Notice: The following contains discussion regarding prop firearms as they relate to the events at Newtown, CT, last December.
Background (Apologies in advance for the length.)
I sit on the Advisory Board at our local community theater, where I have been involved in all manners of production for the last fifteen or sixteen years. Early this summer I will be directing another show in our annual One-Act Festival, a farce about an armed robbery. Like all plays that we put on, the play was reviewed and approved by the Board in general before the rights were finally purchased in late February. FWIW, the rights/royalties and the scripts are nonrefundable.
The producer for the shows (we have five shows as part of the Festival, he is producing all of them) used to be a very active member of the theater, but circumstances forced him away for several years and this is the first production he is back for. So he is a member, but does not (as of now) have a vote on the Board, although any theater group member can come to meetings and speak. My show has some technical aspects that were taking some time to figure out how to put them into play on the stage- among these, a working prop gun. (Think starter pistol, but one that looks more like a real firearm.) Because of the way it is used onstage, the effect could not be pulled off with a toy and sound FX. Producer and I were going back and forth for several weeks on this, trying different ideas, before agreeing that the best way to do it would just be to either borrow or purchase a blank-fire pistol.
About a week later, I received (in group-email format) an email from our Chairwoman to the entire Board that "someone" (she did not specify who) had a concern that one of the props being used in one of the shows was a handgun and that this person felt this was "not a good thing". Further, this person had taken it upon himself to "conduct an informal poll" of a few people and was getting the same response. She (the Chairwoman) wanted to know our (the Boardmembers') opinions on the subject. I felt pretty blindsided by this whole thing and as a result, furious, as I have always felt that I was pretty accessible to concerns and questions and would have been happy to talk to someone or go over the script with anyone who wanted to. Beyond that, this was coming up AFTER the show was bought and paid for (and royalties and scripts are not cheap), the show was casted, and I was two weeks away from starting rehearsals. So now, before I even knew what the heck was going on, everyone and their brother is chiming in on whether or not a gun should be allowed onstage, whether or not it's insensitive (we live only about 90 minutes from Newtown and many on the board, including myself, are teachers, so that was a huge factor), etc. It finally boiled down to "we'll discuss it at the meeting".
The long and short of the meeting- the person with the concern was the producer. This irritated me even more because he and I had already been engaged in dialogue regarding this very prop, so, as I saw it, if he was concerned, why didn't he say something to me directly instead of essentially going behind my back? It became one of those situations where many people, including the producer, suddenly decided they had a problem, but absolutely no solution. More than willing to continue to just say, "No. Bad." and keep complaining. I had a really nasty headache at the end of the meeting. I suppose you could say I "won", because the play, with the prop, will continue as planned. Rehearsals start next week.
So here's my dilemma. I'm not exactly excited to be working with Producer for fear of what monkeywrench he could try to throw at me next. I don't think he would actively sabotage my show, but I doubt he's going to make this easy, either, especially when it comes to getting the money from him to order the prop in question. (And as he is the producer, he controls the pursestrings.) On the bright side, I do have the Chairwoman and the group's Treasurer on my "side" and they might be willing to act as buffers, but overall, I would like this production to go as smoothly as possible. When pushed though, I can get snarky and/or sarcastic fast. (Put it this way- Producer's viewpoints are very mainstream in my state. Mine are decidedly not. Thoughts on how I can make this easier for everyone? I especially don't want to get my cast caught in the middle, especially since one of them is my brother, and he will "side" with me, "others be darned". (Direct, if paraphrased quote from him. Nice kid.)