Herr Direktor

Mean people suck, right? That’s easy enough. But what about the otherwise sweet people who sometimes do mean things? What about the people who’ve always been sweet to you, but who reportedly have treated other people like poo?

A kerfuffle at Centre Stage has paused or ended in the the departure of Robert Linder from the cast of Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure only days before opening night. Linder was playing Holmes.

Rumor has it that director Ben Robinson had leaned too hard on Linder, causing him to walk. One of Linder’s friends, Chris White, who also happens to be a friend of mine, blogged about Ben, describing him as “belligerent, unhinged … pretentious, self-absorbed … full of desperate personal insecurities that manifested themselves in boorish tirades … foolish, egotistical … a cruel, proud taskmaster … an awful human being … like a movie Nazi …”

In other words, a drinker of human blood.

I don’t know Linder, but his credentials are solid and people I’ve asked about him give him high marks as a performer and as a person.

Ben I know reasonably well. He’s directed me in three productions at Centre Stage and I’ve always found him to be personable, meticulous, methodical, tireless, focused, extremely organized and reliable. He’s also demanding, high-strung and sometimes, when opposed by people or circumstances, a wicked stepmother. All within acceptable parameters, by the way, at least so far as I’ve been able to observe first-hand.

The last time I heard about Ben seriously upsetting one of his actors was while I was marketing director at Centre Stage and, frankly, I didn’t think much of it. There were tears, yes, but actors can be touchy. Directors can be prickly. Common traits that I neither condone nor condemn. (I walked out on a show myself once. Drove home all the way from Wisconsin. Not my finest hour.)

So what to make of Linder v. Robinson? Does responsibility rest mainly with any one person? Where was the administration in all this? And more to the point, were people showing up late for rehearsals? Not meeting deadlines? Was there any eye-rolling? Whispering? Smirking? Foot dragging? Were the same notes having to be given repeatedly? How many of of Ben’s buttons got pushed?

Then Linder … a union man, retired from the Met, sought after, so I hear, by Flat Rock, Appalachian Rep and others. His skin should be pretty thick by now, wouldn’t you think? Maybe it is. His conduct should be impeccable. Maybe it was. What the hell happened?
Is puzzlement.

After I’ve heard Ben’s side of the story, and maybe Linder’s from his mouth to my ears, I might issue an opinion. Until then, I’m having trouble with the “cruel, proud taskmaster … awful human being” angle. I mean, come on. Awful human being? Really? Are things ever as black and white as that?