Guest Blog: Robert Ross Parker-How To Piss People Off In The Theatre

I’m mixing up the Guest Blog this week.  This week it’s Robert Ross Parker.  Most of what he does is direct.  He’s the director and co-artistic director of Vampire Cowboys, which produces new works of theater using action/adventure and a comic book aesthetic.  In other words: awesome.  He and playwright Qui Nguyen have been collaborators for years.  Robert is not only a director who plays well with playwrights, he is also an adapter as well.  He recently adapted Goodbye Cruel World, based on The Suicide by Nikolai Erdman, for The  Roundtable Ensemble.


How To Piss People Off In The Theatre

by Robert Ross Parker


As I write this, I’m in a little university town in Ohio workshopping a new Vampire Cowboy show with my long time collaborator Qui Nguyen.  The university is Ohio University (our alma mater) and the show is called War is Fucking Awesome.  Qui writes, I direct, shit explodes, we have fun.

We’ve spent a fair amount of time talking to students about the industry and surviving the transition to New York.  Interestingly, what we keep coming back to is the fact that it’s important to be nice.  Theatre is a team sport.  You’re locked in a small, dark room with the same folks for a month or more.  It’s a lot more fun if you can all get along.

With that in mind, I give you a quick primer on collaborative behaviour or:

How to piss people off in theatre

10.  Practice the phrase “theatre is dead,” or at least “a dying art form.”  Theatre people really love to be told this.  Just see how subtly you can slip it into everyday conversation around the production.  For example: “I’m running to the deli on break, do you need anything?” “Yes, I’d like a Twix bar because theatre is dead.”

9. Come up with obnoxious nicknames for every one you are working with.  It’s particularly special when you can refer to them as a famous member of their profession.  Turn to the playwright and say: “Do you think there might be some cuts in this scene, Shakespeare?”  Try, “Any plans to actually learn those lines, Judi Dench?”  And, “Is this the shade of blue you meant Ming Cho Lee?”  Any of these are real winners.

8. Every time someone makes a suggestion sigh heavily and role your eyes.  When they ask what’s up, smile and say, “Nothing.”

7. Use the phrase “When are we going to be done with this _________ bullshit?” as frequently as possible.  The blank can be filled with any theatrical activity or department, i.e.: blocking, props, costume, rehearsing etc.

6. Anytime anyone disagrees with you, follow up with “Oh yea, do you want to take this outside?”  Disagreements in theatre are commonly settled with violence.   Sometimes we use swords.

5. Frequently refer to how things were done when you were at Yale.

4. Frequently refer to how things were done the one time you were on Broadway.

3. Frequently refer to how things were done when as an undergraduate you spent a summer studying with Ivana Trainaham at the Moscow Art Theatre. . . sensing the pattern?

2.   Imply that you are being paid very, very well.

and the number one way to piss people off in theatre:

1. Be a Republican

Robert Ross Parker is the co-artistic director of the Obie winning Vampire Cowboys with Qui Nguyen.  For Vampire Cowboys he has directed Vampire Cowboy Trilogy, A Beginner’s Guide to Deicide, Living Dead in Denmark, Men of Steel, Fight Girl/Battle World, Soul Samurai, Alice in Slasherland, and The Inexplicable Redemption of Agent G.  For the VC Saturday Night Saloon series he wrote Jimmy Starshooter Must Get Laid, and Radio Monster Theatre: The Further Adventures of Henry and Victor.  Other recent directing credits include Goodbye Cruel World (also adapter, Roundtable Ensemble) Hamlet{solo} (Edinburgh Fringe and Solo Nova at PS 122), and numerous projects for Ensemble Studio Theatre where he is a member.  As an actor, Robert played the title role in The Flying Machine’s Frankenstein at Soho Rep, and on tour, and played the March Hare in their production of Alice in Wonderland.  He is the former editor of The Dramatist, the Journal of the Dramatists Guild of America. MFA Ohio University.

On twitter: @robertrosspark

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