The Flaming Bird Chronicles

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The Flaming Bird Chronicles

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Mon Oct 15, 2007 12:35 pm


The views in this thread are the views of one individual. They, in no way reflect the views of Middle Audio or it's staff.



It was September 2006. A young man was sitting on his girlfriend's back porch enjoying a rum and coke with her. They were having a discussion about him returning to work for a former employer that he vowed he would never work for again. They discussed long and hard about the decision that was presented to him only a few days before...

The reason he had even considered it at the time was a friend of his asked him to help out during their busy season, because their was a concern about other staff members. His friend seemed to be genuinely concerned.
Although he cringed at the idea of considering returning to this place of dread; He figured it would only be 2 months, what's the harm? What's the harm indeed...

He decided to at least speak with the employer to discuss the possibility of returning for a short term. As he and the employer left on bad terms last time around. The employer said that he couldn't afford to pay him, so it forced him to try a different strategy.

It came to his attention that a friend of his, who promised him dibs on some high end equipment, gave the employer said equipment in trade to absolve some debt owed to the employer. The employer had no intention of sell the goods as he had grown attached to them. So there was no way of getting money from the employer... But perhaps the equipment could be payment. He suggested the idea to the employer, who decided that the goods were great leverage, and wanted to gain more services in the trade.

Before he even realized it, our hero was locked into a contracted term ending December 31st 2007. Receiving no "real" pay. Except for understudy rate for rehearsals, and whatever tips he can scourge. Working for an organization so deathly allergic to logic and reason, that the very thought of either notion would lead to catastrophic arguments. A dictative owner who is hell bent on driving the place into the ground, along with his talentless powermad advisor by his side.

This is a story of one young man fighting agaist all odds to retain his sanity in the midst of a hell in which he is doomed to live until this sentence ends... But will he make it? Every day he faces new challenges that test his patience and resolve.

In the coming days and months, until our hero's contract is up, I will chronicle the events that transpire in this thread.

I will go deeper into how this whole place started, what were the probable causes of the inevidable downfall. We will explore the anatomy of this business, and discover the extent of the evil that may reside there.

Also since I'm sick of speaking in the third person, I'll let you know that the young man is me. {insert gasp here}

To be continued....
Last edited by Mathieu Benoit on Mon Oct 22, 2007 8:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Mathieu Benoit » Mon Oct 22, 2007 3:41 am

CHAPTER ONE - Drumwaiter for Hire?

Well, to begin with, I'd have to tell you how I went from playing in bands, to serving food while singing, dancing, playing various instruments, while acting like everything from raging queer disco ballerina to socially retarded nerd.

It was never my choice to do anything other than playing drums necessarily. However I had been away from Saint John for a while, having spent the better part of 4 years on the road. I lost touch with the scene, and I didn’t know many musicians anymore, thus had difficulty getting out there and playing music, like I had been for so many years.

It was spring 2003. My mother showed me an ad in the local paper. There were auditions afoot for a local dinner theatre and she thought I should try out. I told her that it wasn’t something I was interested in, I had NO acting background, and my singing abilities were very questionable at best. Somehow though I ended up sitting in a chair, waiting in line to audition, in a lobster restaurant of all places. I thought for sure that no good would come of this. Whether it turned out I was right or wrong, I’m still debating.

When it was my turn to audition, I went upstairs and was greeted by a lovely woman who could only be described as wonderfully delightful. She wore the very “sparkly” clothing, with 15 pounds of jewelry on her, easy. Looking at her was like staring at the sun, just blinding.

She came towards me and introduced herself. “Hi I’m Shynea, Shynea Sparkel. It’s nice to meet you. Tee hee hee.” Two other people stood behind her, a man and a woman. They appeared to be people of authority so I quickly leaned over to shake their hands. The woman as it turns out was the musical director, and the man was the acting director.

I proceeded to audition, first starting with my acting inability. It was terrible. I had to be the worst actor that will ever exist. I was a nervous wreck, and the director was giving me comments, looking like he was trying to avoid saying things like ”What the holy fuck was that?” and “Could you try acting like you have a sweet fucking clue?” He never did say those things, but his eyes had that stunned confused look about them.

The musical director then asked me what instruments I played. I responded drums, and a bit of piano. She had me try a few things on the piano. Which for the record was not a piano. It was a junked up Fisher Price sine wave generator, with no sustain pedal. Fuck me. I played whatever I could without making a total fool of myself. I mean, I’m not a bad piano player by any stretch, but this “piano” could make Beethoven sound like wide open ass.

Could this audition go any worst? Sure it can.

Next in our scheduled events: Drums. Well I figured at least here, I can show them some ability. My confidence was coming back up until all of a sudden, I saw the drums that I’ll be performing on. There was more duct tape than actual drum parts on the miss-shaped riser. Upon closer inspection there was a drum set under the duct tape, you just had to get real close to see it. The seat was 8” off the ground, the snare drum was pointed practically perpendicular to the ground, and the toms all faced each other. To top it all off the heads were so dead that I may as well been playing on a pillow. For fuck sakes… am I on camera? This can’t be happening.

I opted to avoid the Moby Dick style solo that I had previously envisioned myself playing. Instead I decided keeping steady time and trying to groove on this shitbox was a better way to go.

All in all I had the worst audition ever. The only salvation I had in the end was the fact that at least this means I won’t have to actually do any of this. I realized then, that I auditioned just to see what it was like. I never expected to actually have to do anything.

I was invited by Shynea to come see a show that weekend. So I did. It was fun, I enjoyed it and met one of the cast members, who was playing bass in that show. He had just started playing bass, and wasn’t great, but seemed to really get into it. You could tell he was full of potential. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater was his name, that name was actually given to him a few years later when he started playing with a local musician that always gave pet names to his sidemen. We exchanged numbers and I left.

I never heard back from anyone, so I simply forgot all about the audition from hell, and mister Noisewater.

A few months later, I received a call from Kenneth. He apparently lost my number, and didn’t know how to get a hold of me. He then went on a trip to Rome, where he ran into a friend of mine who gave him my number. We started to get together a lot to jam, or just shoot the shit. His playing was getting exponentially better by the day, I’d never quite seen anything like this kid. He was quickly becoming a little virtuoso.

So dinner theatre is ancient history and I've made a good friend that can really fucking play the bass. It's all on the up and up.

To be continued...
Last edited by Mathieu Benoit on Mon Oct 22, 2007 8:00 am, edited 4 times in total.
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Postby Mathieu Benoit » Mon Oct 22, 2007 3:52 am

CHAPTER TWO - Wrong Turn

That September I got a call from Shynea asking me if I’d like to understudy Kenneth in an upcoming production. I assumed that Kenneth put in a good word for me, because my audition, as I’ve mentioned, was nothing worth getting a call back on.

I showed up for my first rehearsal, and I met the cast who were very pleasant people. I realized that aside from Kenneth there was another cast member I had previously met. It was the musical director. She was one hell of a vocalist, and had music degrees coming out her backside. She was pleasant, at first but as soon as music rehearsals began I realized that she was going to be a handful to deal with, as she could be somewhat tyrannical and everything I envisioned that a T-Rex would be like if it were directing music for a show, so I name her Vocah Saurus.

Vocah was very knowledgeable when it came to melodic concepts, she was well educated and it showed. But her understanding of rhythmic concepts was “hit and miss” at the best of times. To clarify though, I always got along with her personally outside of work. She’s a very nice person, and to this day I still get along great with her, and respect her, she is talented. It was just hard during that time.

So I join in rehearsals halfway through, as the rehearsals had already been underway when I got the call. I didn’t have to actually play much during the rehearsal, as understudy, I just took notes as to what I was supposed to do. I did see how demanding she was when it came to the music and thought to myself that I’d better not cross her, as I may not have the shoes for it.

I went to just about every show for 7 weeks once it got underway. Never really having to play with them too much. Then they decided to put me in one night, for circumstances that I don’t remember. I was nervous, I never acted or sang in public before, and then there’s the serving that I’d never done.

For the record, dinner theatre is a tough bitch. You have to be really good at a lot of things to pull it off. It’s NOT for everyone.

So it’s my first night, we start into the show, so far so good. Then around the third song in, Vocah counts in (which only she is allowed to do) and half way into it, from behind the “piano” (whatever the fuck you wanna call that piece of horrid shit) she looks at me with an evil stare that could stop time, and proceeded to stomp maniacally a “new” tempo. You had to be unconscious not to notice this. At first I thought, “She must look real fucking special from the crowd’s perspective…” Then immediately I realized that I looked stupid for being the object of her discontent. Fuck me… She counted the fucking thing in, and my meter isn’t that bad. What’s her fucking major malfunction anyways?

This happened randomly throughout the evening, whenever she felt like making me look like a moron I suspected. But otherwise my first experience was a good one.

I performed as an understudy another dozen times or so during that run with roughly the same outcome every time, I began to ignore Vocah more and more, as I realized I couldn’t predict when she’d bare her fangs at me next.

Shynea called me in the new year and wanted to know if I was interested in being full time cast member. My initial reaction was “fuck no.” But I found my mouth disappointing me when it said “I’d love to!” Great… My own fucking body is conspiring against me, and it wouldn’t be the last time either. So that’s it, now I’m “in”. Well maybe it’s not so bad…

So we start rehearsals for the new show, and I just started playing traditional grip so I was going to use this rehearsal to adjust to that. But that still didn’t really affect my meter too much…it was only one limb out of four…and I was getting the hang of it pretty quick.

I also decided for the sake of this show I was going to fix a problem that I had previously had with Vocah. I purchased a “Beat Bug” which is a tool that calculates the tempo in which you are playing by calculating the time between strokes. Now we’ll see who’s timing is on or off. I presented it to her, and explained what it did. She seemed interested in it, as she said “Neat, that’s interesting, it’ll be nice to have around.” I could only assume that she didn’t understand the “why” I brought it in. Oh well, so long as she wasn’t offended I was better off anyways.

So throughout rehearsal she would jokingly ask “What tempo was that one?” To which I’d answer in the number of BPM of that particular song. Man she was taking this well, and she hadn’t bugged me about tempo or stomped a hole through the fucking stage, so all is well and so forth.

Shows started and then the stomping returned. What the fuck? I thought we were over this. At least now I knew she was bat shit crazy, because we hadn’t left 110bpm in 2 weeks let alone 2 minutes. What was her goddamn problem anyways? I would ask her if there was problem afterwards and she said “It wasn’t peppy enough. I need it to be peppier.” What the Christ is peppy anyways? You count us off at 110 and now you give me hell for not playing 120? This shit is wearing damn thin on me. I said that the “my little magic tempo machine” hadn’t gone lower the 109 or higher than 111 the entire song. For those of you that are wondering, that’s barely detectable unless you’re playing to a click. We’re not fucking recording the new Steely Dan album here. This is a dinner theatre. She would then tell me that my machine was obviously not working right. Oh my fuck, she didn’t just say that did she?

All the while I had my own issues with Vocah, other more serious issues were afoot between the cast and the management. The manager at the time was pretty slow, in the dumb sort of way. The things that he would do and say would make you question the widely accepted theory that man has evolved in the past billion or so years.

More and more the cast started to resent the management and their inability to meet the cast’s needs. Even the simple shit like giving us clean utensils to set up the room with, was too much to ask. It was always one thing or another with this place, either we were way over the fire marshal’s limit of capacity, the rats out numbered the cast, or the manager was just plain being a douche. It was getting to a point where mutiny of a grand design was very possible. But still everyone loved their work, so unless they found somewhere else to do the job, it was unlikely that anyone would go that far.

At this point is where I began hearing talks of a pair of businessmen that Vocah knew that might be interested in giving us an alternative. Vocah and Shynea were having a lot of “secret squirrel” talks, and rumor had it in the co-ed changing room (which double as a liquor room/rat’s hideout) that we may be jumping ship soon.

Now I was too new to do anything but follow the mob, I had no real opinions of my own at the time, and quite happy for it.

But now who the hell were these two gentlemen, that had everyone so convinced that they had the solution, and what was the next move? I had no major investment in all of this at the time, because I was just doing it for fun, what difference did it make. All this drama would surely give me shit to write about a few years down the road.

Still I was very curious as to what was going on. I really wanted to meet this pair that had everyone so excited. Mutiny of the grandest kind was around the corner. It was a blow that later nearly crippled that business.

What was going to happen next I wondered to myself? As I’m sure you all are wondering right now…

To be continued…
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Postby Mathieu Benoit » Thu Nov 01, 2007 10:53 am

CHAPTER THREE – New Place, Same Baggage?

So, at this point, the cast is united, but mostly in their distain for the management. There was still a sense of camaraderie amongst the members of the cast, which was bound to vanish as tensions were rising between certain members. The problem that no one realized at the time was that there was a particular disease from within the cast that would respawn no matter which host it was occupying. Like a tainted blood transfusion, the recipient would need to have the antibodies to fight it off. It would take quite some time though for this issue to resurface. As the possible changes that were going on brought a sense of renewed hope within people that blinded them to underlying issues.

The problems were getting worst with the Lobster Shack management. The cast was being rallied together mostly by Vocah, she was excellent at convincing people to join a cause. Most of the cast members knew about the problems, but no one was really willing to rock the boat. Vocah had no such inhibitions. She would make no bones about charging through the situation head on. But she had insider information that also helped. She knew some people that gave her an out.

Her landlords were a pair of businessmen that enjoyed successful careers as entrepreneurs, and were heading into their retirement. The seemed well seasoned in the business of making money. They had enough of it I was told, and they were musical theatre enthusiasts. They were thinking of opening their own Dinner Theatre, which is an idea I’m sure Vocah had initiated.

I have to admit, although at this point I haven’t met our “saviors”, I was excited about a change in the air, as was everybody. I mean, the promise of better treatment, pay, larger venue, better equipment, etc. You couldn’t go wrong here, it was like Christmas.

