Morgan James and the Tweet Heard Around the Theater Community

So there I was, finishing up a mid-week appearance at GhostBlogger Night (more to come, lovely readers) and chatting up one of my favorite theater bloggers Mildly Bitter, when the messages and outcries happened. From the way my inbox got filled, you would have thought that someone had finally died at Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. But no…it was this. Only this.

Well, okay; it did lead to all of this (after the original tweet was deleted).

The scary part is...that is only a fraction of what happened late last night. No kidding...

Here’s the situation as I pieced it together from my sources a.k.a theater friends glued to their computer screen and live-tumblring/tweeting this like their lives depended on it. Morgan James, a kind-of actress, good singer last seen in Broadway’s Godspell, let her feelings run fly on Twitter shortly after the first preview of Shakespeare In the Park’s Into the Woods. Obviously, with an online following in the low-thousands, that was not going to fly under the radar and amidst hundreds of responses, one of them was Scott Alan, musician and lyricist for the upcoming new musical Home. Rachel Potter, a lovely little actress, threw her two cents out there, Matt Doyle tweeted and a rainbow shot out of everyone’s computer or mobile device…it got cray cray. 

To which I ask…what? Why is this considered a big deal again? Seriously, Playbill.com just covered the story...like for reals. Let’s break it down…

First off, all of this talk about how James killed her career is ridiculous. Don't you actually need a career in the first place to even "kill it?" Looking at her last Playbill listing, she was in The Addam's Family and Wonderland prior to doing Godspell. She's an up-and-comer for sure, but it's not like she is Sutton Foster. Wonderland was such an abomination of the soul (and while I am at it, THAT show is capable of career genocide for all those involved), that I found James' tweet just even more ignorant and hilarious. She was in WONDERLAND and starting chastising Into the Woods. Seriously, forget (or not) the lack of courtesy that she saw the first preview of the showshe was on the front lines of the biggest hot mess in agesThe jokes write themselves, just saying...

Because yes, James' tweet was undeniably ignorant. This is more of an observation of this whole fiasco and less of a defense of her, but no matter what, her original tweet was not exactly subtle in its objective and looks like it came from a overzealous, theater-loving meth addict who discovered Twitter for the first time. Not helping her cause - and this is unconfirmed because I have no recollection - but apparently, she went public with her hating on Gavin Creel and Andrew Rannells "rude" antics during Godspell's opening night in the fall. No further comment, but in her sort-of short career, impressions and perception are everything and this is relevant to the controversy at hand.

But you know what I love about her tweet though? She is being honest. A little brazen in her tone of speech, but she's honest. Of course, most theater creative, cast and crew don't badmouth other productions publicly (Spiderman: TOTD withstanding). These people are all in the same melting pot and probably run into each other 6 or 7 times a year, if not, a week. If everyone shared exactly what was on their mind, that would make for some awkward (but DELICIOUS), drama on every turn. I'd pull up a chair and watch.

But can I just say, even from my position on the outlier of theater commentary (and even that is being way too grandiose), I have cornered many an actor, actress or playwright into a corner (not physically, that only happened like twice) and he or she began throwing shade in every direction about other {shows, actors, you name it} to anyone willing to listen. Call James a traitor all you want or tell her to GTFO, she said something in gest that everyone has done before behind closed doors or in confidence amongst company. That fact that she spewed a comment publicly is more of a criticism of how this generation communicates these days and how easy it is. Prior to Twitter and Facebook, to get something published anywhere, you needed to run your own printing press, send a press release, call a press conference or protest or something. What do all of these things have in common? Effort and time. How hard is it to tweet? It takes 8 seconds and a lapse of judgment - something Morgan James had even though nothing would have been accomplished, overreaction or not.

