Warning: The following blog post is going to make me either incredibly popular in the theatre community or incredibly unpopular in the theatre community.
As an actor, and as a human person, I’ve always cared about what others think. Whether it was that mean girl in fifth grade who made fun of my glasses, or the boys who teased me about my braces, or the popular girl in junior high who pointed out that I wasn’t wearing the right brand of jeans, I cared deeply. And so on and so forth, until I found myself in a career where it legit revolves around what other people think. Am I good enough, am I pretty enough, am I friendly enough, etc. We get reviews written about us, which other people are allowed to, and overwhelmingly encouraged to, read when they are delivered to their inbox or front doorstep. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people pay cash money to come sit in a dark room and watch us work. This is what we do and we love it.
Just two days ago, I was in the middle of rehearsing for a really fantastic new Broadway musical called “Nerds” when we got shut down because our financing fell through. Literally, we were singing the lyric, “Live your dream” when our producer walked in the room. You just can’t make this stuff up. We are devastated, we are in varying states of shock, we are angry. But most importantly, we laughed as we sobbed and decided to perform our show one time for family, friends and the designers who worked their asses off for this show. Because as angry as we are, we choose love.
The immediate outpouring of support and love from our fellow theatre nerds and friends and families and fans was outstanding, overwhelming, and breathtaking. A devastating moment in all of our lives was wrapped in waves and waves of positive energy and text messages and emails and pizza and a CRAP TON of booze. I found myself at home, with beautiful fresh roses from my husband (who was out of town) blooming on the table, sitting with 4 of my girlfriends who had dropped everything to feed me, bring me cookies and wine, listen and let me cry. It’s hard to sink too low when you have that kind of beauty in your life.
And that’s awesome! So why are some people going to hate me, you ask? Because there’s also an annoying, petty, gossipy, catty side to our business that seems to creep up over and over again. For all of you non-theatre peeps, there are various websites dedicated to theatre and Broadway. Playbill is one, as well as Theater Mania, Broadway.com, and Broadway World. They are all wonderful in their individual ways, and over the years I have been able to count many of their journalists and photographers as friends. They give us love, we give them love, they report the news, write professional reviews, take great pictures, and it’s all done with mutual respect and understanding.
And then there’s the Chat Board.
Over on Broadway World, there is a whole section of the site dedicated to “Chat Boards,” where fans and theatergoers and heck, even producers masquerading as Muggles can write whatever they want about theatre. There are plenty of genuine people who truly want to discuss and debate their opinions, connect with other theatre fans, and to listen to what others have to say and respond in a mature and educated manner. These people use the chat boards to learn and spread positivity. If you are one of those people, I adore you!
But then there’s also a nasty faction of “fans” who take our hard work and turn it into gossip, and pissing contests over who can come up with the snarkiest insult or meme or GIF, and bragging rights over who is the most insider-y when it comes to Broadway and theatre secrets. It’s snarky. And you know, I like some light snark. But it’s nasty snark. Immature and uninformed people are hiding behind screen names and posting incorrect information, passing on rumors as facts, and just generally being dicks. To each other, and to us.
“So don’t read them, Patti!” That’s the obvious answer, right? And you know what, I actually try not to. I found an awesome website that taught me how to block specific websites, and if I REAAALLLLY want to look, I have to go through the whole process of unlocking it. It’s like having to take a Breathalyzer before you text your ex. But every time I go to Broadway World, they’re there, just staring me in the face. And sometimes the temptation is just too great. They’re the 3rd column on the top, beating out other categories, such as “Jobs” and “Students.” Only “Sections” and “Shows” are more important. I have many friends who have gotten upset over things that are said on them. I’ve had to explain to my parents multiple times that the people posting on them most likely do not know what they are talking about. Even if I don’t personally read them, they are ever present.
So I’m going to do the only thing I know how, and I’m going to write about it. I took some time this morning, and I searched those goddamn boards for any mentions of Nerds, or of me. And now I’m going to respond to some of them. And then I’m going to ask Broadway World to shut them down. Because this is just a teeny tiny blip in the chat board map, but I think it will give you a pretty great idea of how bad it gets.