Around the beginning of April was the first time most of us had met our new bosses. I didn’t dislike them at first, as I write this though I’m starting to wish that I had. They seemed like regular gentlemen on first sight. They were modestly dressed, and quite simple in appearance. One of them did most of the talking while the other one mostly sat there. The man that did the talking had a very shrill voice, one that I could only take so much of. It was very nasally and the tenor of his voice showed a lot of arrogance and impatience. He looked like, if he had the right wardrobe, he’d belong on the cover of an Elton John record.

His voice and personality did not leave a good impression on me. The fact that it was growing ever more obvious that he was gay, didn’t bother me though, as that shouldn’t matter. But he seemed to be really interested in helping us out, so I let it all go. I figured it had to be better than the Lobster Shack.

Captain Taytor Fantastic was his name. He and his partner had long been running successful businesses state side and were settling into their retirement period of life. They were both to restless to just sit there doing little or nothing, so the prospect of starting a new exciting venture for them was likely a treat.

It was finally officially stated to our current management that none of us were renewing our contracts with them. This obviously shocked and upset them; especially that Shynea was among the people leaving. She had been with that establishment for a long time, but I suspect she grew weary of the direction in which things seemed to be going.

We all finished up our contracts, and walked away. Shynea stayed behind to tie up loose ends and help the Lobster Shack put on their next performance.

Taytor had purchased an enormous building for the new venue. It was an old church on Exmouth Street. It wasn’t the nicest part of town. The location raised a few concerns due to it being in a slum part of town, although the building was certainly a perfect place for the venue. The next 4 months were spent waiting for the building to be renovated, that was hard for those of us who didn’t have jobs, because it created a good deal of income for most of us. I had a 9 to 5 so I didn’t feel it as much.

We finally picked a show to open with, and it was the off-Broadway musical “Nunsense”. It was a fun show, in which the boys were the pit band and the girls were the actors/singers. It was a great show for me because I was able to apply the reading abilities that I’d been working hard to develop. The rehearsals were going relatively well and things were actually quite calm for a brief period.

At this point, before things start to pick up again, I want to take the time to get familiar with the Players that tie into the story line the most.

There was Archie B, who was the most detached of the crew. He was always politically correct, and stayed out of confrontations. He never wanted to rock the boat. He was quite laid back and never did more than he had to. He was someone that I could respect. I still work with him to this day, and hold him in high esteem.

Archie had a girlfriend. She was a wonderfully professional girl from the valley. You could tell that she was a bit spoiled but very responsible. I always had a great deal of respect for her integrity, although she was definitely a princess. She was the daughter of Shynea, and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. They were great people. Her name was Laydee Sparkel.

Archie and Laydee weren’t the only couple there. These places have a bad habit of hatching couples. It was like a disease. At one point I think that everyone in the cast was doing someone else in the cast. Some of them have even done multiple cast members. But wthat was later, and we'll save it for then.

Vocah also had a significant other in the group. Smiley Goodfellah and Vocah were engaged. Smiley was the on the most inspiring people I’d ever met it the time. He always had the right answer for everything life had to offer, such a good guy. He was a great singer and guitarist.

A new addition to the crew since the move was Pianissa Keys. She was a familiar face to most, as a lot of them grew up in the valley together. She was a highly skilled pianist, that seemed to be able the sight-read fly paper. That’s a good skill to have for a musical. She was a nice girl very pleasant, but also seemed very prone to gossip and scandal, as most of what she discussed with the rest of us was that. She had dated Kenneth when they were younger and those too seemed to be starting back on that track towards the end of rehearsal.

Last of the crew that will get mentioned at this time, was the one person that made me uncomfortable. From the moment I’d met her a few month back at the Lobster Shack, she had completely hypnotized me. I had a very serious crush on her, and it was messing with my head. She was absolutely gorgeous and the fact that she had slightly neurotic tendencies was lost on me at the time. Aphro Deejia was her name, and she was one hell of a singer, with a beautiful alto tone. At the time, the very concept of her was making it hard to concentrate on my job of learning and playing these songs for the show. I was very easily distracted by her presence.

So that sums up the pivotal members of the crew.

The scene is set. We are a week before the show starts and everyone seems to be getting along. There’s no drama, no problems. Vocah can still rub some people the wrong way, but even that seems manageable. For now everything seems good.

But what if we only replaced one evil for another by jumping ships? What if on top of that the real root of our problem was still never addressed? As the summer neared it’s peak, we would soon begin our first season as the Flaming Bird Players. Still there was a smell in the air that something was rotting from the inside, something was fundimentally wrong about all of this. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. I was sure that very soon, the reality would start to peak through the illusion that somehow this place ran off of candy canes and lollipops. Because we were about to find out that nothing could be further from the truth.

To be continued…
Last edited by Mathieu Benoit on Wed Feb 10, 2010 1:11 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Mathieu Benoit » Thu Nov 08, 2007 10:39 pm

CHAPTER FOUR – Running With The Devil

Taytor was certainly a kind of boss that I’d yet to encounter. He was as arrogant as I believe most good businessmen are in business. The problem between him and I may have stemmed from the lack of separation between our business and personal relationship.

I can think of a very clear start to that problem. I walked in one day and Taytor and his partner were working away at hanging wallpaper in the back corner of the room. His partner left for a moment, and he turned to me and said. “Now I realize this may not be appropriate to ask, but… Are you gay?” I was in shock. The fact that I was being asked this question was obviously inappropriate. I mean, is this even relevant? I said “No” obviously and shrugged it off as if it didn’t matter, but it did really. This forever broke my respect for him. I saw in that moment that his business decisions would always be ruled by his emotions. He was incapable of keeping his emotions out of his business. This could lead to many problems. He knew he shouldn’t ask me dumb questions like that as my boss, but he did it anyway.

I decided to go for a walk instead of continuing this useless conversation. So I went to the other side of the building and started to play the grand piano they had there. I love playing piano. I could do it for hours sometimes. Then Taytor approached me about playing piano in between acts. At first I thought it was a great way to get out of serving. Later I realized that it was quite tedious to sit there for so long without human contact. When new cast members were made to sit there in that stop they would soon realize what I was complaining about, it was boring as all holy fuck. No one's listening to you, you have your back to everyone, and you have no contact with the world around you. It was depressing, and when you started the first act with the crew you were drained of energy, and performed poorly in comparison.

But that day I was just playing waiting for everybody to show up, as we had a photo shoot that afternoon. Now everyone that knows me knows that I absolutely abhor having my picture taken. I just do, it’s nothing personal just get your fucking camera out of my face. So for them to get me to agree to any kind of photo shoot was impressive, but it was mostly due to Shynea. She could pretty much make me do anything. She always had a way of putting a positive spin on everything.

Now as we started the run of the first show there were a number of other problems that were starting to materialize. The most obvious of those were that Vocah had the innate ability to pick fights with anyone and anything, within that building. Outside of the Flaming Bird, she was actually quite lovely. But inside of that building it seemed like a switch turned on that made her hell on wheels.

Vocah and Taytor had obvious differences on how things should be run. The main difference between the two however was that Taytor had just poured 1.2 million into this place, and whether his decisions were right or wrong, in the end it was his money he was responsible for. Vocah could be quite relentless when she thought she was right, and this began a feud that would carry through my first tenure. If there’s anyone more stubborn than Vocah, it’s certainly Taytor.

My crush on Aphro had subsided by the beginning of our second run, the “hippy” show, as we’d dubbed it, as had my manic depression. I’m not saying that my infatuation with Aphro caused the panic attacks, it just didn’t help. My depression was cause by the constant pressure I was under. I had no time for myself. I was working 20 hours a day. Not sleeping or eating hardly at all. I was falling apart at the seams. The amount of tension that existed at the theatre was also a big part of it. It seemed like everybody had a beef with someone else for whatever reason. With the exception of Archie and Smiley, everyone seemed to have an axe to grind, including me. Taytor and Vocah seemed to always be at the center of it.

Then we received word that the Lobster Shack's parent company, decided to sue the Flaming Bird, and some of the individual members, for "sabotaging" their business. I don't believe we did anything of the sort. I even remember Shynea staying behind to help them put together the following show after we left. This further stressed people out because we weren't just being targeted as a business, individuals were being targeted. In the end the case was thrown out but it was an unnecessary stress that we didn't need to throw on the pile.

Back in the day when Taytor didn’t look at you to say “The only way you’re missing a show between now and the end of your term, is if you’re dead and I see the death certificate!” [Don’t laugh, he said that to me 3 weeks ago…], we used to actually have understudies.

For the record, every credible theatre production has at least two of them, a female and male replacement. These extra cast members attend all the rehearsals and are prepared to jump in at a moments notice in case of emergency or in case a regular cast member gets ill. It’s not unthinkable that someone may get sick, or that may otherwise just want a night off, for any reason. Thus giving the understudy some practice, and money for their pockets. In any case this is STANDARD PRACTICE everywhere else in the world.

Like I said before we used to have them. We had both a male and female understudy. The female understudy was Vocah’s sister, and the male understudy was her well-meaning, but utterly useless boyfriend. Vocah’s sister was an excellent vocalist and accomplished actress, the kind of understudy that you’d be happy to have on board. Her boyfriend was a mediocre everything with a terrible memory coupled with an inability to pay attention to what he was supposed to remember to begin with. What an awkward combination in a performer. He was very painful at times. The difficulty though was that he was a sweetheart, and it was really hard to be upset with him.

Regardless of his charm, Taytor didn’t take long to decide that this guy wasn’t Flaming Bird material, and asked for his resignation. This didn’t faze Vocah at all, as she didn’t care too much about him anyways. Vocah’s sister on the other hand was upset, and the resentment started meaning that she cared less about her responsibilities. As good as she was it didn’t matter if she wasn’t there and dependable. She made herself unavailable for a few dates that she was needed, this upset Taytor and he had to fire her. Understandable, yes? Not to Vocah… She went ape shit. She cursed Taytor’s name up and down and threatened to bring a hellish fury on him that he was not soon to recover from. For the record, I agreed with Taytor on this one.

We would never see their replacements in our lifetime I presume. Taytor was obviously not a fan of paying his money for what he considered a “second rate” performer.

With this latest fiasco however, Taytor realized that he had a significant problem on his hands. The problem we were having at the Lobster Shack seemed very similar to what was going on here. As Vocah was again rallying the cast against management, Taytor realized she had to go as well, but that presented a number of problems. First of all if she were “downsized” where would that leave Smiley? He was our cast captain and a valuable member of the cast as an actor, vocalist, and all-around musician (playing guitar, piano, bass, and drums). She would likely take him with her. But even more dangerous was her wicked tongue. She could rally half the community behind her against Taytor if she wanted too. She was to the outside world a well-respected performer. She could do a lot of PR damage without much effort. Especially since unbeknownst to us Taytor was aggravating the advertisement community already with his pompous arrogance. Someone should have explained to him that advertising is a good thing to have on your side in this industry.

Over the course of time things settled between those two, enough so that work could continue. Taytor just had to wait it out; eventually Vocah would have to take a break, as she was in desperate need of one. She had been doing this without a break for 10 years. I would have fucking hung myself, no question. With that information, I’d dare call her a goddamn saint.

Taytor wasn’t done creating problems for himself though. Next on the list of people to piss off was of course me. I’m surprised this hadn’t come about sooner. We were doing an off-site show in Fredericton, which is subsequently where I first met Lance Astro, he was a friend of Aphro’s and I must say one handsome fellow. He would later be a member of our little clusterfuck, but for now he’s just a bystander. After the show everyone was celebrating and whatnot, and I was tired, had to work the next day and simply wanted to go home. Taytor’s partner was taking pictures of everyone. I fucking hate having my picture taken, seriously it may be a stupid fear of photos, but it’s my stupid fear, and thus my fucking right to say no! He insisted on taking pictures of me, after I insisted that he didn’t. I then say as a joke… “If you really want my picture take it from the neck down.”
I then left and we went on our merry ways.

For the next 4 days Taytor was drinking more than usual, he was drunk at work and drinking his red wine by the carafes, again, at work. I had no idea what his major malfunction was; I just assumed he was some kind of alcoholic.

That Saturday night in the middle of a performance, he asked Vocah to bring me to him, so that he could fire me. He was obviously very drunk and not making much sense. Vocah refused, as it was irrational (point goes to Vocah in this round.) Vocah had told me of Taytor’s comments so I knew after the performance I was going to have to have a chat with Taytor.

So after the performance I march down to the table where Taytor was on his 3rd litre of wine (since the show began) and proceeded to ask him if he wished to speak to me, he started tearing strips out of me, and the patrons could hear his drunken wailing, so I pulled him outside and down the street, where he could yell without distracting his paying customers.

He was upset because I hurt his partner’s feelings that night I wouldn’t let him take my photo. Now I’m not quite certain how, but Taytor got the story that I accused his partner of hitting on me. Fucked if I know where that came from but that notion never came out of my mouth. Whether or not something was misinterpreted, hard to say, anything’s possible. However, when adults have misunderstandings, they usually discuss them. They don’t avoid discussion and drink themselves stupid for four days straight. Especially when the person doing the drinking is the employer. For chrissakes, does this need to be included in a fucking manual somewhere? I told him flat out: “Do you think it would have been a better idea to just talk to me about it four days ago? We’re not in junior high anymore, I’m sure we could have resolved this.” But Taytor is very emotional, and they’re only so much crying I could take. I apologized for the misunderstanding and we left it at that. That was the first time he tried firing me but it wouldn’t be his last.

We continued on with our third run, our “country” show (as we’d call it), this show was a lot of fun. It was a sex talk show premise with a lot of dirty content, which as a cast we really enjoyed. I mean we’re all a bunch of perverts, every last one of us. For the first month, the audiences were enjoying the show as well. I mean we are in a very blue-collar town. This isn’t Newport, Rhode Island. We like penis jokes.

