I have a BA in Drama with a major in acting. I also have an MFA in theater administration, yet for the last (mumble mumble) years, I’ve worked in not-for-profit finance and information technology. Why?
Despite my years as one of them, actors drove me out of theater.
When I was an undergraduate actor at UCI, my stage management instructor frequently made comments about actors, disparaging their intellect. I took exception to this, to which he always replied, “You’re too smart to be an actor, so I forget.”
Hmmmm. I was not particularly pleased with this answer, but over the course of my acting career, I found that indeed, actors can be brilliant onstage, but unable to reason themselves out of a cardboard box offstage.
Of course, this is true for a lot of people, including me. We all have our specialties and our blind spots. However, when I was creating the character of Max Stone, the narcissistic host of Haunted to the Max in Stumptown Spirits, I revisited some of the worst characteristics of actors I’ve worked with—as well as the attitudes of the technical crews toward them.
Deep down, Max isn’t a mean guy. But he’s not especially sensitive to other people’s feelings. He’s the center of his own universe and everything he does or says is filtered through that lens. (You know, sort of like your average teenager.)
His most annoying characteristic (at least from the perspective of Riley and Logan) is that he’s impossible to escape. He pops up everywhere, at the most inopportune times. He’s that guy, the last one you’d want to run into, yet the one you run into the most.
One of the actors who drove me out of theater was a phenomenal performer, but very difficult to deal with offstage. He didn’t engage in any kind of conversation with the administrative staff (I was the business manager at Berkeley Repertory Theater at the time). If he had an issue, real or imagined, he went directly to threats of union intervention. You never knew what might set him off.
Berkeley Rep sent one its shows on tour to the Joyce Theater in New York, where one of my classmates from graduate school worked. I saw her a year or so later and we talked about the show. She said it was a great experience except for one actor.
Yep. That guy.
A couple of years after that, I moved to Portland, Oregon. At the time, I was (I thought) safely removed from theater, working as the CFO for a non-for-profit mental health organization. One Sunday, I pulled the Arts and Entertainment section out of the Oregonian (yes, we still had print newspapers back then). Who was right there on the cover, in full color?
That guy. Again.
Sigh. I gave up. When it comes to that guy, you can hide, but you can never run far enough.
About Stumptown Spirits:
What price would you pay to rescue a friend from hell?
For Logan Conner, the answer is almost anything. Guilt-ridden over trapping his college roommate in a ghost war rooted in Portland’s pioneer past, Logan has spent years searching for a solution. Then his new boyfriend, folklorist Riley Morrel, inadvertently gives him the key. Determined to pay his debt—and keep Riley safe—Logan abandons Riley and returns to Portland, prepared to give up his freedom and his future to make things right.
Crushed by Logan’s betrayal, Riley drops out of school and takes a job on a lackluster paranormal investigation show. When the crew arrives in Portland to film an episode about a local legend of feuding ghosts, he stumbles across Logan working at a local bar, and learns the truth about Logan’s plan.
Their destinies once more intertwined, the two men attempt to reforge their relationship while dodging a narcissistic TV personality, a craven ex-ghost, and a curmudgeonly bar owner with a hidden agenda. But Logan’s date with destiny is looming, and his life might not be the only one at stake.
About EJ Russell:
E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business-intelligence consultant. After her twin sons left for college and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class, she returned to her childhood love of writing fiction. Now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.
E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, the only man on the planet who cares less about sports than she does. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.
Connect with E.J.:
To celebrate the release of Stumptown Spirits, EJ is giving away $25 in Riptide credit.
Leave a comment to enter the contest.
Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 21, 2016.
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