First, there was this exchange when our show got announced:
the guy who wrote the music for this show is an executive at Jujamcyn. is the longacre a Jujamcyn theater? if so, then that’s how they got it. even with such a terrible show like this. -JM 226 1/14/16
The Longacre is a Shubert house. -(screen name withheld) 1/14/16
why wouldnt his own employer find a theater for his show -JM226 1/14/16
They’re referring to Hal Goldberg, our brilliant composer who happens to work for the Jujamcyn organization. This theatre fan knows sooooo much about how Broadway shows actually come to fruition, that he/she assumed that all you have to do is work for a theatre company. Geez, if I had known that, I would have gotten a front office job years ago.
Then there was this gem:
How lucky we are to be alive right now to decide between seeing Disaster or Nerds on Broadway. What a vibrant era of artistry in which we live. -BroadwayConcierge 2/11/16
I’m guessing that’s sarcasm? And also, please note the requisite Hamilton reference.
This one popped up in a thread about the first preview being delayed by one day:
Wow, this news should be shocking to no one. This show is already a mess. Maybe it’s a simple score with simple script and staging, hence they only need 5 weeks of rehearsal. -Gypsy101 2/12/16
Okay, so here’s some guy, who maybe saw the show in Philadelphia a few years back, or North Carolina, or the NYMF show about 10 years ago. But said guy has not seen a single moment, script page, or photograph from the current production. Also he posted this 10 days before we started rehearsals. So…..yeah. Obviously an informed and highly researched opinion.
Then we have this, which was posted before our cast was announced:
LightsOut90 said: “(Name withheld) is apparently reprising his role from the 2013 production.“
I hope he’s not playing either Jobs or Gates because neither of them are mentally retarded. -ClydeBarrow 2/19/16
WOW. Wow. This is offensive for more than a million reasons. As I’m typing this my foster puppy is crying in his sleep, and I’m pretty sure it’s because this upsets him as much as it upsets me. So not only does this guy insult an actor in the most degrading, cruel way, but he disgustingly insults an entire population of people, the vast majority of which have nothing to do with this show. Ironically, ClydeBarrow lists me as one of his favorite performers. I’m flattered, and I thank you, but what I would really like is for you to be a better person.
These next few are some of my favorites! On the day the cast was announced:
I feel bad that such people like Patti, Lindsay, and Rory are attached to this. They’re all so talented and they can’t find better work? -neonlightsxo 2/22/16
It’s all about paying the bills, people. It’s a very, very short list of Broadway performers who are in a position to turn down a show of a quality they consider too low. Pretty interesting, even maybe great cast—even though this won’t be anything but a flop. -BroadwayConcierge 2/22/16
Thank you so much for being so concerned about us and our careers. But did you ever stop to consider that the show is…wait for it….good? And that we couldn’t find better work because we jumped at the chance to do this because we loved it? And that our director, Casey Hushion, is maybe one of the most genius women to ever cross through the land of Musical Theatre? And that we would have given our left thumb to work with her? And that all of us in that cast had multiple projects on the horizon that we turned down or backed out of because this opportunity was truly incredible? And last but not least, consider this: Maybe we are REALLY GOOD at making decisions for ourselves and we don’t just work to be working, even if it’s scary to say no to something. If that was the case, we would all be working on shows every single day of the year. But we wait until the good things come around, the things that make sense for our families and careers and personal lives. And this, neonlightsxo, was a really, really good thing.
And then there’s this guy in a thread about the Tonys:
I WANT LINDSAY MENDEZ TO WIN! oh wait… too late. -Call_me_jorge 3/9/16
Okay, so you’re just a dick.