Our fun was not to last long however. Five weeks into the show we received our first “letter”. It was regarding the “racy” nature of our current production. Hundreds of patrons loved it, but as soon as two people without a sense of humour write a three line, we have to overhaul the show. Dammit. We had to re-rehearse the show to make sure that we took all the “offensive” material out. From then on, the show was pretty boring. Now Vocah who used to absolutely love her character in this show, was no longer distracted by this and began to express her negativity to everyone who’d listen. Tensions continued to rise.

We began rehearsing the Christmas show when I realized I needed out of this fucking nut house. Vocah also decided she had to leave at the end of the year, much to Taytor’s delight. So finally there was a finite end to this hell.

To understand the torture that is rehearsal. You need to put yourself in my shoes. I work 9-5 everyday, and during rehearsals the rehearse from after I’m off work until late into the night, and all weekend look so long as we don’t have shows. Basically they take all of your free time and monopolize it. It’s very frustrating. Also, no matter how much time you put into it, you get a flat rate of $600. That could be up to 4 weeks of your life, at $2.00 an hour. Way to feel appreciated.

Now without having a chance to breathe, we get dunked into the Christmas run. For those of you unfamiliar with this particular event, it is a marathon. This particular run was 23 shows straight with no nights off and capacity crowds of at least 200 per night. So you end up serving around 30 people a night by yourself, and by the time you leave it’s almost 1am. Keeping in mind that I’m usually getting off from my 9-5 and rushing that the theatre to get to the show on time.

What a hellish season. Under that kind of stress everyone is liable to be a problem, from the cast members to the management. December 1st we begin a 23-day marathon with no breaks. While I appreciate the money that I’ll make, that kind of schedule does make me question the existence of a higher being.

So oven in the first days of the run people are already stressed out, bickering with each other, tensions ran rampant. Most of us can’t bear the sight of each other let alone want to work with each other. Taytor’s is giving us his little bitch speeches every other night, telling us how why are fucking something up. Customers are irritated from being too tightly packed into an over crowded room, they bitch at us, and Taytor makes us tell them that there’s nothing to be done about any of their concerns. Essentially we are pretty much telling them to fuck right off, in a polite kind of way. This continues until we get to the 23rd of December, by which time the spirit of the season has long died and been buried.

We have a few days off for Christmas, and then we do a few post-Christmas shows leading up to the New Year’s show. That was to be my and Vocah’s last show ever.

After the New Year’s show, I pack up my belongings and leave without say fuck all to anyone, I mean why bother, we weren’t gonna be pen pals. The only person I had any intention of speaking to from the crew was Kenneth. The way I felt inside at that point, everyone else could seriously kiss my ass. I was gone.

This is where our story should’ve ended in a perfect world. However, it seems I would soon forget the outright torture this place can inflict on the soul, as I would return not once, but twice. Now why would I do that? Fucked if I know…

Still there were questions yet to resolve. What was to become of the Flaming Bird? What new members would be added? What would bring me back to this train wreck? Why was vacation pay never included on anyone’s paychecks? How does an audit last almost a year? What may finally bring this place to its doom? These are all very good questions, and I plan on addressing every one of them.

To be continued…
Last edited by Mathieu Benoit on Fri Nov 16, 2007 1:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Mathieu Benoit » Thu Nov 29, 2007 2:54 pm

CHAPTER FIVE – Hell On Wheels

I awoke on January 1st 2005 with a wonderful feeling of weightlessness about me. Having finished my last performance of musical theatre ever, I once again had a renewed sense that the world wasn’t so fucked up as the previous month had led me to believe. It wasn’t so much that I had a day off from the theatre, as I’ve had those before. It was that sense of euphoria that one can only achieve through retirement. I felt retired, and was waking up to a new world. My weekends were going to be free again. I wasn’t going to have to deal with anyone else’s bullshit. All of the negative energy surrounding that place would no longer weigh me down like a boat anchor.

For the next few months I would not be seen out in public much. I’d spend a lot of time at the studio, trying to get some work done there. Whatever I was doing, I can tell you I was doing it far away from the Flaming Bird.

Before I left, I found them a replacement drumwaiter. He was a cat I just met that December, actually. His name was, Stowne Groove. He was a really nice guy, good drummer, and smoked reefers with more frequency than he ate meals. I think that in hindsight that is what kept him such a jolly guy. I’m sure that this guy had not had a single argument with anyone in years. That was about to change, as he starts his new year at his new job.

While I kept my distance there were actually a handful of new cast members that came in. Stowne was my replacement, however Vocah, who left at the same time as I did, also left a hole in the cast that needed to be filled. A position that was quickly filled by a young girl named Goldie Lochs. Goldie was very nice, great vocalist, but kinda slack. By kind of slack I mean, to the point of irritating a lot of the people around her with her work ethics. That is to say, she was a gifted vocalist and a not-so-gifted employee.

As Smiley had taken his inevitable departure, there came the addition of two young male recruits. One was Aphro’s “friend” Lance Astro, and the other was Lance’s best friend, Moose Farmer. These were two really nice guys, I don’t think in the entire time that I’ve known them they’ve ever bothered me. Lance was one of the best looking guys I’d ever seen. He was charming as hell, and seemed to be there for one reason. That reason was Aphro. Regardless he made a wonderful addition to the team. Moose was not a big guy as his name would imply, but he was very physically powerful, and was one hell of a workhorse. He was a bit lacking in the academia department, but that was fine, I didn’t need him for that skill anyways.

They would add an invigorating dynamic to the cast for the 2 years they’d be there. There was one problem however. Now, if I (as a heterosexual male) could plainly observe that Lance was a handsome dude. Then it would be reasonable to conclude that a homosexual male would likely make the same conclusion. I’d suspect we’d be seeing some interesting situations arise out of that soon enough.

But for now they had a bigger problem, one that I’m happy to report on from a distance (for a while anyhow…)

Enter the most devious, ass kissing, untalented, cast member that was ever created and put on this earth. The amount of shit that this woman would end up stirring at the Flaming Bird would likely rival Taytor’s record. She was hell bent on pissing in everyone’s corn flakes. The interesting thing to me however was always this one question: How the hell did someone who had such a lack of talent and experience end up on board to begin with?

Her name was Divah Baghlikar. Well, her résumé was impressive. She was a school bus driver in her early 40s, a wife and mother of two. She had dabbled in the local karaoke scene off and on for a while. So it was a shock to find out that both our director and musical director told Taytor that she wasn’t ready to be a full time cast member. They both agreed that she might develop well as an understudy, but she didn’t have the chops at the time. So Taytor was given the task of telling Divah that she didn’t make the cut; a task that he met with much resistance.

When Taytor called Divah up to his office, and then proceeded to tell her that she wasn’t “quite what they were looking for”, she began to bawl like a 4 year old that doesn’t get the toy she wanted at the shopping mall. Normally, in the real world, her career would end there. But in our "fictional" tale, Taytor caves. Yeah, he disregards the decision of his most trusted advisors and puts her in the show.

[Editors note: Until the release of this chapter it is the author’s belief that the true story of Divah’s induction into the cast, was kept a secret from the cast. Otherwise the cast would have likely rioted. In the author’s opinion that would have been the proper course of action.]

For the record, she didn’t rock the boat too much early on. She needed time to get the lay of the land. She needed to know what she was dealing with before she started to stir the pot.

There you have it, the stage is just about set for round 2. One more person would get added to the mix by the middle of the second show though. That’s my little brother, Wyre. Wyre has got to be one of the most objective, level headed, and most of all, intelligent people I’ve ever met. Why I’d subject him to this is hard to say. The Flaming Bird was in desperate need of a sound/light tech, and Wyre could use the cash and experience. The pay was crabs, but I had Taytor agree to include a free meal each night on top of the pay. Wyre likes to eat so that would help seal the deal.

As is obvious by Wyre’s introduction to the Flaming Bird in the spring, Taytor and I had once again been on speaking terms. It’s funny how time can make you forget how much of a fucktard people can be. It didn’t take long for Taytor to refresh my memory though.

Taytor’s partner had developed what seemed to be an infatuation with Lance. This had brought a revolution in equipment to the theatre. A $4000 PRS, a $5000 V-Drum set, a $2000 P Bass, 2 identical sets of congas, a violin that Lance was overheard mentioning that he used to play. A lot of money was being thrown around when Moose and Lance came aboard. No one questioned it, but I suspect that the cast had a pretty good idea what was going on.

[Editor’s note: The author tripped over the PRS backstage a few weeks ago. Almost fucking killed himself. Seems someone though it was a brilliant idea to set it down on the other side of the curtain in the dark where people walk by all the time. This is but one example of the excessive abuse all of this expensive gear has taken over the years.]

By the end of the spring just about everybody in the cast was dating someone else in the cast, for the most part, everything was going well, Divah was still a bitch, Goldie was still slack, and Taytor, well… y’know. But all in all… things were going all right. Then Stowne approached me one night about needing to take some time off for a few weeks in the summer. He wanted to know if I could fill in for him. My gut said no, but once again my mouth betrays me… Motherfucker! I said “yes”. I spoke with Taytor the next day to seal the deal. I later justified my decision in my head by deciding it was a good way to tie up loose ends, and end things on a good note this time. As if I actually had any fucking control over that. Taytor would make that objective as difficult to obtain as possible.

They were doing a show one night that was just music and dinner. They promoted it as half price and it showcased the cast members as solely musicians. I came out one night to see that show, and kibitz with Taytor. About half way through the show Taytor who was likely drunk, asked me to get up and do a drum solo in the middle of their set. I says pardon? He then re-insisted that I get up and do a solo, right then and there. Moose was on drums that night, and I have great deal of respect for Moose. There was no way I was going anywhere near that stage, that’s not a good way to make friends. Taytor insisted and then started to tell me about how he was my boss. I reminded him that I certainly was not his employee. It isn’t July yet, and Stowne is still here. Taytor’s best option there was to just shut his fucking mouth, before I came to my senses and left permanently.

Taytor was always capable of going from zero to inappropriate in 5 seconds flat. So again, why should I be surprised? At this point I can’t be upset at him; I know what to expect. It’s like being mad at your dog for pissing on your rug when you left it in the house all day. It was bound to happen. So either get rid of the dog, let him out to piss on the neighbour’s rug or shut the fuck up. So I shut the fuck up.

We started rehearsal for the summer show that I was going to be a part of for a little while. My character was boring, the script was really weak and I didn’t have the energy to be as happy to be there as I hoped I could be. One of my best friends was musically directing the show, but even that didn’t lighten the mood for me. Kenneth had left; he was thoroughly done with this bullshit. The negative energy that surrounded that place still was overwhelming.

Arrogance had set in with some members of the cast, mostly those of the female persuasion it seemed. That was evident during Wyre’s first big sound check to start off the summer show I was a part of. Wyre had invited a guest to help with the sound check, a well-known and respected FOH tech in these parts. He was showing Wyre how to organize and maintain order in a sound check. With a group this large (8-11 people on stage) you cannot underestimate the importance in keeping order and staying in control of your sound check.

Now, the only thing more painful than trying to sound check a 10-piece band, is trying to sound check that band when half the group is not paying attention, and they’re goofing off or yakking on stage making it hard to listen to the requests of other members. But that’s silly right? I mean we’re all professionals. Surely one person wouldn’t be so rude, let alone a group.

However that was the case. The girls were all grouped up on stage kibitzing while we were trying to get the rest of the members all set up, and you couldn’t hear anything above the girls because if you tried to talk over them, they’d just naturally get louder. Our guest was trying to deal with the situation professionally, and asked the group once to please stop talking. They looked at him like he had three heads. It was quiet for a few seconds, sound check was able to continue. Then the girls started back up. Our guest had to give them a stern request to be quiet this time. That did not sit well with Aphro. She stomped all the way upstairs to Taytor’s office, slammed the door, and proceed to register a formal complaint to Taytor about our volunteer sound tech.

Taytor had taken our guest’s side thankfully. Taytor is not without reason all of the time. However the point of mentioning this event is to try to paint a picture of the pettiness that was constantly circling around. It’s like everyone was 4 years old. Aphro wasn’t the only one doing childish things like that back then, we pretty much all were. Not many were exempt from that.

I was doing my best to be a good team member, but I don’t think I was doing too well. Plus I couldn’t seem to go more than 3 days without getting into an argument with Taytor. After one such argument, Taytor actually said to Wyre, “Drumwaiter better remember who butters his bread!” To which, Wyre responded, “Well if anyone does, it certainly ain’t you.” I love Wyre. He calls it like it is.

It was clear, in hindsight what Taytor was planning to do, but how he went about it still blindsided me. He approached me one evening when we were having a rehearsal of some sort. He asks me (and I quote) “Drumwaiter, do you have a strong desire to be here?” What the fuck kind of question is that? I responded, “ I wouldn’t call it a strong desire.” He continued by explaining to me that there were many concerns within the cast that I wasn’t working well with others, and by cast he managed to single out Laydee, who was our cast captain. Taytor then explained to me that it would probably be in everyone’s best interest if I packed up my belongings and let Stowne finish off the rest of the run. Was I that bad? I only had a week left. I asked Taytor if I was being fired, to which he replied, “Let’s just say it’s in everybody’s best interest.” Fuck me, Taytor fired me for real this time, it seems.

I was pissed about how he did it, but I guess deep down I was glad to be out of there. It was the backlash that I received subsequently from the cast and eventually eve from Wyre that really hurt. I saw Goldie later on that night and she asked me what happened. I was told that I was fired, and Stowne would continue the show. The way I saw it and the way I still see it that was what happened. I was fired. I didn’t realize that anyone would debate this.

