Riots Squads and Fire Hoses

Bradley recently emailed me with some concerns, presented politely, which led to a wide-ranging discussion that’s published here.  

Negative/constructive feedback, in some form or another, has been going on since the IAGG started – I did the scheduling, ran the website, paid for the hosting, worked the box office and hosted the show and gave out all the money at the end of the night – and what I’ve found along the way is that people don’t really trust altruism. 

They don’t understand when someone is willing to do a shitload of work just to give them something to be nice or because they believe in it. So they make some assumptions that there has to be something nefarious they aren’t being told and sometimes they make some petty, incorrect and hurtful accusations about someone who is working their ass off to try and do something for other people.

I should be used it by now and it shouldn’t bother me as much as it still does. But it does. I have been told that somebody must be making money off the IAGG or the improv festival or that I’m just doing it to help myself and my friends and screw everyone else, that there MUST be something else behind it. There isn’t.

And as much as the conversation I had with Bradley gives me hope that it’s getting better and maybe I’ve earned some measure of trust with my efforts – the message we got the next day from the Anonymous Contact Form is exactly the kind of thing that makes me want to give it up.

I would like to just put this in the “hate mail” pile and move on but I thought it was a good chance to show a contrast between this exchange I had with Bradley – which was productive while being honest about things that HUGE does that upset him and included great questions and suggestions – with one that is based on anger and assumptions and doesn’t do anything to help anyone make things better.  

It would be great if this exchange could be a good example going forward of how to approach things (even if you’re going to do it via the Anonymous Contact Form) and say something before you get to the point where you want to sit down and send something like this to HUGE about all the things we do wrong that you hate.

I have tried to limit my personal responses but my in-line replies are included below as several points seemed directed specifically to me.

Message sent 10/31 just after midnight:

I can’t believe that Mayhem is up again in their own show time. Duos I would rather see and who don’t get as many opportunities because one of their members isn’t on the Board of Directors: We Know Each Other, Polar Bear Centric, License to Krill, Ferrari McSpeedy, and the list could go on.

[ Butch’s Note:  this is already predicated on Mayhem being selected while others were not because of my position on the Board.  If there’s one positive thing I can say it is that I’m glad they just came out and said it instead of implying and hinting.

Second – None of the groups listed had proposed a show at the time we were programming November. Another area where HUGE can’t really be blamed for the actions of outside shows. If you want to see all those groups on our stage, send them angry emails telling them to propose shows.

Third – the wrong-est assumption made here is that any of these issues are this simple, as illustrated the conversation between Bradley and I in the previous post ]

Then there’s the slew of non-duo shows I’d rather see than a duo for 45 minutes, which I won’t go into – I’ll just say that this incredibly talented and creative community comes up with actual hundreds of great ideas, and you squash them with a duo that we’ve seen just a few months ago.

[ Butch’s Note:  This is like saying there are hundreds of shows that The Fringe Festival “squashes” in favor of only putting up the shows that enter the Fringe lottery.  We decided a duo would be good to put up between two larger-ensemble shows for contrast, actually. And we chose the duo that we had the strongest proposal from at the time ]

Honestly, Mayhem is not special

[ Butch’s note: That’s because you live in an awesome city full of awesome improv. I’m ok with being average in this town, that’s still better than most ]

and I’d rather see people that I can’t see in the hour right before them or on every Monday night. I am so sick of this theater and its management not caring about providing opportunities for the students it creates. It’s infuriating that Butch is such a loud proponent of people starting shows at other venues, and then blatantly poaches one of the best time slots for a duo we’ve seen recently. Mayhem, why don’t YOU go start another show at another venue and worry about only getting 4 audience members instead of poaching a time slot that you know will have attendance because of Family Dinner? Your management is so flagrantly socially irresponsible, it breaks my heart for Twin Cities improv. This theater does not belong to the city, to the improv community, or to its students – it belongs to a few selfish and often incompetent board members and the people they favor.

[ Butch’s Note:  I did that. That’s why there is a theater for you to complain about my management of.   

I not only did shows for 2 people when we opened, I did it in a building I spent my life savings leasing and built with my own hands so that everyone can have an improv theater – I also worked to create the 8pm time slot I’m accused of “poaching audience” from and the 9:30 showtime that was created so improvisers at ComedySportz wouldn’t have to choose between doing shows at CSZ or HUGE so we could be good neighbors and good members of this community ]

The answer to the issue at hand is this:

 

The Board of HUGE are improvisers

HUGE is built for improvisers as a place to perform

The means HUGE is also a place for the Board of HUGE to perform

 

I won’t apologize for it and it’s not going to change – we will continue to make the best, most impartial, decisions we know how about what to put on our stage. If you find that infuriating or it makes you sick, that’s unfortunate but I won’t pretend that we’re not going to program shows like Mayhem, Drum Machine or any others that include Board members.

We are going to put those shows up and we’re proud of them.

If you don’t believe that those decisions are impartial, nothing I say is going to matter – I will have to just stand by my thirteen years of hard work for this community and all the thought and consideration that was put into all those decisions along the way.

I can do that and sleep well at night – I wish you the same.