Yes, the theater community is generally loving and supportive and kind - I am proud to consider myself a part of it in even the smallest way - but it is not immune to any dark holes along the way and it is not as happy-go-lucky, "let's all meet up and have an orgy two or six times a week" as it may present itself. Sure, everyone gets naked together once a year for Broadway Bares and teams up to help adopt off some adorable puppies...but remember, it is a career for many of those involved. Let's face it; in the performing community, there is competition and shade thrown...bottom line. There are people auditioning against each other for promotions roles to put bread on the table and creative teams are pitching investors in hopes that their show is chosen over others. It is an "I love this community, but..." if I ever can see one because there are strong opinions and personalities and behind-the-scenes drama. Amidst the genuine love and friendship and appreciation of all things theater that brings everyone together, there is some false sentiment and guises put up for people to cover their backsides, protect an image and sift through the masses without the interrogation light on them. I don't defend James for the tangent in which she went off on, but she is entitled to her opinion and voiced it when many other people's thought bubbles have had the same train of thought regarding something or someone they have seen perform. Like I said, it was ignorant and she stood nothing to gain, but I see it more as she has lady balls the size of melons.

Artistic community's life force, in general, are damn-near predicated on subjective comparisons and opinions - it is inevitable. So what if James, in essence, said her opinion through a bullhorn? Adam Pascal, god love him, wrote something targeting Julie Taymor last year on his Facebook page, going as far as saying she should be arrested. During his subsequent joint concert with Anthony Rapp at Town Hill, he said she was a murderer and an arsonist. No one was up in arms about that because (1) that was pretty hilarious (2) everyone loves Adam, myself included and (3) at that point, everyone hated Taymor.

That is what I seriously don't understand about this controversy...namely, it is so decidedly down-scale. She's Morgan James and I couldn't pick her out of a line-up. Does anyone recall when Stephen Sondheim, who wields at least 100 times more influence in this community that lowly little Ms. James, went after Diane Paulus' Porgy and Bess in the NEW YORK TIMES? You know, that publication thing that is read by millions every day. Because I remember it and that was a long-winded diatribe of terror left and right. But James' little tweet is the one starting a forest fire this go around? Really?

Weirdly, the only thing that...astounds me, I guess, it the reception around Matt Doyle's tweet, clearly aimed at James. A "throwdown" it was hardly, just saying commentariat. Look, I love Doyle and he is a meadow of bunnies wrapped up into one person, but the love and admiration for his somewhat generic "piece and love" tweet is absurd and only made the issue more antagonizing (and for me, tantalizing in the "why bother" department). He is every bit as right to voice his opinion as she did hers (and I do believe he was sincere), but everyone got all moist over it like he invented harmony via a subtle-bitch tweet. Like his sweater-vested concealed abs, he is perfect and lovely and all he needs are the wings and harp to complete the picture. But powder your crotches; all he did was draw a larger line in the sand in a battle where almost no one wants to take Jame's side (except maybe BroadwaySpotted and even I have to admit, this conspiracy theory that they are the same person is kind of funny and not that farfetched).

Look, James deleted her tweet, readdressed what she said in a more specific context and apologized in the aftermath. From a PR context - woot, we are in my territory right now - she hit all the right marks and this will be less of hot gossip in a couple of days. The damage is done and there is nothing more she can do except maybe bake some cookies for the entire production (in my world, baked cookies can solve all of life's problems).

I don't care for the gal and the only opinion I can muster up about her is that she has a really jazzy voice coming out of this petite little white girl. But I do understand overreactions and context and as far as I'm concerned, this little situation is the least of our worries. Let's shift our focus back to the patrons that are playing Words with Friends while a show is in progress or having their cell phones go off audibly during a scene or a party shows up 30 minutes into the show when they are center orchestra forcing everyone to get up and accommodate...because they are the ones that need a group glare and a smackdown. Heck, that guy in Aurora, Colorado went into a movie theater and shot up a showing of The Dark Knight Rises. And everyone is fussing over a random actress' misguided tweet?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For the most part, I agree with everything you have said. But I don't understand the parallel that you (and others) have drawn between this and SS's Porgy and Bess comments. Had SS asked how the creative team had managed "fuck up" Porgy and Bess, and noted the production as a sign that good acting was dead-- there would have been an outcry. Artists have a right to comment on other's art, but the manner in which they choose to go about it makes a huge difference.