Well what would happen next surprised even me. It seems that I incited a riot over there when my MSN status said, “Fired.” I guess Taytor told everyone that I quit. For fuck sakes!!! Now the entire cast, including Wyre, is on my case accusing me of lying. I’m not even there anymore and I can’t escape the bullshit.

That’s it. Now everyone is on my shit list. Taytor finally got me good. He ended up getting between my brother and I. I would never forgive him for this. I never cared what he did to me I, could take it. But when he and everyone else affected my relationship with Wyre, I became incredibly pissed off. First of all, pissed at Taytor for starting all of this bullshit, and at Wyre for believing it. It was the only time that Taytor ever found a way to actually hurt me. It would take well over a year for Wyre and I to really recover from this.

I was gone. That was it; I had no reason to ever talk to anyone ever again. I realize that there were still good people there. Archie and Laydee had never really let me down. Lance and Moose were always removed from most of the typical drama. But still Taytor had planted so much doubt into me that I didn’t know who to trust. I wouldn’t speak to many of them for quite some time.

At the time I was so angry with everyone that I lost sight of a lot of things. I was angry with all the members of the cast because I felt shit on by them. I mean Taytor was quite clear that the decision to let me go was at Laydee’s request. I was hurt because Laydee and I had always gotten along so well, how could she be teaming up with this maniacal dictator against me? None of it made much sense.

By this time I was really depressed. They had really managed to do a number on me, (and by they I mean Taytor). He was at the heart of all of this. I needed as far away from this mess as possible. But that was difficult because Wyre was still so embedded with these lunatics. At the time I was so messed up that I hated everyone there pretty much equally. Archie B was the only guy I was still talking to, because he never got involved in any of it. I’d see him every Sunday night on the boardwalk anyway.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that it wasn’t the people who were bad; it was the environment and what it did to the human spirit. That’s why so many of the original members had already left. They respected themselves more than to lend their talents to an organization so unappreciative of them.

Those of us that stuck around beyond that point were just doing untold amounts of damage to ourselves and/or confidence. It was the end of the summer of 2005 and I was at the lowest point emotionally of my life.

The question begs to be answered then… Why hasn’t this story ended already?

Don’t worry though; this gets worst before it gets better. Divah was poised to take steps to securing her position as the advisor behind many of Taytor’s future decisions. The facts in the coming months would begin to clearly mark Divah Baghlikar’s coveting of Shynea’s position as Director of Operation. How could she replace Shynea though? Shynea was not going to be forced out of that position, as the cast would mutiny. Shynea was going to have to want to leave on her own accord… Like all good things however, you must be willing to be patient to plan it properly. This process could take years. That’s alright though, Divah had no intentions of going anywhere. Except up to the top of the food chain.

To be continued…
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Mathieu Benoit - Fluid Productions
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Postby Mathieu Benoit » Sun Dec 30, 2007 11:50 am

CHAPTER SIX – Chaos Theory

Mathematically, chaos means an aperiodic deterministic behavior which is very sensitive to its initial conditions, i.e., infinitesimal perturbations of initial conditions for a chaotic dynamical system lead to large variations of the orbit in the phase space.

In lay terms, chaotic systems are systems that kinda look random but aren't. They are actually deterministic systems (predictable if you have enough information) governed by physical laws, that are very difficult to predict accurately (a commonly used example is weather forecasting).

…Or in my case, shit storm forecasting at the Flaming Bird.

Well, for a story that should’ve been finished three or four chapters ago, the fact that I’m still writing this is depressing. It means that I’m obviously still involved at some level in a place that feels so utterly beneath me.

However for quite some time I wasn’t involved at all. As the sombre mood of the end of the last chapter would indicate, I hadn’t the stomach to deal with Taytor’s particular brand of bullshit anymore. Furthermore, Taytor had me convinced that the cast hated me anyways, so there was no point in having an involvement with an organization that seemed so damned opposed to my existence.

I still stayed in touch with Kenneth, Archie, and Stowne, as they performed together on the boardwalk every Sunday night. I always went there every Sunday night to get the “lo-down” on what happens at the Flaming Bird. You see, Archie is, and has always been, very neutral. He’s the only cast member that has never really gotten involved in any of the politics. He has his opinions, but they are discussed far from the Theatre, and rarely at that. So him and Stowne, would routinely sit around on the boardwalk before their soundcheck and vent about what was going on at the Bird. So I’d always hear bits an pieces of what was going on. Kenneth was out of the Theatre since early in the year, so he was like me, just interested in finding out what was going on.

However, it was almost 18 months later than I even started talking to Taytor at all. The rest of the cast and I had slowly started to speak again over time, but eventually everything had washed away like water passing under a bridge. Fuck me, I hate when that happens.

You see I’m happy with holding a grudge so long as it keeps me out of harm’s way. However in this case I let my guard down over time. Things patched up and before I knew it I was actually having conversations with Taytor. MOTHERFUCKER!!!!!! I had a gut wrenching feeling that I knew what was around the corner, but I kept my distance for months still.

While I was away a few people were added to the cast, while a few left. My good friend that was musically directing the last show had left along with his wife, thus opening up the bar managing responsibilities. This gave Ms. Baghlikar a way to weasel away from floor work, thus avoid human contact. I suspect she hated serving customers and waiting tables, and she wanted a position of authority. So, Taytor made her the bar manager. This was perfect for her in a few ways. First, she didn’t have to serve customers, as the first new bar rule to be created was that while she was at the bar there would be no cash sales. If someone came up to the bar, they were told to have a seat and wait for their server. Secondly, obviously it gave her an authority complex which was very appealing to her. She could boss people around concerning the bar, this was one step closer to being the boss of everything so she might as well get used to talking down to people. Lastly, and the kicker to all of this. While she is bar manager, she’s so “busy” preparing and cleaning the bar that she couldn’t possible help with the set up and tear down of the room. To make matters worst eventually she would eventually begin to confiscate two of our able body men off from the floor work to bring up liquor because she had a bad knee.

Divah, was certainly on her way to where she wanted to go. There were but a few steps left…

The time that I was away saw the addition of a new talented cast member though. I’d know this guy from the local music scene, he never had used to have a gig of his own. He would just jump from one open mic to another playing the same three songs for a year straight. As tedious as that was for me, he was a really nice guy, with a bit of an edge that I found familiar. He also had a memory like an elephant. He had memorized just about every piece of pop culture that had come from the past 25 years, either by way of television or print. I t was all quite impressive. As much as I liked this guy, when I first met him, he could emit some fierce odors. I’m not sure why he did, but it was hard to get too close to him. I believe at the time he was doing the vagrant thing which probably didn’t help. Regardless, I wasn’t dating him, so none of my business. I liked him, and that’s all that concerned me. His name was Ekim Askiker, and I like him because he could be badass when he wanted to be, but still a nice all around guy.

There was also another new entry, it was a friend of Laydee’s, nice and incredibly handsome, and intelligent young man with as level a head as one was gonna have in that building. I had and have nothing remotely negative to say about this guy. Except for the fact that his girlfriend is smoking hot and I’m insanely jealous. Other than that, he is perfect. His name was Babyface McCoy.

Not too long after Ekim arrived, the tension between Stowne and Taytor escalated severely, Stowne seemed to be getting fired and re-hired weekly. Then finally they had a big falling out. The details of what had happened to finally make Stowne snap were never clear, although knowing Taytor, it isn’t that hard to imagine.

Now the complication with this scenario is that Stowne was a huge gear slut. His gear collection had a stunningly fast turnover rate. The problem is however, that kind of habit is expensive. So Stowne would get Taytor, somehow, to finance his addictions. Shortly before Stowne left the Bird he realized that he couldn’t repay such debt, so offered equipment in trade. Now, I’m not going to get in to the nuts and bolts about what was trade for what, but suffice it to say that when the dust settled, Taytor was the proud new owner of 6-piece black sparkle finish Yamaha Maple Custom kit. As a matter of fact it was the very kit that Stowne promised me right of first refusal on. JESUS!!! When I heard that I was pissed. I knew that Stowne had to look out for himself, but man… How am I gonna ever got that drum set now?

Subsequent to Stowne’s abrupt leave, which the cast was upset about although Taytor likely didn’t even give him a choice, a replacement was needed. Before we move on to the replacement though I want to reiterate, Stowne was likely given no other choice than to sacrifice his self-respect or to tell Taytor to go fuck himself. It’s never pleasant when a cast member has to leave mid show, but I know what Taytor was capable of. Stories then started circulating the Stowne may have lifted some equipment from the Bird. This was never proven to me therefore I never took any stock in any of it. However, this ended up losing him the boardwalk gig on Sunday nights. Whether this was a fair move, wasn’t my call, I wasn’t there. I didn’t know the details of what exactly happened. Archie made the call, but I was never sure of what actually happened.

All of this though concluded in me getting the call for the weekly Boardwalk gig, I accepted hesitantly due to the volatile circumstances under which the gig became available. I made it clear to Kenneth and Archie that I just wanted to play drums, I didn’t want any additional drama. Especially concerning Stowne, who had always been a good friend to me.

So now, I’m doing the Boardwalk gig.

Now let’s get back to the hole in the cast that Stowne left behind him. They needed a drummer and fast. I know what you’re thinking. But the moment Taytor’s number appeared on my cell, I picked up just quickly enough to say “No.” and hang up. They brought Moose back to finish the rest of the run. Once the run was over Ekim had suggested bringing in his brother Noob Askiker who played drums. Although he was not old enough o serve liquor they were desperate to find a replacement drummer so they took him. This youngster was likely the most disarming and adorable guy I’d ever met. He was never the smartest guy in the group, but even when he would do and say the most dumbfuck stuff (which was often), you couldn’t stay mad at him, he was way too innocent. He was a mediocre drummer/bassist/guitarist/singer, which is perfect for the Flaming Bird. His serving of tables left to be desired but it’s hard to be too picky. Noob was aptly named because no matter how long he was working at the Bird he was always treated as the newbie, even by people who just got there over a year later. When unmotivated he could be painfully slow.

So after the Stowne Groove fiasco died down everything had calmed down for a while. Divah was still a bag licker but even that seemed fine. I hadn’t heard any debaucherous stories from Archie in a while so it was assumed that things were at least tolerable.

A few months afterwards is when things started snowballing for me though. I was chatting with Archie one night at our weekly Boardwalk gig, and he told me that Kenneth had accepted to return to the Bird for the Christmas show only. I knew Kenneth was considering it, but wasn’t sure if he’d actually take it. Kenneth was planning on moving to Halifax in the new year so it made sense that he needed to compile some money. Remember Christmas runs are muchos profitable. That was the first peg in my coffin, Kenneth was returning? Hmmm…. Second peg in my coffin came the following week. Archie had approached me to talk to Taytor about doing the Christmas show. I must’ve had rocks in my head to even listen to Archie’s plea. However the fact that Kenneth was doing it lead me to think that maybe I could have a quick chat with Taytor just to see what kind of vibe I’m getting. After all, it’s two months of work and likely an easy five large in cash. What that’s harm?

I called Taytor and scheduled a meeting with him. We sat down and discussed my possible returning to the Bird. I explained to him the various concerns in the cast. The concerns were that Noob was a severe diabetic that didn’t take care of himself and didn’t eat properly. It’s difficult enough getting through the Christmas run in good health. Keep in mind it can be a twenty-three day straight out marathon. What if he fell very ill during the run? Would they have to cancel a run because of one cast member? I realize in the real world understudies exist for this reason. But this is the Flaming Bird, and not bound by silly things such as logic and common sense.

Taytor said that he was aware of the concerns, and they were valid, but he didn’t want to let Noob go. Again, Noob is adorable like a puppy. You can’t fire a puppy! Even if you’re Taytor. So Taytor would have loved to have me on board but he couldn’t afford me. He then said if I was interested in doing multiple runs he would consider it. That’s when I had a major brainstorm. I didn’t want Taytor’s money, but he has something of mine that I want. Something that was promised to me. A 6-piece Yamaha Maple Custom drum kit.

If he wanted me for an extended period I needed to get the most mileage out of it as possible. He made it clear that he couldn’t afford me and that was fine because I couldn’t make anymore income anyways. It was killing me come tax time. But if I was going to do a few runs, then I might as well grab two Christmas runs in the process, no sense in just doing that one Christmas run followed by a couple of dry runs, in which I’d make no money. So I came up with idea of setting up a contract that lasted through to the very end of 2007. It was maybe longer that Taytor had in mind, but my advantage in this was to bookend my contract with very profitable Christmas runs. So we eventually settled on an arrangement: I’d stay until the end of 2007, and in return I get paid for rehearsal, I get to keep my tips, and upon completion of the term, I get the Yamaha kit. There was however one wrinkle in our arrangement, and that was our previous history of disliking each other on an existential level. So then, what would happen if Taytor fired me again? Or what would happen if I had enough of his fucking bullshit and simply quit? We had to, in good conscience, take into consideration the fact that either one of us would simply give up before the end. So we added a clause in the contract that stipulated that if he fired me, I’d walked away with everything no questions asked. If I quit before January 1st 2008, then I lost everything. This clause held us both in a complete stalemate.

That clause also ended up unintentionally putting me in a interesting position in term of the chain of command. If I couldn’t get fired then I could simply do whatever I like, I wouldn’t listen to anyone. My actions while at work would only be directed by my own integrity. As awful as that sounds, it’s really a good thing. It means that while I won’t take any shit from anyone, I will still do my job to the best of my ability, and no one would ever be able to say otherwise. However I was a wild-card, I did not really answer to anyone, only the people that I felt like listening to. In that building mind you, those people were few and far between, those people were Shynea and Laydee Sparkel. It was decided for me at that time. I would commit to the 15 month contract, and in my head I had already decided who my bosses were going to be.

