Category Archives: Media

An Open Letter to the Small Theatre Community

Listen, we need to talk. I’ve been around the Houston small theatre community for a while, now, and I have to say, I’m getting a little bothered by what I’m starting to see. To be honest, I think that much of the problem comes from a simple misunderstanding: You are not professional theatres, so quit trying to pretend you are.

Now, the reason I said, “small” theatre instead of “community” or “amateur” theatre is simple. I’m not just talking to those theatres that claim “education” or “community arts” in their founding documents. I’m talking to every little theatre that pays its actors less than Equity scale and its crew members less than minimum wage. You know who you are. I don’t care if you call it a stipend or offer them points on net as “co-producers”, if the total payout divided by the time you expect them to be there is less than a minimal living wage, you’re not professional. At best, you’re a start-up.

Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with running an amateur or startup theatre. You ask half of Hollywood and all of Broadway how they got their start and they’ll trot out some long, tear-filled story of the community theatre that first sparked their love of the boards. More so, small theatre inspires an interest in the arts in general, in literature, history, and even science and the trades. Small theatre is an honorable genre, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

It is not, however, professional theatre, so different rules have to apply.

You don’t get to prioritize yourself above your volunteers’ lives. The main difference between professional and small theatre is that, when all the numbers are crunched, professional theatres pay their employees something that comes close to what the government considers a living wage. If you’re not cutting checks for everyone in your shop, including for rehearsals, then you have no right to expect them to treat their hobby like a job. That means you have to make allowances for their real job, and sometimes for other issues that may come up in their lives. Parents have to put their children before their hobbies, and, these days, many adults are in the unenviable position of caring for an aged parent. These people can’t always maintain a grueling 30-hour-a-week rehearsal schedule. Or even a light 20.

I’m not saying anyone should tolerate bullshit. If an actor is skipping whole chunks of rehearsal or refuses to learn their lines or approximate their blocking, by all means boot them out like a hobo. No one wants a bad show, and tolerating bullshit is one of the quickest ways to get one. I’m just asking that you show some reasonable restraint. If an actor is otherwise tight, then letting him skip a Saturday to check on his aged mother is probably not going to kill you.

Really, I guess it all comes down to this: Never forget that your volunteers are volunteers. They don’t owe you a goddamn thing. Period. They do what they do for love of the craft and because you asked them to. Sets go up, props get built, and lights shine because someone— who isn’t even getting the thrill of having 50-100 people applaud their ability to spit out words —is making it happen. Ushers (and other lobby volunteers) get to see a show for free, but “free” often means they have to attend to the needs of 50-100 people, wrangle refreshments, ensure the balance of the box, and clean up the auditorium afterward. Don’t try to fob off unwanted chores on these people like they’re immigrant dishwashers.

They’re volunteers, and failing to show your appreciation of their effort is the easiest way to lose them. And without volunteers, you won’t have a theatre at all.


There is something seriously wrong with us. Is it just me? Has it always been this way? It feels like we’re letting ourselves be ruled by the lunatic fringes of society. On every side, for every issue, the voices of moderation and reason are drowned out by crazy-ass jeering from the cheap seats. Is that the way it’s supposed to be?

I spend way too much time like this.

I spend way too much time like this.

I don’t want anyone getting all “No kidding, those (insert political/social group/quasi-group/trend here) are cray-cray!” because it’s not just them, it’s you—and me, too. Do you ever catch yourself making note of one opinion or view held by someone and immediately and forever that person becomes just that opinion? Of course you don’t. If you caught yourself doing that, you’d stop it ,right?

But then how can all conservatives be racist pro-lifers who want to hand America to Big (insert industry) while they blast away at random wildlife. How can all liberals be baby-killing communists who think the Constitution is something you use to clean the bloodstains off of the country’s past? Why is there no middle? Why is everyone who refuses to identify as a single big-basket philosophy a “low-information voter,” as if stupidity and ignorance were ever associated with avoiding the extremes.

It goes beyond me how we’ve allowed “voices crying in the wilderness” to speak for us, to even influence our opinions and decisions. Here’s a clue about those guys: they spend their time crying in the wilderness because they’re too bugshit crazy to be allowed in-doors where the grown-ups are talking.

The last ten national elections have shown that Americans are still pretty central-biased. As a group, we still have a pretty good bullshit-detector. We’ll give someone a chance to prove their theories, but, as a nation we don’t subscribe to any philosophy whole-heartedly without some kind of verifiable result.

So why doesn’t it sound like it? I don’t just mean the news media, either. Internet comments sections and forums are filled with angry vituperative fired blindly in all directions. Those rare occasions when a compromise is suggested or a moderate opinion is raised, they’re shouted down—sometimes with death threats.

It’s time to move the children’s table back out of the dining room, so the rest of us can talk.

Casual Notice 2015

Okay, let’s be honest. If you’re here, and you’re not a spambot, then you’re either (a) some poor sap making scut wages as a human spambot to get around filters, or (b) you followed the link in my last Facebook post because you can’t go without some Brett-y goodness. If it’s (a), you have my sympathy, but not my support. If it’s (b), welcome! Comments are limited to approved users and moderated, but only to keep the site more or less spam-free. You can expedite user validation by sending an e-mail to my address: bhainley(at-sign)casualnotice(tiny-circle)com.

I have a Facebook problem. I have a Facebook problem in the sense that some people have a heroin problem, except Facebook doesn’t cost me any money (but it may, eventually, cost me friends and family if I don’t deal with it). I spend too much time registering an opinion on almost everything. I spend way too much time correcting people when they have the facts wrong. I apparently never learned when things weren’t any of my business.

Worse, I would camp comments, wasting entire days checking and rechecking my news feed for something that “demanded” my input. This is a bad thing. If I spend an entire day staring at a blank page on MS Word, it’s not wasted because my brain is still working through whatever has me blocked. If I spend that same day clicking over to Facebook to see how people reacted to one of my snide, cat-based graphics, my brain is focused on defending the theory that my cat, Coleridge, finds partisan political ranting tedious, and that day is wasted. I track the word-count on my current projects on a whiteboard in my office. Those counts haven’t changed in over a month.

So I came back here. I’ve had A website since 1996, and Casual Notice has been the home of my ramblings since 2004. I don’t check it compulsively for opinions, and the blog format tends to give me an impetus to think through the commentary that is posted here. More importantly, this is my home. I own the server, and I own the website and everything on it.

Facebook is like a front yard. Yeah, the space is yours (sort of), but everyone passing by can see what’s there. They can bitch about your opinion because it’s right THERE assaulting their eyes like a concrete flamingo. The thing about Casual Notice is that you have to come here to see my opinion. If you come to my home and you don’t like the ratty green sofa in my office, you’re very free to fuck off. This is my space, and you’re a guest here.

Anyway, big changes coming for CN (again), including a probable migration at the beginning of the year. Again, if you want to expedite user validation, send an e-mail to bhainley(spiral-ay)casualnotice(point)com.

Casual Friday–Prequels?

Yep.  Dougie is going to see Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. The poster behind him is a clip from the banner ad for “Et-Cetera”, an amazing slice-of-life comic I was reading at the time. Sadly, as often happens with webcomics, the author of “Et-Cetera” just stopped updating one day, and it was gone.