Now we got some truly loving support from Lesli Margherita, who tweeted the following:
Takes millions ($ and peeps) 2 put up a Bway show & when it doesn’t work it’s💔so think before u write assy stuff on a blog/hell board
Now I have never met Lesli, but I adore her from a distance for her insane talent and take no shit attitude. She’s beloved in the theatre community for her sharp hilarity and her big heart, and this tweet makes me even more obsessed with her. One of the responses to this tweet on the BWW message board is the following:
Lesli Margherita calling this message board a “hell board” is kind of rude. People say nice stuff about her all the time on here. -gypsy101 3/8/16
And we are back to our friend Gypsy101! So because people say nice stuff about Lesli, she doesn’t get to dislike the board? Even if posters are slaying her friends and shows left and right? She’s not allowed an opinion because people say she has a great voice, which I’m fairly certain she’s very confident in already, thank you very much?
And, there was one thing that kind of bugged me about Lesli’s tweet. I understand that no one likes it when people talk about them or what they do etc in a negative light. However, I’ve felt that if you’re in a profession where you’re opening yourself up to the public, comments, good bad and otherwise will occur. It happens in sports, TV/film politics and music etc. What makes Broadway any different? I get it, there are things that people shouldn’t say or things that get too out of hand in terms of commenting etc. But, it is going to happen. -Islander_fan 3/9/16
So because people are legally allowed to say shitty things about anyone and anything they want, you want to be an asshole too?
I love Broadway World. I have been writing recaps and blogs and features for them for the past few years, and I’ve made a few very good friends who work for them. I think they do a fantastic job of promoting theatre in new, exciting and creative ways. I will always say yes to interviews, article requests, etc from them. There is no denying that they are a major force in the Internet/Broadway connection.
But for these boards to exist on a website like BWW, one that is all about the joy and love and passion and artistry of theatre, is a direct contradiction of everything they stand for. They love and support actors and directors and creators and designers and dressers and box office staff and ushers and the awesome people who stand in Times Square when it’s 20 degrees outside passing out flyers for shows. So I want to know why they would willingly cultivate a cesspool of ignorance and negativity? Many of these posters are mean to us, and they are just as mean to each other. I’m sure the traffic flow has something to do with it, as this is quite a popular destination, but is it enough?
I am officially asking you, Broadway World, to take down your chat boards. Create a whole new website for them that has nothing to do with the incredible content you generate. But placing that negative bullshit next to a joyous article about a Broadway show opening does not make any sense to me. To be clear, I’m not asking for them to be shut down forever. Everyone is entitled to express their opinions as loudly as they want, just like I am right now. But they should be their own entity entirely, because much of the time, they are not in the spirit of creating, and cultivating art, and supporting people who are taking real risks to do what they love.
To all of you who I have quoted, or who just want to say hello, please introduce yourself to me. I’m on Twitter. I’m on Facebook. I would love to know who you are and see your faces so I can remind myself that you are also an actual human and not just an angry, nasty Gollum who finds sick joy in other people’s failure (cause that’s kinda how I picture you). We make ourselves vulnerable every single night on these stages, and now I’m asking that you make yourself vulnerable as well.
One last random chat board gem, in reference to the high note Glinda sings at the end of “Thank Goodness” in Wicked:
CATSNYrevival said: “Don’t they just have someone off stage singing her high note at the end of “Thank Goodness?”“
No. Most Glindas can hit it with the exception of a few. (Name withheld), (Name withheld) and Patti Murin couldn’t hit it and usually a Glinda understudy that is onstage in her own track sings it instead. -mailhandler777 8/29/15
Mailhandler777, I don’t know where you get your bunk ass information from, because I sang the shit out of that high C, as well as every other note in that show. So SUCK IT, and go handle your mail elsewhere.
UPDATE: Robert Diamond, the founder and creator of BroadwayWorld, reached out to me within a half hour of this posting. He was immediately open to a dialogue that can lead to change for the better (sorry, I couldn’t help it), and rolled out a new feature, a “report to mods” button that exists on each individual post. It’s been in development for a while now, and Robert rushed it through to show how serious he is about improving the boards. We have a lunch meeting this weekend, where we will collaborate and most likely hug, and see where this goes. Thank you, Robert, for being so understanding and caring about this entire community.
UPDATE: I changed some wording after realizing that I made it sound like I don’t read the boards at all. I do at times, whether it is pure curiosity, or because it does provide information. I apologize for that miscommunication, which was entirely my fault.