How Not To Run a Theater: The Girlfriend Factor

Here's another installment in my occasional treatise on how to save yourself from pain and suffering by understanding how to not run a theater. I know you won't listen. No one does. Everyone thinks they can do it differently. Suckers. Don't say I didn't warn you.


So, you've decided that you want to run a theater company. Fine. You were obviously dropped on your head as a child if you, like the countless other men before you, state emphatically that you want to start a theater company to tell stories in a simple intense way that brings a greater understanding of the human condition front and center in the laps of your audience (which obviously will be large because you alone will finally be fulfilling the needs of an audience hungry of cutting edge work in your community).

I'm not being sexist when I say "like the countless other MEN before you". I'm just stating a simple truth. Very few women start theater companies. They're smarter than that and are able to admit that pain is undesirable without experiencing it. The gals who do start theater companies usually start them more as hobbies. They could take up knitting just as easily, but instead they decide to produce plays. The stakes are just as high for ladies who like to start theatrical ventures, though, and often they will also knit, so there is usually at least a scarf involved in a lady run theatrical start up.

But you, alpha male. You're different, right? Or so you think.

Come on. Admit it to yourself. You're starting a theater company for one reason and one reason only. You want to meet girls.

Girls (and I mean the ones who will sleep with you after a few drinks and the promise of a role in one of those important pieces of drama you'll be producing) are the Achilles heel of so many young Turks bent on changing the world through comedy and tragedy that one might believe that a possible requirement of starting a theater company would be mandatory castration. Truth be told it is hard to do plays without girls. Lots of playwrights like to write roles for girls (especially the girl playwrights, who do seem to have loads of talent). And this isn't Elizabethan England we're talking about here. You can't just throw some hairless boy on-stage and call him a girl. Besides, you're an important theatrical pioneer, right? You don't want a hairless young boy to be your girlfriend. You want some crazy chick to dig you.

And yes, your girlfriend ill-begotten from your prominence as an upstart theater founder will be crazy. Crazy nuts. Kooky bird kind of stuff. She'll be the kind of lady who will want to play every role in every play that is available for any woman of any age. If she's a 19-year-old blondie, she'll be begging you to play Martha in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?. If she's a thirty something lady with womanly curves, she'll convince you to cast her as Juliet. And if she is one of those fitness nuts who also convinces you to take up jogging or stop smoking, she'll make you believe that casting her as Willy Loman in DEATH OF A SALESMAN is a really bold idea.

It would be nice to believe that "The Girlfriend Factor" can be avoided, but this element of starting a theater company is one absolutely unavoidable consequence of the select torture involved with this type of foolhardy endeavor. The best thing to do when dealing with "The Girlfriend Factor" is to acknowledge it. Embrace it. Have fun with it. But, there are some guidelines that should be followed to ensure the minimum level of psychological anguish. Heed the following advice and "The Girlfriend Factor" can be a thoroughly satisfying romp through one of the touchstones of running a theater company from scratch.


1. Realize something about yourself. You need this woman. Someone needs to stroke your ego when you get your bad review for your nudist colony production of OUR TOWN. She'll be there to tell you that you're brilliant.
2. "The Girlfriend Factor" is all about experiment and experience. This means you have a great chance doing all those naughty sex things you've always dreamed about. Go for it. If she balks, just say it's for show research. She'll understand. If she balks at your research lie, just mutter the name Grotowski. Muttering the name Gorotowski will bring her to her knees every time.
3. Make certain that you never meet any parents attached to your "Girlfriend Factor" girlfriend. These parents will see you for what you really are: a loser opportunistic no-talent who can't get hired by any real theater company. They'll also ask you, "So what do you do for money?" Your time with your "Girlfriend Factor" girlfriend is not about real life. It's about drama. And drama is better when it's all made up.
4. Make sure you forget about special dates, birthdays, and lovers' holidays when you are in a relationship with your "Girlfriend Factor" girlfriend. This will enrage your girlfriend privately, but to the rest of the world your girlfriend will say, "He's so busy changing theater for everyone, I totally understand." She'll give you great PR even though she could kill you for leaving her waiting at a table for two reading a copy of Brecht's poetry when you're running an hour late because you're auditioning kids for a revolutionary production of KING LEAR.
5. Break up with your "Girlfriend Factor" girlfriend only between rehearsals for projects happening with your company, and never during your process. Your process will be interrupted if you have to hear from others that your "Girlfriend Factor" girlfriend was seen crying at her day job clutching a newspaper clipping of a press preview of your upcoming show. You don't need these distractions when you're creating stunning theatrical impressions that will thrill and delight audiences. Besides, you'll have much more time for that just "broken-up-booty-call-visit" that your "Girlfriend Factor" girlfriend will initiate if you're not working on a play.