The other week I had a new client request a coaching for an important callback. I’m always happy to work with new folks, so I made room in my schedule for them. The night before their coaching, they requested a time change because of some industry work. Though I have a very full studio (and I’m grateful for that!), I was able to accommodate the request and move them later in the day. An hour before the rescheduled coaching time, I receive a text that the client wouldn’t be coming – that they looked forward to working with me at a later date. I informed them that they still owed me my hourly rate for cancelling at the last minute. Like many voice teachers and coaches, I have a strict 24-hour cancellation policy. They refused to pay. End of scene.
There are a number of ways to handle this kind of situation. If I wanted to, I could make life very difficult for this person. The client is unaware of the fact that I know the director of the production for which they’re auditioning. I also know many casting directors in New York and another director for whom they’re currently working. If I was feeling vindictive, this person would have a real mess on their hands.
But that’s not the way I operate. See, I believe in karma. Why should I get caught up in the vortex of their negative energy? Plus, history has shown me these things have a rather fun way of working themselves out in the long run.
Several years ago, one of my students left my studio in a rather poor way. He was assigned to another teacher, whom I dearly respect. To the other teacher’s credit, they called me and we discussed the situation. I told them I released him without bad feelings and that I wished them well.
Fast forward to 2 summers ago: my colleague Laura Josepher and I were casting a NYMF show. Out of the blue, I received an e-mail from the former student saying he had time to think about his actions and was embarrassed by them. I thought, “Wow. That’s really mature. How good of him to put himself on the line like that.” I responded, letting him know all was forgiven.
The next day, in the casting room, guess who showed up? Yup. It became rather obvious that my former student had only reached out because he knew he’d see me and wanted to be cast in our show.
If only he had been honest and said, “I know we didn’t end on the best of terms. I’m going to be auditioning for the show you’re musical directing. I hope it won’t be awkward for you. I’m sorry for any trouble I’ve caused in the past.” That I could have respected. But he didn’t. He was manipulative and conniving. And it doubled down on the initial offense, to his disadvantage.
To be fair, he gave a decent audition and he was right for our show. But when he left the room and the casting director asked me what I thought, I told her of our history and the e-mail he sent the day before. The casting director said, “Ah, well that’s really good to know, because he’s also up for a play. I’ll take that into consideration when I’m casting it.”
I’m not interested in “screwing people over.” It serves absolutely no one. Of course, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a part of me that wants to ruin people who take advantage of me with a Julia Sugarbaker kind of flair (like this). But, like those nuts they sell on the streets of New York, revenge never tastes as good as it smells.
In the end, I didn’t have to make life difficult for my former student. He brought all of it on himself. I just had to tell the truth. And, for him, the truth hurt, though he may never know how much.
What about the client that skipped out without paying? I’m not going to tell the directors or casting directors who they are. If they’ve done this to me, they’ll do it to others. Like my former student, I don’t need to be involved in their downfall. As we know, the theatre community in New York is incredibly small. And people talk. A lot. Word will get around without me. Instead, I’m going to focus my energy on my many wonderful students and private clients, who value the work we do together.
Plus, I believe karma will find a delicious way of settling the score…
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