There was something looming in the background though, while I was negotiating with Taytor. Unbeknownst to me, Taytor had been locked in an audit that has already dragged on for three months at this point. Had I known at the time that the audit would have lasted well into 2007 and created problems for just about everyone that had ever had dealings with him, and had I known how costly this particular event would be, I might have re-negotiate my contract to include the thousands of dollars that he cost everyone in the audit. So that I might repay them the money myself. But you know, hindsight is 20/20.

I’m strapping in for the long haul, I’m about to embark on the longest run of my career. What could possibly await me during the course of this contract? In short, plenty.

We have one final chapter left.

To be continued…
"Volume automation takes time. You don't got that kinda time. You could be getting naked with somebody somewhere." -Slipperman

Mathieu Benoit - Fluid Productions
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Mathieu Benoit
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Postby Mathieu Benoit » Wed Apr 23, 2008 10:38 am

CHAPTER SEVEN - Far Beyond Driven (part 1)

It was a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. I get up just past 10:00am, as was usually the case for me. Usually I make some breakfast, and watch television or read from my room for at least a few hours before I do anything. I take my time, as Sundays are quite sacred to me. It is the only day every week that I allow to myself to only do things for myself. I can choose to relax, watch a movie, clean the house, or do anything I feel like doing to recharge myself.

This Sunday started about the same, at around the same time, however it’s similarities ended there. Because in 2 short hours I was beginning down a road that I never again wanted to travel. Rehearsals were beginning for the Christmas 2006 show. That means free time and my own peace of mind, were going to become long distant memories.

So I show up to rehearsal for the first time in almost two years, and immediately have that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. What does help however, is knowing that the cast consists of a pretty good crew of people that I still to this day consider my friends. However upon looking at the cast and realizing this something else became quickly apparent: This was an enormous cast. There were eleven of us, which cuts down on tips quite a bit. That being my only real source of income this time around, I could tell that this Christmas production would not be as profitable as my previous one was.

Looking around the table, as everyone was immersed in their new script, I could see that this cast spanned all across the spectrum of personalities.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater was there, which was the pivotal reason I’d even agreed to return to this theatrical equivalent of an enema. It’s not complicated, if Kenneth wasn’t there, there wouldn’t have been any reason that would have made me come back.

Archie B and Laydee Sparkel were obviously still there. These two were the captains if you will. Archie was now the musical director, which was all right considering that he just lets me use my own judgement on the boardwalk gigs, so this should be no different. The situation with Laydee is a bit different. I’ve always respected her as a person, which is the only bargaining chip she had. I think the world of her but she is also an agent representing Taytor, as she is the cast captain. I made it clear to myself that I answered to no one here. I was here to do my job and I would do it to the best of my ability. I didn’t require supervision, nor was it welcomed.

Looking down the table was yet another couple. The Flaming Bird seemed to produce these in vast quantities. Aphro Deejia and Lance Astro were a ridiculously good-looking couple, I mean really ridiculously good looking. Lance was a super sweet guy, he believed in everyone and thinks the world runs on sugar canes and lollipops. Him and I weren’t going to have any problems. Ms. Deejia on the other hand, it was impossible to predict how her and I were going to get along day by day. I liked her in general, especially outside of The Bird, but inside that building my patience wore thin. I had a hard enough time thinking positive things in general while I’m here, but to add someone with borderline neurotic tendencies to that mix did nothing for me. However being civil to her or anyone shouldn’t be too complicated. I just had to remember, this was all a really bad dream and therefore none of it mattered.

Moose Farmer was still there, I figured he would be so long as Lance remains in town. Lance had aspirations of moving to the big city but they decided they would take the money from this Christmas season first; then use that money to get settled in Halifax. Moose was Lance’s drummer outside of The Bird, so if Lance was sticking around it was safe to assume that Moose wasn’t going anywhere. Moose was a really good guy though. Solid drummer, professional snowboarder, and he had strong work ethics. He could be a bit slow on the literacy side of things, wasn’t always the sharpest knife in the drawer, but steady otherwise. He’s the kind of guy that you could count on.

Ekim Askiker and his brother Noob were of course still there. Ekim still emitted that unique fragrance, and Noob was still loveable albeit not too sharp. When it comes to Noob, I feel that sometimes he tries to play dumber than he is just so that people will take pity on him. That’s fine, but I don’t play those kind of games, I’ll treat him with the respect I’d treat anyone, and treat him as accountable for his actions like I would any other adult (although, he wasn’t really an adult, legally.)

Babyface McCoy was still there, and his gorgeous girlfriend had since joined the group. Now as I mentioned before, she is smoking hot, and I am jealous. However, I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of such a stunning creature as Babyface. They have to be the most adorable couple in existence. For once, my whore-like tendencies would not come into play. Her name is Dee Vyne, as she was certainly all that.

Last new face worth mentioning was the guy that replaced Wyre in the sound booth. This guy could be on the cover of Teen GQ. Very handsome young man, very nice and polite, he was great all-around. One minor exception though… He knew about as much what to do with a mixing console, as Taytor knew what to do with a woman. I could tell from conversations with him that he hadn’t two fucking clues. I could see this being a potential issue but chose to let it slide for now. His name is Wassis Knobfor, and I have a feeling you’ll get how he was named soon enough.

So there we have it, all the players are accounted for and rehearsal is ready to start. I pick up my script with some excitement, as it’s always exciting to see who your new character would be. My excitement turned to contempt very quickly. Reading my character description, I immediately realize that hell I’ve submitted myself to. My character was described as a “disco ballerina” whatever the fuck that was. Apparently he was French, and most likely gay, without out being overtly gay enough to offend the straights. So for the foreseeable future I was going to be miserable. I hope to fuck at least the money is good.

Rehearsals were painful, as always. At least this time around it was relatively easy in terms of the cast. No one person in particular annoyed me. I was just jaded in general from having to be there at all. So I tried me best to keep my bullshit to myself because it wasn’t really anyone’s fault. Rehearsal periods are just very taxing on a person’s time and soul. I’d get off work at 5pm, only to be rushed to the theatre for rehearsal that lasted until I went to bed. That schedule, plus all weekend long, for three or four weeks is enough to drive a person fucking bananas. What also didn’t help was knowing full well that once rehearsals are over you are jumping into the busiest season of the year. So essentially you become aware of the fact that for all intents and purposes the rest of your life doesn’t exist until the New Year, at least… It’s going to be a long 15 months.

As rehearsals got on their way, it started becoming clear who was adding to the misery and who wasn’t. Kenneth was being a little more of an elitist than normal, and it wasn’t long before I followed suit. It would turn up most prominently when we turned to the music side of things, which is where I guess that we thought ourselves, superior. Maybe we were, maybe not, doesn’t matter. The important result that we got out of our impatience was that we kept the flow of rehearsal going. We’d learn an easy 6-7 songs per evening, with hardly any time lost. As much as people at the time may not have liked us, it was a tough situation either way. Archie was actually a decent musical director, although he lacked a lot of theoretical knowledge, he made up for it in experience and having good ideas. However, when you are directing a ship of 11 people you have to be a solid taskmaster, which sometimes Archie wasn’t. So Kenneth and I took over in that sense, more so Kenneth than I, but we both made a conscious effort to keep things moving along. It was disco music, which Archie hated to begin with, so I cut him some slack.

It wasn’t long before Archie too had realized what was going on. He needed the help, as far as I was concerned, but it was stepping on the bounds of his authority, and the other cast members were starting to resent us a bit. For the record I wasn’t trying to piss anyone off, I was just really busy and didn’t understand the purpose of staying at rehearsal longer than absolutely necessary. I never really knew Kenneth’s intentions, but either way it didn’t bother me because the results were justifying his actions. Archie didn’t see it quite this way, and one drunken night on the boardwalk we got into it. He ripped into Kenneth and I after a Sunday night show one night, 3am on a Monday morning and here we are, on the boardwalk having a drunken debate about who’s right and wrong when it comes to musical rehearsals. Archie can get very honest when he’s drank heavily, and for a guy that usually keeps a lot to himself, this usually results in many confessions. Confessions with Archie can be very good, because you find out things from him and how he feels that won’t come out in normal conversation. This, as it turns out, was one such conversation. Kenneth and I were sober as we don’t drink much to begin with, and Archie was… let’s just say “honest”. The next two hours, we debated the matter and realized that as far as everyone was concerned Kenneth and I were the only major issue anyone had at this time. Archie did point out that it wasn’t so much me, because I wasn’t being negative about it. Whereas Kenneth, even I could tell that there was a bit of condescension there. Bottom line is that Kenneth agreed to let Archie do his job, and I was going to stop rocking the boat even slightly. I’ve got a long road ahead of me; I should tread more lightly so as to not make my stay worst that it needs to be.

Rehearsal went by relatively un-eventfully with the one exception being our being reprimanded by Archie. So we had started doing shows and I started getting re-acquainted with serving tables. Fuck, do I ever hate waiting on people. Being in Character helps because you can hide behind it a bit, but all the same I hate serving people. There are a lot of disrespectful people out there. Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of good, kind people too, but for every four of them there’s a real bitch or asshole. Unfortunately, it was a necessary chore that came with the job.

But on the cast side of things, everything seemed relatively calm. The only problem was Divah running the bar as if it were a German U-Boat. It was annoying but I didn’t take any shit from her so everything worked out well for me. However, often her laziness and maniacal dictatorship of that bar lead to bigger group related issues. She would routinely detain two of the cast to help her bring liquor up, even when she had an extra bartender. This was, prior to Divah being the bar manager, something that would normally be taken care of by the bar staff. Sometimes on bigger nights she’d take three cast members from off the floor. The reason this presented a problem is that it would diminish our capacity to clear the tables on the floor. On nights when 200+ people showed up, this poor judgement on her end could keep us there much later. There would often be nights when I’d look around for my cast of eleven, and barely see one person in the room with me helping out, that can make for a long night.

Fortunately for me, I had bigger problems. After we put a couple of performances under our belts for the Christmas run, I realized that night after night the sound was changing quite drastically. Drastically to the point that sometimes my mix would be so far off that I couldn’t hear myself fat all, or that me ears would be bleeding for the ungodly volume. I approached Archie about it, realizing that he knew a thing or two about sound reinforcement himself. Ask asked him if he noticed any problems concerning the sound, he said that he had but he wasn’t sure as to what it was. I few more weeks went by and I paid close attention to the FOH position, and I caught a glimpse of Shynea, walking up to Wassis and whispering something in his ear. Wassis then proceeds to making adjustments on the board, and then the vocals in my monitor mix were kicking my ass. While I was playing I tried me best to get my ear out the direct line of fire, I managed to duck low enough, and to turn my body enough to not take the full assault from my wedge. When the song was over, I unplugged my monitor and played the rest of the night without it.

Later on, I mentioned to Archie what I had witnessed and asked the obvious question… “Are the Aux buses post-fader?” To which Archie replied “Of course not.” That when it dawned on me. Wassis was mixing from the fucking trim pots. I had no way of proving this yet, but it’s the only goddamn thing that made sense. When Shynea, would have an audio request (usually because Taytor can’t hear something, because he’s sitting at his table under the balcony in the corner) she would go up and present this request to Wassis. I’m willing to bet what happened that night was Shynea wanted to hear more vocals, and Wassis said “No, problem!” then proceeded to turn up the gain on each channel, thus affecting the aux sends. Now to test my theory, Archie and I went up to quiz our budding audio engineer in training. We asked a simple question: “If Shynea needs to hear more vocals, can you show us how you would achieve this result?” He kind of looked at us blankly for a moment, the at the board, then started to Say “Uhh…”a lot. Finally he extended his arm and went to the very top of the mixer long past the faders and was about to rest his fingers on the trim. At this point Archie and I both yelled “Aha!” We knew now what was going on. It’s pretty fucking stupid but I’m all about second chances. He apologized after we showed him the error of his ways. He explained to us that this is what he learned at recording school. Christ, do I ever wish I got the name of that fucking school, I was in my right mind to write a letter to them begging that they explain this to me. Oh well, water under the bridge. We showed him the difference, and now the problem is solved, right?

As the shows went on and the run was well on it’s way. It became more and more difficult being compressed between the customers and Taytor’s ego. It was hard enough dealing with customers that would complain about nothing, but when a customer had a legitimate complaint, you at least wanted to feel like you could help. However Taytor’s ego would usually stand in our way. One of the worst such incidences happened one night when a customer’s food was simply put, indigestible, and Lance went up to Taytor to see if anything could be done. Taytor snapped back at Lance, denying his request for help in solving this problem. So now Lance had to go back to the customer and somehow justify why the very same plate of food is returning to them. I’m not sure how he managed this. If I were Lance, I would have brought the customer over to the staff table where Taytor was sitting, introduced the two of them, left the plate, and then carried on my business. However Lance, like most of the cast members, wanted to please the customers yet they weren’t willing to take Taytor on head on to do so.

This particular situation lead to a massive heated argument at the end of the night after the patrons had left. Most of the cast was involved by this point of the evening. Only a few of us were smart enough to stay clear. Noob had managed to stay out of it too, but he would start asking me what was going on and trying to get involved somehow. Maybe he felt left out. In my opinion that’s a good thing. I can’t imagine who the fuck would want to be a part of that anyways. Sure enough though he started poking his nose in it then was wondering why everyone was freaking out. I believe this is the last time he’ll try this. By the end of the night suffice it to say, everyone was pissed and half the cast was ready to mutiny. This night was the night that Babyface and Dee ultimately decided that this would be their last show. They were very unimpressed with Taytor’s approach at customer service. I on the other hand wasn’t disappointed in Taytor at all. It’s really hard to be disappointed in something you expect.

