Question by Mizz G: Disbanding my theatre company due to ethical issues in leadership. What to say to members?
We started in late 2008 when a businesswoman doing business near our campus (she also happens to pastor a wannabe church with her husband) invited all our class for lunch intending to recruit us to do a neighborhood christmas performance which could serve as a promotional tool for our campus’s new performing arts major (which our class is doing). I wrote a storyline for it, not because I wanted to get involved, but because my classmates who kept harassing me about it accepted my terms that I won’t do it unless we’re allowed to perform about the birth of Jesus. To my surprise, my storyline was selected and I was appointed as both scriptwriter and producer.
As it turned out, the businesswoman got us connected with most people she knew who might be able to support the production, but expected us to raise our own funds and pay the bills. She claimed that she was just helping us becoming independent and facing the dynamics of real business when we later in life become real artists. Her wannabe pastor husband was frequently in the office to give us motivational talks to work harder and expect results. Together we projected this would-become-theatre-company to be a community where young aspiring artists are equipped in commitment, character, and competence, so they will grow to become influential people who have the right set of values once they work in the entertainment industry, and get to build up stage experience in an environment which values integrity and accountability.
The production was relatively successful, considering that we did a 45-minute play (including good costumes, make up, stage, lighting, props, decorations, music and the entire kitchen sink) with only 6 weeks preparation. However, people got mad at me for pushing them so hard and setting a standard of excellence and discipline. So by post production evaluation the organisation had already lost 90% of its cast and crew; and the businesswoman wouldn’t stop asking me to raise money to pay the outstanding bills about the equivalent of US$ 5,400. This production has also caused our formerly tight knit class of 40 to drift apart rather bitterly.
Long story short, the organization under my leadership remained active from January-July 2009. We tried organizing miniproductions and workshops to make money to return that which this businesswoman claims we owe her, but these were unsuccessful. As soon as we got a real TV cinematographer/performing artist on board to co-lead a production with me, it turned out that he was just interested in me because he had been in love with me for two years and kept it a secret. Realising that this organization was hardly becoming what we projected it to be, we called off the production as soon as Mr Cinematographer left and attempted to restructure the leadership to first educate them in a proper understanding of our vision, mission, and core values. We recruited a new HR but he turned the organisation into a bible study and neglected the performing arts side, and we didn’t know what to do with our non-Christian members.
In all this, the businesswoman practically left us although she kept her office open for the theatre company to meet daily at. She became busy with other things; amongst others, gaining political power in other neighborhoods so she can recruit other enthusiastic, talented kids to do for her what we did for her. And I have had to MC for some of these events, rather surprised to find that she and her hubby had “casted the same vision” on those other projects, and I feel cheated because I thought they should have invested in us–the committed ones–instead of throwing hype here and there with these new people they don’t even have any idea how to follow up.
In the meantime, wannabe-pastor hubby continued devoting once a week for what was left in the theatre company, giving motivational talks and convincing us that we are not working hard enough to fulfill our potential. We’re hitting a brick wall, but brick walls aren’t there to keep us from the dream; it’s merely there to separate us from those who don’t really want the dream to come true.
By August 2009 I’ve had enough. I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully) to invite Mr & Mrs Wannabe Pastor for lunch or dinner AT MY PLACE in order to talk things out since May 2009 but they always cancel last minute because the Mrs had to show up in court or had other business. Otherwise, when I do get to spend time with them somewhere, they always have other people with them so I can’t say what I’ve been wanting to say. At this point I believe that “imperfections in the leader” is no longer the issue; the issue is the integrity and character they’ve been preaching about but don’t have themselves. They’re not helping us but using us to expand their business and ministry (which they can’t separate one from the other) on our time, money, and energy. And I don’t want to do that to the people I am leading, because life is too precious for that. Right now I am not
not talking to this couple anymore.
I’ve decided to not pay the $ 5,400 bill. I didn’t sign anything that stated that it’s my, or the organization’s obligation.
I’ve been keeping these things to myself because I was afraid of what it would do to the dynamics of our team; or worse yet, our personal friendship. I tried looking for a new adult couple to mentor us–which both shares our vision but also can apply it to the performing arts–but it looks like it isn’t going to happen. And if it does, it’s probably not worth the wait
Tomorrow is our final meeting where I will dissolve the organization and return any money my team members have ever donated to it. How do I do so without compromising my integrity?
I said that I believed in the vision and will pay the price to make it happen, but now it seems like I’m the one giving up on it. And how do I present the facts without defaming our former mentor couple? While we are cutting ties professionally, I also don’t want to hurt any remaining personal friendships my teammates might still have with them.
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