre and toss those pesky artistic egos aside?

How can we better love each other?

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