So obviously things were going well [cough] on the personal front. It was only reasonable to expect that things were going just as well on the business front. Sure enough the longer I was around the more I could piece together that something wasn’t quite right. The second pay period came around, not that it mattered to me because I wasn’t getting paid, and David had been paying everyone in the these little cash envelopes instead of cheques like most employers do. The first week I thought nothing of it I mean maybe he ran out of cheques, it’s possible. But two pay periods in a row? Something was up.

I had eventually simply decided to ask Taytor what was the reason for the cash pay. He explained to me that he was being victimized by the big audit, and the auditor was being particularly spiteful.

At this point, the audit had been ongoing for nearly 5 months, and Taytor hadn’t been in possession of his books in nearly the same amount of time. So he had no idea what was going on in his books, not that it was much different from usual I suspected. I decided t was best to stay on the course I had been this run, and just mind my own business. I’ve avoided a lot of fights in the past three months that way so the whole thing may not be so bad. If chaos surrounds me, then I’ll simply lie still in the center. If I’ve got another year of this, it is best that I devise a strategy early on, so that I can ration my energy.

The rest of the Christmas season went on with the usual tension that comes with being in that place nearly every day for a month. Everyone hated, everything else for whatever reason. Everyone still liked each other; it was just hard to overcome the negativity that loomed over the building all the time.

At this time, I seemed to be doing fine on the surface. I hadn’t complained or been negative or moody throughout the whole run. I never took any shit from anyone, but I was still very cautious about creating any shit on my own. Underneath that stoic front every show was killing me more and more. I hated every second of it, in my head it was worst than maybe it was objectively, but honestly, I felt like vomiting regularly just thinking about it. I realize that not all the other cast members viewed it this way, but this was how I felt at the time. Exactly like the first time, except this time I could hide it better. That was the only difference. Now if I could just fast forward to this time next year.

In the back of my mind I could help wondering though… Why are we still getting paid in cash? Why isn’t this audit over yet? I felt like I was about to be blindsided.

To be continued…
"Volume automation takes time. You don't got that kinda time. You could be getting naked with somebody somewhere." -Slipperman

Mathieu Benoit - Fluid Productions
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Mathieu Benoit
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Postby Mathieu Benoit » Fri Jul 11, 2008 9:37 am

CHAPTER SEVEN - Far Beyond Driven (part 2)

A New Year is upon us, and a new show is in the works. Rehearsals start up after a short break for the holidays. We find ourselves yet again in this endless cycle of production runs that begin with the torturous process known as rehearsal. This rehearsal is lacking in a few things though, or should I say people.

Kenneth has left as he was moving away. The same went for Lance and Moose. Babyface and Dee were gone due to “slight” differences of opinion with Taytor. That leaves us with 7 cast members. Which is fine by me in terms of tips. But I really liked the half that left. Things weren’t going to be the same without them.

And thus rehearsal begins for the new show. The new show was a country theme, that’s just about enough to angry up the fucking blood right there. Bad enough I was stuck in this hole, without it being with a hillbilly accent and full on country music.

What helped the situation is that whenever he had the opportunity, Archie would steer the music into a more digestible area. Archie and I weren’t huge fans of country, and Archie found a lot of ways to get around it. We’d still do country music but he’d find the most interesting country music to use.

Taytor on the other hand, being the complete fucktard that he could be sometimes, liked to make executive decisions about things he knew little or nothing about. He had heard of this song that happened to be the dumbest fucking song to have hit the country airwaves in the past ten years. This is quite impressive when you consider the state of country music lately, between Trace Adkins “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and Toby Keith’s “Angry American Song”, it would surely take something spectacular to overtake the lead in tasteless country songs. American country artist Joe Nichols pulled it off with 2005’s big hit single “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off”. Hands down the worst song I’d ever fucking heard… and Taytor was adamant that we played it because he’d already sent the brochures to print and he put that song title on it, because it sounded “risqué” I’m not even sure if he had ever even heard it.

We were all disgusted by the decision, none of us certainly wanted to play it, much less sing it. It’s hard to tell at first how serious Taytor even was about it. But one thing’s for sure, the fact we didn’t care for it, was a major act of defiance for Taytor and he would become more serious about it, the more we hated it.

We went so far as to do a terrible job of it, in hopes that the director would cut it. Archie, made several pleas to Taytor, but the more we defied him the more his ego and pride wouldn’t allow it not to happen.

We had to make peace with that in the end because it was a battle we weren’t going to win.

Music rehearsals carried on, then vocal rehearsals started. Aphro was in charge of vocals, as she had been since Vocah’s departure 2 years prior. Now Aphro is a gifted singer and now had enough experience to be a good vocal arranger, but in the two years she’d been doing it, she never learned to be well organized. That always made vocal rehearsals the worst part of prepping a show for me. Aphro always seemed to come to vocal rehearsals with a feeling about her that said, “I just crammed last night, because I didn’t get started on this stuff two weeks ago like I should have.” Not saying that Archie put a whole lot of time in it either, but he put the right amount of time in it as to not be the bottleneck. We’d easily learn and polish 4 or 5 songs with Archie every night. But each of those “needed” 7 part harmonies and such, so Aphro had her work cut out for her. You could tell though that there were a few songs in particular that she had worked hard on, but there is 15 or so songs that all need a lot of harmony, and it made it difficult.

Vocal harmonies are long and boring enough as it is. But Aphro and I struck a deal at the beginning of my run. I told her if she promised me that I’d have no vocals at all the entire year that I wouldn’t make her life a complete living hell. She took that as a joke, but also realized that I was vindictive enough to do it. So she complied, I only had two lead songs the entire year, both times was because it was written in the script, so I never punished Aphro for it.

Of course, I got to sing the second worst song in this particular show however. Mr. Cyrus’ big 90s hit “Acky Breaky Heart”. FUCKING CHRIST!!!!!!!! I was pissed, but I tried to internalize it as much as possible, because I didn’t want to create tension, and alienate people that I have to deal with for another 11 months.

Let the games begin. The show started the following week and I just wanted to know when it was going to be over. Nothing incredibly eventful happened during the run, except my character had an original Nintendo Gameboy during the show, and I found batteries for it. Laydee was not pleased with me. I’d start playing Zelda: Link’s Awakening and missed a quarter of my cues nightly until she started hiding batteries on me (I always had spares in my socks though). Then there was the night that the Christmas lights I stuffed down my pants got too hot, but we don’t need to discuss that.

The show went on through the spring. Every night I spent there made me feel that much worst about where I was in my life, that place had a unique ability to make me really hate my living in general. It wasn’t so much the people though. With the exception of Divah and Taytor, everyone was great but it’s just the environment didn’t feel great. I felt like a whore probably does, the johns may not be openly abusive to her, but they’re still getting to fuck and violate her for money. The fact that they may be nice about it is likely of little comfort. In the same way I was feeling a little violated. Sure I knew what I was getting into, but I still felt like I had bitten off more than I could chew, but I had to keep it to myself if I was going to pull through and make it worth my suffering. If I didn’t make it to the end then I didn’t get anything.

During this time we had been informed that the audit was still in full swing. Actually there were rumours going around that the revenues that we had made over the past 3 years would all be under review. I took that as to say “Look out for Notices Of Reassessments”. I hate when I get those. The very fact that the audit was taking so long, and Taytor was likely instigating the auditor by being an asshat meant that anyone remotely involved with the Flaming Bird was likely going to get reassessed.

We started into the rehearsal for the summer show, which had a cruise ship theme. The summer season is the season when the nightly numbers are down, due to most people being away for vacation and such. Historically in the summer you’d be lucky to see one show a week with a handful of people in the audience. Whereas in the fall you’d get 3 nights a week with over a hundred on two of those nights. This leads to very little income and having to book yourself off every weekend even though you’d likely find out two days before the weekend that there would be no shows. Combine that with the heat in that place due to lack of A/C and it makes for a particularly irritable drumwaiter. My brother by this point and anyone remotely associated with the Bird were receiving T4As. My brother had sold them an FX unit, why he was getting a T4A was beyond me. This was turning into a real shit show.

We lost one member of the cast that summer, as she had decided she was talented enough to do better things for herself. I agreed, night after night, she was one of the most talented performers I’d worked with in a long time. Aphro had finally left. She would continue to do vocal direction for the time being, but she’d no longer join us as a performer. It’s ass backwards from what I would have wanted, I’d rather have kept her as a performer than a director. However, I was just glad that she could go and out and spread her wings. She did just that; she played the lead in a big local production that summer and blew my mind. I couldn’t believe how far someone’s skill could jump just by leaving the Bird. Made me wonder what I could do if I wasn’t stuck in that prison.

To replace her they hired two people: A female vocalist just fresh out of high school, and an amply energetic indie musician from the local scene.

The female vocalist I found very annoying right from the start. She was young and thought herself all-knowing and invincible. She would constantly try to belittle some of the weaker and more vulnerable of the cast members, and that means Noob. Poor Noob, he’d get a lot of shit from her even in her few first days of being there. For my money she was an elitist cunt that thought she was better than everyone else. The thing is though she would only show that side of her to certain people. Good thing too, Laydee would’ve carved her up for even trying. I’ve not met the person, male or female, that has what it takes to battle Laydee. Most of the cast liked this new girl except for Noob, Taytor and myself. Go figure, Taytor and I actually agreed on this one. He saw the same snooty bitch that I saw, but the rest of the cast thought she was fine. Her name was Ceeyu Nextusdai, I think her name was of Japanese origin, but I never asked her about it. She sure didn’t look oriental to me, but what the fuck?

Our new male acquisition was one that I really liked on the other hand. He was very funny, very intelligent, had great stage presence and was just an overall really swell guy. There’s not much to really say about him other than that at this point. He was a local indie singer/songwriter, that was involved in a whole community of musicians that I wasn’t really too aware of. Mostly because a lot of these guys were narcissistic and very jaded, two things that I don’t have much patience for. P.C. Mada was his name, although he never did getting around to telling me what his first two initials stood for.

Yet another rehearsal period went by, this time my gay disco ballerina character came back as a cross-dressing fitness instructor. This should be fun.

Music rehearsal was a snap, we’d bash off half a dozen tunes every evening. It wasn’t long before all the music was done. Vocal rehearsals were still quite a bit more painful though, likely due to poor preparation. I’m not saying Aphro doesn’t work this stuff out, but she doesn’t work it enough. It’s hard for the cast to be sure what notes to hit, when she’s just trying to figure that out too on the spot. To her credit, everything always worked out in the end, but the process was still something that needed to be ironed out.

Towards the end of rehearsal Ekim had broken up with his girlfriend and was pretty shaken up about it. He starting moping around a lot, and just wasn’t as energetic as he normally wouldn’t have been. However he was a professional and he could still carry himself well on stage.

The show opened up, and it was actually kind of fun. I ignored Ceeyu enough that she became tolerable. All in all except for the sweltering heat, this was a pretty good show for me. It was summer time and we barely had one show a week, so I had a lot of time off. Things were going well, until I broke my first rule: Don’t become part of the drama.

Ekim’s ex-girlfriend and I had become closer as friends in the weeks after the two had split. It wasn’t that long until we realized that we had developed serious feelings for one another. For fuck sakes… Now I had to have a chat with Ekim, before he hears it from anyone else. Ekim was barely over the heartache of the split up to begin with; this wasn’t going to be easy for him to hear.

So I tracked him down that week and explained to him how things were, and were things stood between his ex and I. He sat there and took it rather well. Come to think of it, he couldn’t have been grieving that much since he had spent the past three weeks fucking everything in sight in order to get the ex out of his system. So I figured his plan to purge the hurt out had worked, because he was very cool about everything. He said that it wouldn’t change anything between us, and that he respected me for being upfront. He even went so far as to say that he thinks we’re a better match anyway. I thought it seemed strange that he took it so well, but fuck it; if it doesn’t look broke, don’t fix it!

As the weeks went by I learned another valuable lesson however: If it doesn’t look broke, it doesn’t mean that it ain’t broke. Ekim took it really hard. He wouldn’t talk to me at all during shows. Backstage you could cut the tension with a hacksaw. This went on for over a month, he’d brood around. No one really took him seriously though, because he was being quite infantile about it, and he was running around sleeping all kinds of other different girls, so no one paid much attention to him. Then one day he just snapped back into place, and everything was fine again. It was as if nothing ever happened. I was cool with leaving it at that.

So the summer show went on and we neared the end of it with about the weeks left, then I received a phone call from Laydee. P.C. had just left her a message out of the blue saying that he wasn’t going to be coming in to do any more shows. Where the fuck did that come from? He was fitting in and seemed generally happy, so what the fuck gives? So now Laydee was calling an emergency rehearsal to try and cut P.C.s character from the script. I fucking loathe rehearsals, and especially loathe people who do stupid cowardly things that cause me to have unnecessary rehearsals. Motherfucker!!!

Cutting P.C.s character was mostly a matter of making Archie’s character crazier, because the conversations he used to have with P.C.s character, were now monologues. So Archie had a shit whack of lines to learned, which pissed him off, and rightfully so. We were all pretty pissed. Cocksucker… I mean, he could have fucking left after 5 more performances, and bowed out gracefully, instead of being a pussy about the whole thing. He didn’t even have the nerve to call Laydee, he sent her a voicemail, so as to avoid confronting the people he’s about to fuck over. I can only hope that karma is swift to strike down this asshat. Whatever pleasant things I said about him in the beginning are all retracted.

Ekim actually runs into him the following week at a bar that P.C. frequently played, and confronted him. He asked him if he had anything to say for himself. The answer Ekim got from a cold P.C. was “No, not really…” and then P.C. just walked away. I’m not quite sure how Ekim managed to not suplex him through the front window, I’m not sure I couldn’t have helped it if I were in his place. He’s obviously a better man than I.

