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The Art of Leaving Your Troupe - Chicago Burlesque Dancer Red Hot Annie Weinert
She really makes the wieners boil!

Red Hot Annie / Ann Marie Weinert
Date: 2013-04-19 10:30
Subject: The Art of Leaving Your Troupe
Security: Public
Got an email from an performer in another city today about how/if to leave their troupe, and I invested some serious time into my response, because it's something I know lots of people have had to deal with and feel I can offer a unique perspective because I've had a variety of experiences with people leaving Vaudezilla, most extraordinarily respectful and lovely.

Here was my response (redacted where necessary):

It sounds like you've become a valuable part of the burlesque troupe that you work for - and you've really invested a lot.

I think many, many people have been in your position, and the best thing you can do is find a way to come to an amicable agreement (or leave on the best possible terms). I know this isn't always possible, but mark my word that in the "big picture" of the burlesque world - there have been many, many bridges burned that didn't have to be. This person may be causing you a lot of anxiety right now, but consider that a year from now, it won't be as intense a situation as it is now - and consider what you want a year from now and how what you do/SAY now can affect that.

Whether we like it or not, we're all in this together - and even in the biggest cities, you will bump into performers you've had conflicts with over and over again. If you are able to do so with elegance and peace, you'll feel happier. This "perspective" is really hard to remember at times like this, but so critical. Do yourself a favor and take some time to really center yourself before confronting it.

That said, here are some ideas:

It sounds like the breaking point is the recent contract you've been asked to sign that you aren't comfortable with - the one where ###########. What does this contract say? Is there something objectionable within? Is this the contract where she's asking for ###########?

My opinion is that this is a pretty unorthodox way of asking for a commission. I probably wouldn't do it, but there are a lot of "ok" ways to do things from a business standpoint. Most burlesque producers didn't go to college for business, and many are trying their best to make sustainable ways of making this hobby into an income - she may see you as an "investment" in the same way you feel you've invested in your troupe. Does she know that you don't feel comfortable with the contract? Have you expressed your desires to perform outside of the troupe in a way that respects her? It may be something where you can propose an alternative to the contract - or adjust the contract so that it seems fair to you both.

Remember that ALL contracts are negotiable - and you SHOULD advocate for yourself and what you want out of the contract, but it's important to be clear about what you want, and to know without a doubt that she understands your perspective.

There's a new term I've learned recently, it's "flooding" - it's when a person is overwhelmed with emotions and is no longer able to clearly express themselves or hear another person's feelings. We all do it when we feel strong emotions. If you can avoid "flooding" when you are communicating with her - or take breaks when you feel it starting to happen, you will find that you can handle getting through this experience with panache!

On a separate note, it sounds like the pay has become a sticking point for you, as well as some other experience you've had at other events. The financial aspect of burlesque can be really tricky, especially if you feel like you are being asked to do unfair things (for example, ###########). Again, it's important to make sure that you've been heard, and the only way that's going to happen is if you find a way to address her in a way that is direct but still respectful and avoids "flooding." Does she know that you're uncomfortable with some of these arrangements? It's important to come to an agreement about what's "OK" to expect from each other on the financial side of things.

Having someone else take credit for your ideas is really difficult, and it sounds like there are some overall trust issues. Perhaps this troupe isn't the right fit for you? I would say that the term "unethical" is probably not a good one to throw around - and if you are feeling that strongly, it may be too late to really address whatever trust issues are at hand. If you disagree with what she's doing, that's your right as a individual, but unless she's killing puppies or something, what she's doing has nothing to do with ethics and everything to do with her own personal business goals, which may justifiably be different than yours - and that's OK! :)

That said, it might not be a good fit for you, and you may need to find a way to move on. I would recommend finding the most respectful, kind, elegant way to do so, and allow for the fact that she may have some VERY STRONG feelings about you doing this. You can't do anything about how she will respond, but I would recommend NOT USING EMAIL in any way for this stuff, and making sure to give yourself enough breaks to really allow yourself (and your colleague) a fair chance at being really understood.


What are your thoughts, dear readers?


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