“You suck! You’ll never be any good!” an acting teacher and his students screamed at me while pointing their fingers at me.
When I tell you this story, you will no doubt think that it’s horrendous. And it is. But it is also is much worse than you think.
Most people would agree that bullying and attacking others is not a very good thing to do. We tend to agree about that. Yet, all you have to do is look at social media and group dynamics, and you’ll see that although people know that it’s wrong, somehow, they think it’s okay for them. That they have the right. That it’s different for them and that they have valid justifications.
They are wrong.
I keep going over it in my head, trying to figure it out. There’s a group of women in a community I’ve been slowly pulling away from (due to their behavior), that have grouped together to attack other people in community. To pressure other people to do what they want. And if they don’t get what they want they try, and have succeeded on multiple occasions, to actually banish people from community.
I keep going over it in my head because I know some of those women. Some of them are educated and intelligent. They like to think that they are loving and good, but their view of themselves and their actions don’t match.
But we’ll come back to that. First my story…
In 1996, I moved out to Seattle to become a stand-up comic. You might wonder why I chose Seattle. Well Seattle is full of stand-up comics. There’s a lot of open mics and opportunities to perform. It’s a great place to train before heading to a bigger market. You don’t go to L.A. until you’re ready.
I spent several years doing comedy. Not well of course. I have a weird sense of humor and I have a lot more male characteristics than most women. People didn’t know what to make of me. I’d do things that, if done by a man, would get a laugh. But not if done by a woman. Some things are only funny if done by a high-status person, and humans haven’t yet accepted equality, no matter what they say. Hell, women keep throwing their power away by insisting on being a victim, but I digress.
I knew I was hit and miss. And I didn’t know what to do about it. So, I turned toward acting and started taking acting classes.
I had been to this man’s class one time before, and it had gone fairly well. I went back for a Character/Monologue workshop. And I had something I wanted to explore. I’d also gone back because I’d developed a crush on one of the other actors. It saddened me to find he wasn’t in the class. But I digress.
In the class description we were asked to bring something in. He went around the room and every single other person in the class said that they didn’t bring anything and that he could decide for them. I was the only one who brought something! I felt bad for him. I felt that they were putting all the pressure on the teacher. I felt bad for him. And I felt a little superior because I’d actually FOLLOWED THE INSTRUCTIONS.
We started working. While we were working, the teacher’s assistance was running around the room taking pictures of the teacher. He’d pose and she’d take another picture. He’d pose again. I thought that was pretty weird. I mean, I’m there to work.
These were two clues, but I didn’t get it. And then it was my turn.
I had this idea I was noodling over about a short theatrical piece that goes from birth to death, with everything, good and bad, in between. In Clown. With dance numbers.
For age 17, I’d picked 50 Cents “In da Club” as the song to use as my 17-year-old little clown, with an attitude problem. insults and gets into so much trouble that she gets kicked out of the house. It would have been the funniest scene in the show! I can see it in my head. Of course, my imagination has me doing handstands, which I can’t do, but I digress.
But there was also drama, and my little clown was also going to be attacked in an alley, left for dead, and have a raging case of PTSD. Which would take the rest of the show to come out of to end up getting married, having children and grandchildren, before losing her husband and then finally dying herself. To be born again.
I think it would be very powerful. I tingle when I think about even now.
But that day, in that class, I was kneeling on the ground talking about the drama scene when…
The teacher jumped up and rushed over to me. He pointed his finger at me and screamed, “YOU SUCK! YOU WILL NEVER BE ANY GOOD! YOU WILL NEVER BE AS GOOD AS MARCEL MARCEAU!”
Then the assistant led all the other students over to me and they circled me and pointed their fingers and screamed, “YOU SUCK! YOU WILL NEVER BE ANY GOOD! YOU WILL NEVER BE AS GOOD AS MARCEL MARCEAU!” Over and over and over again.
I just knelt there on the ground, looking up into their screaming faces.
The Rest of the Class
Then we all sat back down in our seats.
I was upset, but I’m also in an acting class. We go places, on purpose, that most would never want to go. My show had some hard moments. I thought that maybe this was an exercise. That we were going to come back to it and incorporate that experience in with my idea of a show. So, I waited.
For the rest of class, the teacher just kept giving me dirty looks. Like I’m pond scum. We never came back to it. But I waited. Surely this was an exercise.
At the end of the class the assistant held me and I cried. It wasn’t an exercise. It was an attack. And I took it very personally. And because I was more naïve then than I am now, I believed him and what he said.
I apologized to him.
I still can’t believe I apologized to him.
10 Years of Hell
My self-esteem and my self-confidence took a major hit. I still went to acting classes but I found myself sabotaging myself. I know now that it was because I believed that teacher, and those students, that I would never be any good and that I suck.
I ended up with a mild case of PTSD that manifests itself by me being startled very easily and screaming at the top of my lungs at whoever had the misfortune of startling me. It’s been over 20 years and I still scream a lot. People at my workplace just ignore it, they are used to it. “Hey, Karin” SCREAM! “Can you help me with this?”
For 10 years, everywhere I went, there was a reminder of that teacher. I’d be walking down the street and somehow end up in a conversation with a stranger who’d ask me what I thought of that teacher. I’d tell them that I thought he had no business teaching anyone. That not all acting teacher and actors are like that.
I said it to them, but I was also trying to convince myself.
I’d be at the bus stop and I’d eavesdrop on people arguing about the teacher. One, with the blissful face of the true believer, would sing the teachers praises. The other, getting more frustrated, would condemn the teacher as being an asshole.