Sometime mid-summer, just before P.C.s defection, we’d finally received our Notice of Reassessments from the Canada Revenue Agency. Most of us owed a couple of hundred dollars. I owed $613.47 to the federal government. Archie owed about the same as me, and everyone else owed money, but it ranged depending on how much work they did in 04/05. My brother got a bill for a couple hundred dollars for the cheque that he received for that multi-effects unit he sold to Taytor. I think the guy that delivered the dinner rolls received a T4A too… This whole thing was just completely fucked up.

When I’d confront Taytor about this bill from Revenue Canada, he’d get very defensive and agitated. He gave me the name and number of the auditor that was responsible for this mess. I had no interest in beating my fucking head against a wall with him anyways. So I email the auditor to see what the deal is. She replied and made it clear that Taytor had issues cheques to me for “x” amount of dollars. I replied saying that that was impossible, because I never received that much money from him. I had gone through my bank statements for that year and they were off by over $600. She suggested that I might want to have a chat with my employer because he had me on the books for more than that. Fuck!!! How the hell can he have me on the books for more money than he gave me? It’s not like he paid me every week, I got one $300 cheque from him every 3 months. It’s kinda hard to fuck that shit up. I asked her for details and she pointed me back to Taytor and pointed me to the website where I can find the proper appeal forms. When I went back to Taytor, he said that he couldn’t help because she had all of his books. For fuck sakes… I dropped it and tried to ignore it for as long as I could.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled drama… P.C. was gone, and Ceeyu was still there but the summer was almost gone, and soon Ceeyu was going back to school… Thank Christ. In her defence, most of everyone else liked her, but Noob and I saw the cold hard bitch that lay inside waiting to feed on the souls of the weak (or something to that effect.) Whatever, she’d be gone in a few weeks and since Taytor didn’t really care for her either, it’s doubtful that she’d return. Had I known who was coming around the corner I would have begged Ceeyu to stay until I left; Then again you can’t predict everything, especially in that place.

Rehearsals were starting for the fall show. We were seeing the return of Pianissa Keys; we were witnessing the departure of Archie B, and we were initiating the entrance of two new performers.

Just a few months left to go until I’m free and clear. But now we’ve lost Archie B, and Laydee is going to Asia for a few months, and that leaves Divah Baghlikar in the role of cast captain. That along with the very dynamic new cast members should make for an interesting fall season. I’m just going to go ahead and fill out those appeal forms, and see how long it takes before I get a response.

If I can just make it to 2008 without bombing the fucking place, that would be great.

To be continued…
"Volume automation takes time. You don't got that kinda time. You could be getting naked with somebody somewhere." -Slipperman

Mathieu Benoit - Fluid Productions
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Mathieu Benoit
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Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:55 pm
Location: Saint John, New Brunswick

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Tue Feb 02, 2010 7:16 pm

CHAPTER SEVEN - Far Beyond Driven (part 3)

Rehearsals for new shows always begin on Sunday. This is the one fucking day out of the week that I like to reserve to myself so that I can deal with the other 6 days more effectively. After this one though, just one more to go. I just need to hold my shit together for a few more months and then I’ll have my freedom. If someone told me that the first rehearsal would be so damned entertaining though, I would have shown up early and brought snacks…

I enter the Bird around 1:00pm, which was the call time for this rehearsal. I’m greeted by half of the cast, which is unusual as I’m usually the last one to arrive (barely on time, but on time none the less.) Upon looking around I realize why we’re missing half the cast, Laydee was indeed missing. She was the glue that held this volatile cast together; everyone feared and respected her, including me to some extent. Let’s just say I would never directly go against her; or do anything to deliberately piss her off. However with her gone, people would likely get much slacker.

The new cast members were there however, as it’s their first day on the job and they likely want to make a good first impression. There were two new additions to our group: One of which I didn’t know, and one of which I sure as hell didn’t like.

The two new cast members were both very memorable, in completely different ways. One was a raging homosexual, and the other was a raging bitch.

The raging homosexual was a very pleasant individual. He was very keen and caring. He worked very hard and was always in a very good mood. He was a great addition to the team, I felt as he introduced himself to me. “Tinker, Tinker Belle” he says as delightful as a human could likely be.

The raging bitch on the other hand needed no introduction, I knew her well enough from seeing her around, especially Sunday nights on the boardwalk, as she used to work in one of the establishments there. My disdain could only grow in my proximity to her I suspected, and I’m sure she wouldn’t disappoint. Her unusual hairstyle made her easily recognizable right away. I called her Bitchie Doo and she was about to win the title of Flaming Bird bitch of the year, claiming that title from Taytor who had won it three years in a row.

First rehearsal started out kind of slack. Without Laydee there to manage people, it was going to be tricky. Divah simply didn’t have the skills for the job, but she thought she did, which is usually a really unfortunate combination. Things were very disorganized and everyone was spread out as we were trying to go over lines so that we can begin to get a feel for the show. Bitchie and Ekim were sitting at a table a row away from the rest of us, busy talking to each other and generally not paying attention. The rest of us were working hard trying to develop our characters and go over our lines and every time it came to those two, everything would slow down. Divah demanded that they come join the rest of us, with a tone of speech reminiscent of that crabby old school bus driver we all had growing up. Oddly enough, she probably WAS that crabby old bus driver that we all had growing up. I agreed that they needed to come over with the rest of the group but that’s no way to do it. Bitchie flips out at Divah, the two have a bit of a heated exchange and then not long after that Divah is pulling Ekim and Bitchie into the kitchen for a chat. The rest of us wait for the screaming to subside. We end up losing our momentum for the rest of the night, and there’s thick tension running all through the room. We break and I go to my weekly Sunday gig and give Archie the scoop on what’s going on, we both shake our heads and get on with our night. I just needed to vent and Archie knows the situation in there quite well, so he’s good for that.

The next rehearsal is a lot of the same, Divah and Bitchie are bitching at each other, the rest of us watch as the tension escalates and we get little work done. I pull Divah off to the side and tell her I’d like to have a word with her after rehearsal. She looks at me afraid at what I might have to say. She’s having a hard time enough with Bitchie; she wouldn’t make it through an argument with me. She’d be right, but little did she know I had no interest in arguing with her. Still I enjoy the look of fear in her eyes for the moment. I’ll hang on to that for a while longer. Besides she’s done nothing to help my mood in the past few days.

So after rehearsal the cast dissipates. A few of them give me a look, knowing that I was about to have a sit down with Divah. Divah was trying her best to avoid me all together. She was being defensive and elusive. I finally caught up to her when we got outside, and she was trying to tell me that she was in a hurry. I told her to make some time.

I said “You know this isn’t working right? What you’re doing isn’t working.” She was quick to jump down in with “I’m doing the best that I can, everyone needs to calm the hell down. People need to start respecting my authority!” She said that so quickly and frantically that I could barely make out the words. She was obviously flustered by her less than stellar management skills and her fear of this conversation didn’t help. “I know you are doing your best.” I offered. “But you need to understand that respect is earned and you need to lead by example and treat others with the same respect.” I continued, as she sat there listening. The conversation must’ve lasted 45 minutes and she was in tears through parts of it. This was the first time that her humanity had really been apparent. I mean, obviously she’s human but there were so many layers of bullshit between her and the rest of civilization that sometimes it’s easy to forget.

The next few weeks of rehearsal went well. Divah felt much better and treated the cast much better. Bitchie was obviously still testing her, and Divah was at her wits end with her, but things can’t go too well eh? Divah’s new mood wouldn’t last too long, she eventually went back to being a maniacal bitch, but the break was good for everyone.

When music rehearsal began I started to realize that we didn’t really have any strong vocalists left. Bitchie was supposed to be the new attraction in terms of vocals, but I didn’t see it. Her vocal range was incredibly limited and it was hard to find songs that she could sing. Her voice had a nice tone to it, but she had a long ways to go as a performer. Nothing wrong with any of that, but whereas she was being touted as the next best thing to happen to the Flaming Bird since God knows when… I’m just saying I beg to differ. Especially since the amount of raw emotion that she brings into that building is quite impressive. I swear to fuck she’s bi-polar. Some days she’d be coming around in the best of fucking mood then by the end of the night she’s the most miserable bitch in the world. Surely her mediocre vocal talents weren’t worth all of that?

Tinker on the other hand was always happy and gay (either way you want to look at that you’d be right…) and such a pleasure to work with. He was an amazing performer, and probably one of the strongest vocalists that we had left, which doesn’t say much at all but I thought I’d throw that in there for context. He didn’t have a great voice but he was a good singer, and that combination works well for musicals and dinner theatre. He was a real professional though. Since Tinker is pretty much perfect and drama free, I probably won’t write too much about him because it’s not as interesting as the rest of the drama going on, I just wanted to take some time to give him the credit he deserves on record, as one hell of an example to the rest of us.

The run went by rather quickly. I played a nerd so there wasn’t much for me to do on stage, so I just kept to myself and played my drums. Bitchie was as unstable as should be expected from a sociopath, and the rest of that run was a blur.

Rehearsals for the final show started and I for once felt differently about rehearsal. For starters, this would be my last rehearsal for a new run. Once the show was up on its feet I’d never again need to worry about rehearsals, which up until now were the major low points of my life. Secondly was the fact that Laydee had returned and this time was actually co-directing. This was truly a treat. I’m going to enjoy this.

As it was our Christmas run, and that is our busiest season, we picked up yet another pair of cast members.

The first was the girlfriend of Laydee’s younger brother. She was basically like family to the Sparkel clan. I called her Teenie Sparkel. She was a typical valley girl, blonde, bubbly, not too much going on up there, but generally good to deal with. She was a decent singer, and was under the protection and guidance of Laydee, so I didn’t bother much with her. Besides, she was nice enough to me. She would get pretty bossy with other members of the cast and I had to call her on it from time to time, which I found odd considering she had just gotten there… but she didn’t bother me directly, so as the kids say these days, “Whatevs…”

The second was a young guitar player who seemed eager enough. Maybe too eager, he was your typical dime-a-dozen blues guitar soloist. I really, really get irritated playing with guys like this. Songs always end up longer when these jerk-offs hit the stage. His name was Wanks Alot and he was a nice enough guy but he had something to prove to someone, and I wasn’t interested. He was about 5 foot nothing and weighed about 100 pounds soaking wet. Maybe that was it, maybe he was trying to make up for what he felt he lost in physical stature. Regardless he was a nice enough kid and I’d treat him with respect as I would anyone else.

The whole thing would have remained pretty uneventful had Bitchie not taken a liking to our little SRV wannabe. During the rehearsal process Bitchie was telling us about how much her boyfriend was a douche bag, and then not long after, her and Wanks start acting like retarded junior high school kids. Public displays of affection (PDAs) are not fucking appropriate at work. However I would have accepted simple PDAs if they could fucking pry themselves away from their hormones to get some work done. They became so enamoured with each other that the fact that they were at work with responsibilities was totally lost on them. It was really annoying to have to work with this. At least it was better than if they were fighting. But as quickly as the flame was burning it would be sure to fade fast; we’d just have to wait for it. I predict that they will be cussing each other out long before I’ve left.

In mid-November we hosted the 3rd annual Divine Divas benefit. This is an event that Shynea and some of her peers organize to raise money for various charitable organizations. They can raise anywhere between fifty and seventy thousand dollars at one of these. It's a lot of stinkin' cash, made really quickly. It's a wonderful girls-only night out and the event itself is a lot of fun, everyone dresses up in their best disco gear. This is the only fundraising event that I really enjoy doing for a variety of reasons. I don't have to set up, clean up or serve anything. I just play 3 short sets, and I get free finger foods and drinks. But mostly, it's because this event has absolutely NOTHING to do with Taytor. Well, that and I love a room full of women with money. Shynea organizes this entire event independently of Taytor; all he does is volunteer the venue for the evening. That's his donation. The cast does this every year for Shynea's benefit, not his. He doesn't even need to come to the event... and this time it would have been best.

Now before we get on with the story, one more thing worth noting. Delta Hotels is a platinum level sponsor for the event. They donate tens of thousands of dollars in goods and services to the event. Their servers fight over who can come to the Flaming Bird to volunteer their time to serve the food provided by the Delta.

Taytor was at the event as he is every year. This year though he had been drinking heavily, something that I thought was behind us. Now in all fairness to Taytor I have to say that he's gone through some really terrible personal trauma this past week. It isn't an excuse but it helps to put things into perspective. He should have been home grieving and not out in public. Period.

He was joking with me early on in the night as to how he'd like to divert one of the trays to his table so that he didn't have get up to get some food. I said to him, that if he asked one of them they might be able to help him out with that. Later on however he took the liberty of asking one of his kitchen staff to take a tray that had been momentarily put down by the server. The kitchen help, not knowing any better, was about to bring him the tray when the server realized that her tray disappeared. She went to go recover her tray, and Taytor saw that as a direct insult to himself. He then proceeded to "explain" to her that he didn't need their fucking food, and grabs the tray from her and threw it in the garbage and said that she could stick it straight up her ass... Needless to say the server left the kitchen crying. Taytor pursued her, and continued with his usual charm. Within 3 minutes there were a handful of Delta servers crying.

Taytor wasn't done yet though. He then told one of our cast members that anyone that eats the Delta's food would be fired on the spot. He started to tear strips out of the cast member in question. He had enough and told Taytor to get out of his face (and justly so). He went on to continue his tirade on Shynea next, explaining to her how it's "his fucking building" and on, and on... He's embarrassing poor Shynea to no ends.