I had several people tell me that they had no respect for actors anymore because of what they experienced in that man’s class.
I have a friend who was trying to get me to go to this other teacher’s class. But this teacher studied under the teacher who attacked me, and I didn’t want to go. My friend kept at me saying that he was not like that other teacher. That he was a great teacher.
I decided to go.
My friend was right. This new teacher was, and is, a fabulous teacher. He was a 1000x better teacher and a 1000x better person than that other teacher. I learned so much.
But he shares students with that other teacher. The assistant from that other teacher’s class was often in this class as were his other students. Now I don’t remember who was in that class besides the teacher and the assistant. And the guy who wasn’t there, who I’d been looking for in the first place.
I tried; I really did. I tried to put it behind me. I repressed it. But it got to me. I had no idea who had been in that class that day, who attacked me. Having so many people around me harping on the great and wonderous teacher they loved so much, cut me. The stress of not getting up and beating the hell out of the lot of them got to me.
I developed stomach ulcers and other physical issues.
I ended up leaving the class.
You see, I believe that this teacher never saw the bad side of the other teacher. They are both males and closer in age than the rest of us. I’m certain that the other teacher would only engage in bad behavior when the class has no one he respects in it. I’m sure he loved his assistant. She was his enabler. But I’m also sure he had no respect for her.
I had several conversations with that assistant about the incident. She blamed him telling me “He’s trying to be better.” She’s never apologized for her part in it. In fact, she once asked me if I was “ready” to come back to the class! It was at that moment that I realized just how much he damaged her.
I watched as she lured other students into that teacher’s class. I told one of them this story in an effort to keep her out of his class. She was just too talented to be ruined by him. But she went anyway. It made me very sad and very sorry for her. And now I have to find a different inspiration for my Horror/Comedy script.
The Beginning of Healing
Right before I left the class, I went out to an adventure ropes course in Woodinville, WA. As per usual, I had to have a conversation about the teacher with yet another person. But this conversation was different.
The person I talked to had gone through a bad experience with this teacher in L.A. She’d quit acting because of it. She told me that, when it happened to her, she thought “who the hell does this guy think he is?” She found out that he’d been the founder of a major acting school. And that he’d been kicked out of the school he founded.
It was a major revelation for me. I verified her story. Yes, in the 70s he founded the school. 5 years later they kicked him out. Why? Because he sucked! The success of that school had nothing to do with him! All he did was teach his little class in the space once a week. Probably his concession when he was kicked out.
He was a fraud. He could help no one. He was just a violent narcissistic asshole who gathered weak-willed actors to him so he could be worshipped. They threw away their self-esteem and integrity for a nothing. They hurt so many people for a nothing.
It’s not that I suck and will never be any good. The teacher and the entire class were projecting their own fears onto me.
Throughout that 10 years of hell, I’d take other classes, always wondering if I’d see this teacher’s students in them. I never did. Now I understand. They don’t go to other classes. They are insular. They are baked into a group mind.
I finally started to heal.
It’s been hard. I come from a hard background and was told by my father I’d never amount to anything. The experience gave me PTSD but also opened the floodgates on my past trauma. I can no longer repress. I have to deal with it.
And the Universe keeps giving me opportunities to practice, even if I still have no idea how to deal with it.
Because of that class, I now have no respect or sympathy for people who get into groups to attack others. That group of women who are bullying, attacking, and banishing people? I can either think that they know what they are doing and are just violent people, or I can think they are ignorant dumbasses without a clue. Either way, I don’t condone their behavior.
And while I understand the need to belong, why would anyone want to belong to that kind of group? They are not the “cool kids”.
I had someone lined up who said they’d tell me who was all in the group, but they backed off. I get it. I have more power in the little picky of my non-dominant hand than all of those women put together. Or at least how they see their own power.
See, they are powerful beyond measure, but because they don’t know it, don’t inhabit it, don’t understand it, they went too far. I’ve looked in the eyes of those they have hurt and I know the spiritual and psychological hit they took when they were victimized. Not knowing your own power doesn’t absolve you when you misuse it.
The violent tendencies in me sees, and hates, the violent tendencies in you.
You owe so many apologies to so many people. I hope one day you grow enough tits to make them.
That teacher died a few years back. I didn’t kill him. I thought about it often. My feelings are mixed. Although I feel bad for all the misguided folks who mourn him, I’m also glad he will never have the opportunity to hurt another person.
His old assistant is teaching classes. Sometimes I have flashbacks but it’s with her attacking students. When I was repressing everything and trying to let it go, I referred someone to her class. I immediately regretted it. If you are reading this, I’m sorry. You deserve better.
I’m trying to sort through all of this. I want to make enough sense out of it that I can truly let it go. But it’s hard with all the violence going on in the world. Much of it coming from people who think they’re loving and good. It’s tough.
I’m trying to change, to be better. Part of me acknowledges that I may be delusional myself. That maybe I’m wrong in thinking that bullying, attacking and banishing are wrong. It feels like it’s wrong to me. But those woman feel that it’s right, that they have the right. So who is right? It seems so obvious to me that I’m astounded it’s happening. But considering so many have allowed this behavior, let them have their way, maybe I am the one who’s wrong. Maybe…
I’m trying to stay away from that violent group of women. That’s hard because their victims keep inviting them to events. I just don’t get it. Why? Do I stay and try to help the victims see that they shouldn’t give these women power over them? Or let them have their own experience? Who knows!
What I do know is that I need to figure it out for myself. Stand in my own integrity. Know my own power. Decide what is valuable for me.
And no more bad teachers!