He then proceeds to Laydee, explaining that the cast was to stay away from the food. Laydee, very politely explained that this didn't really make sense. So he proceed to tell her off, in not so many words, then gathered the rest of the cast, and wanted to hold an emergency cast meeting, but Laydee and I weren't invited. Hmm... So I crashed his "meeting" just to hear what he had to say, then I walked out on him after hearing his "spin" on the events, I couldn’t believe the amount of bullshit coming out of his fucking mouth, nor was I sure of why everyone else was still in there listening to the shit. He was blocking the door, but that wasn't going to stop me, that's for damn sure. I'm pushed him aside, told him that I couldn't support any of this and that I wasn't staying to listen to it. I went back to Shynea and Laydee, and declared that this wasn't even worth fighting him over... He's just being a silly little bitch.

Meanwhile Shynea's husband is likely somewhere else in the building, trying not to put Taytor in the hospital. At least that's what I'd be doing, were I him... But I'm just speculating. I have a lot of respect for this man, to show so much patience.

While this is going on, Shynea can't do her live auction, and when items are being bid on for thousands of dollars a piece, every minute not auctioning is money lost.

Taytor wouldn't look me in the eye all night, except to scowl at me while I was on stage, when I was off though he didn't say shit to me. He realizes by now, he can't spin me.

I had to leave to go to the boardwalk, so I wasn't around for the end. However I heard that Taytor gave a big closing speech at the end of the night, thanking the entire cast for the hard work and insisted on paying them all for their work at this benefit, for which he had nothing to do with.

How does he even fucking sleep at night?

With that fucking train wreck behind us, the show continued forward for the rest of the Christmas season.

The problem with the Christmas season for me is that I work a regular nine-to-five job as well as working 5-6 nights a week at the Bird. So it’s really easy for me to get burnt out, and because of that I need certain routines to make things work. Since I usually go straight from work to the Bird I never have a chance to eat. So I usually order myself a meal and once the meals are out to my customers I typically take that opportunity to eat myself. Laydee was not a fan of that. Everyone else was bussing tables and working and here I was eating food. She wasn’t “wrong “per se, but my tables were already bussed and I haven’t eaten since noon. So as much as I respected her, I wasn’t going anywhere until I was no longer hungry. She didn’t want to push the issue with me, and we left it at that.

Noob was terrible slow with his tables still so Laydee had asked me if I could find some way to get his tables cleared quicker. So after my meal I’d go and help Noob bus tables. I turned it into a game. It’s not that Noob was incapable of work (he was a farm boy) it’s just that he lacked motivation. So I pushed him and I tried to get him in competition with himself night after night. I would get him to set records for how fast we can get the room cleared and then get him to safely try to break that record. The difference was quite significant. We’d be on stage sometime 10-15 minutes earlier than normal. It was harder on me though because I’d be serving close to 40 people at a time when Noob would barely have 15, simply because he can’t handle more than that. It’s really hard work serving tables. Archie used to avoid it all together by just doing bussing. That worked since Archie actually did his job. Noob was asked to bus the room more since he had the fewest customers but he was so slow that it didn’t work out the same way. But this new system worked great. Other people would help me serve my coffee while I was helping Noob with tables, it felt like an actually team environment most nights.

The bar situation was still ridiculous. Divah was a pain in the ass to deal with when it came to the bar. She had a growing list of rules to follow and it was always a giant clusterfuck to try to get drinks for your tables. To make matters worse, the Christmas season was all staff parties and everyone was getting drunk on the bosses tab. I’d easily sell $1000 of booze in a night some night. It was foolish.

This brings me to perhaps one of the most memorable moments I had at the Flaming Bird. One of my best stories from there actually. This is an event that most of us now affectionately call "The Great Wine Caper of ’07".

One night we had a rather large party booked and they had pre-ordered 2 litres of white and red wine per table. There was 4 or 5 tables in total, so there was somewhere between 16 and 20 litres of wine overall. The party was short a few guests and this would have been an excessive amount of wine even if everyone had shown up, so there were about 4 carafes left at the end of the night; Which the man paying the bill offered to us the cast members. I thought that was very nice of him. However Taytor’s partner was floating around circling the table trying to grab the wine to put back in the fridge behind the bar. My instinct was that Taytor intended on re-selling the wine. Of course my Robin Hood complex prevented me from just leaving it at that and minding my own business.

Ekim was serving that table so I explained to him that I was going to take care of the wine, since Taytor’s partner was eyeballing the carafes earlier. I told him Ekim to just stay out of my way and I’d take care of it. I helped him continue to clean that section of tables while I placed the wine under the grand piano. Taytor’s partner saw me putting something under the piano but at the time he was busy in the kitchen so I pretended to bring something into the cast changing room while making sure that I was visible to him. Once I was done my misdirection I proceed to very discreetly move the carafes two at a time over to the backstage area. The tables in the room were high enough to allow me to conceal the wine naturally enough during the transport. Once I got all the carafes backstage I hid them in plain sight in the darkest corner of the backstage area, a small area where no lights could reach. To make certain though I threw a pile of black drop clothes over them in a way that made them invisible even if you were looking right at them. They would be safe for now, so I had to go back and continue cleaning the room for a bit to avoid suspicion.

I went back out onto the floor and continued cleaning and no one seemed to be the wiser except Bitchie and Wanks that had been watching me since I left the backstage area. I paid no attention to them yet, and proceeding to continue clearing tables. Eventually Bitchie walk up to be and said, “Drumwaiter, I know you took that wine. You better not be taking that all for yourself.” I told her that I don’t really drink and the wine was for whoever wanted it once I got it out of the building. She insisted I let her in on my plan. I told her to shut up. I didn’t need her compromising my plan by drawing attention to it, or me for that matter. She groaned a bit and left it at that.

Not long after that exchange, Taytor makes for the cast room. He seems to be on a mission, as he walked rather quickly and had his trademark angry face on. He kicks everyone out of the change room, slams the door and then you just hear him ransacking the place. He comes out 3 minutes later, and the room is completely upside down. He gives me a menacing look, but I doubt he’ll actually call me on it because it means he’d have to justify why he was trying to re-sell the wine. He then proceeded to comb over the stage and then proceeds to the back stage area. He suspects that I’ve hiding the wine, but he won’t come out and ask me about it. This whole situation is very funny to me. I mean what’s he going to do fire me? Fuck it… This is too much fun.

Bitchie comes by and whispers to me that Taytor is going to find the wine. I reassure her that it’s impossible that he finds the wine. What I haven’t mentioned to her, or to you the reader, is that as I was clearing tables I gave one of the kitchen boys $10 go back and cover the carafes with saran wrap and then I went through the room downstairs and discreetly brought the wine next to the side door downstairs. It was well hidden amongst the junk down there. The wine was no longer backstage so Taytor was shit out of luck.

I ran in a problem at this point though, while I was downstairs I had a really hard time un-barring the side door downstairs. There are 3 latches and they all seemed to be stuck. Now I could’ve tried to force them open but I didn’t want to make too much noise and arouse suspicion so I left the door as it was for the time being.

Meanwhile, Taytor is starting to get agitated because he still can’t find the wine. I still need to go back downstairs without Taytor seeing me, but now he’ll be likely watching me like a hawk. I needed to disappear, or at least be somewhat hidden. An idea struck me, as I looked down at the floor. The floors were a mess and Taytor had let go of the cleaning lady, so he was now the one to have to vacuum the floors. With 200 chairs on deck that was going to be hard, so I offered that the cast should put all the chairs on the tables. Taytor agreed because it would make the task of vacuum much easier. Taytor didn’t get it at the time, but by putting the chairs up I was cutting his line of site to the back door that I needed to access without being noticed. Once the chairs were up I then proceeded to fight with the door latches until finally I got them loose. I then tried to open the door only to realize that the door was stuck. Something on the outside was blocking it.

I went back upstairs and knew that I needed to have an excuse to go outside to check on the door situation. I took Taytor’s truck keys and informed him that I was going to take down the linen to the truck. Since this was part of my nightly assignments this was a perfect cover. I went outside and sure enough, there was about 3 feet of hard packed snow up against the door. I go and get a shovel and start chipping away at the rock-hard snow and finally free the door. I go back through the main room upstairs and go back to the wine. Bring it outside and I place it next to the building so that I can pick it up when I leave. I go back upstairs and kibitz with Taytor for a few minutes just to reinforce my cover. Well, that and I wanted to see the look on his face while he held back his urge to question me concerning the missing carafes. I said goodnight and that was that.

I got a drive with Ekim and his girlfriend but not before grabbing the wine that I had placed just next to the building. Ekim was very impressed with the execution of my plan, and I took the next few minutes to allow my success to inflate my already bloated ego. Before I left the car though I made sure to be clear with Ekim that he was to bring the carafes back the next day when he came in to work. This was to be his responsibility, as I’ve already did my share for wine that I’ll never drink. It’s simple really; the containers belong to Taytor, the wine did not. I wanted to make sure this was clear to avoid problems later. He assured me that he understood and I go home and go to bed.

Now, the story should end here, but then it wouldn’t truly be “epic”. Ekim (not surprisingly) didn’t bring back the carafes as I had requested. He didn’t even transfer the wine into other containers. He just left them in his fridge, in plain sight. Now at the time Archie and Ekim were living together and Laydee happened to be over visiting Archie, so she saw the wine. She was pissed, since she had gotten grilled by Taytor while I was busy being up to no good. So when all of us went back into the Bird the next day, shit got really messy.

I don’t mind things getting messy (as those of you that know me probably already know), because I like figuring out ways to get back out of said messes. Besides it makes for great stories and this time would be no different.

Laydee and Divah were up in the office with Taytor (who apparently spent all morning looking for the wine.) and Taytor was reading them the riot act. Taytor didn’t make a big deal about the wine, because it was a terribly slippery slope to open the doors on. He did however say that Divah was to conduct a count of the carafes at the end of the show and if they aren’t all accounted for no one was leaving until someone took responsibility. He also said that the responsible party would be charged with theft.

After the meeting Divah and Laydee discussed the matter and Laydee said that she saw the carafes in Ekim’s fridge. Divah confronted Ekim and he flat out lied to her and said he had no idea what she was talking about. Divah isn’t dumb though she knew that Ekim didn’t have the skill to pull it off with all the heat that was on that night. She then quickly scanned the room and realized I was the only one ballsy enough and clever enough to pull it off. She confronted me about it and my ego was once again delighted at the compliment. “Drumwaiter, do you know where the wine is?” I replied, “No.” She then asked, “Do you know how it got out of the building last night?” I responded, “Yes.” She then asked if Ekim took it out of the building. I laughed in her face. I told her I was done with the interrogation and that I had work to do.

Laydee then confronted me and basically backed me into the corner and started asking rather forceful questions. She knew it was all me and she was very upset with me. I had no intention of going toe-to-toe with Laydee. Maybe I could hold my own, but if wasn’t worth the aggravation. I levelled with her, but explained that I told Ekim to bring the carafes back as they belonged to the Flaming Bird. It was then that she told me that Taytor asked Divah to do a count at the end of the night. I told her not to worry, that I’d take care of it.

I then approached Ekim who was obviously disturbed by talks of criminal prosecution that were uttered by Divah. I asked him where the carafes were, he said they were still in his fridge. I asked him what part of bring them right back he didn’t understand, and he sat silent. I told him that he needed to help me fix this, as the whole thing wasn’t even for my benefit. I realized that even if he wanted to help he’d have simply gotten in the way. So I had to act fast.

I called Archie and had him transfer all the wine to other containers. I also had him rinse the carafes out. Now, this happened to be the night of a one of the biggest snowstorms we had in recent memory. So transportation was going to be a problem. Half of the customers we had booked for that night had already cancelled, and you could barely see 2 feet in front of you. I tried calling a taxi to deliver the carafes but no taxi company was taken any fares due to road conditions. It became clear that I was going to have to go myself.

Thankfully it wasn’t too busy so I could get Laydee to cover for me while I was running my errand. I went out to get in the car. I had borrowed Wyre’s car for a reason that I still can’t remember and his tires were bald. Now that was bad enough but when I got there I was met with a 7 foot snow drift in front of his car. I started trying to dig it out but was getting nowhere fast. I went back up and I convinced Laydee to push the supper and desert breaks together to allow me more time. It also makes the show end earlier so the rationale is in place if Taytor questions her decision. I went back down to the car and enlisted the help of some patrons that were outside smoking on the steps. I had 5 customers helping me, by shovelling and pushing the car. It was a small Honda Civic and the boys that were helping me were quite strapping so we got out of there before too long.

Next I had to actually make it back to Archie’s in one piece on these bald tires. I can totally understand why taxi drivers refused to go out in this shit. Normally this would have been a 3 minute drive, but under these circumstances it took me nearly 15 minutes to get there. I grabbed the carafes, blast back to the Bird and just make it back in time to start the second act. On my way in I hid the bag with the carafes under the table with the guest book. There are two reasons for this. First, no one that works at the Bird goes in that section during a show, there’s just no reason, so it’s a lot easier to sneak things in that way. The other reason is because next to that table is a door that goes to the kitchen. I gave each of the kitchen boys $20 to siphon the carafes through their regular dish washing cycle through out the night, and to make sure that they weren’t caught by anyone in the process. They were young kids, and loved being part of my little schemes as it made them feel important. So they agreed.

I got on stage and Laydee asked me for a status report. I motioned to her that things were all under control. We proceeded with the rest of the show and got to the bow at the end. That when I saw Taytor putting away dishes at the bar, unbeknownst to him that the carafes he himself was putting away were the very ones he was looking for.

We all sat at the table after the show until Divah finished her count. She was actually two over what she should have had. Apparently there were two extra carafes in the bag that Archie gave me… I’m not even sure what to say about that. In the end Taytor was pissed that he couldn’t catch me, the way he looked at me when I left the room that night said so. It also said that he knew it was me. I returned a look of my own. The look that says, “Yeah it was me, and you can still go fuck yourself.”

The rest of the run was largely uneventful in comparison, and with less than a few weeks to go, I was starting to feel the weight lift off me. There was still a bunch of drama in the cast but I was less and less aware of it.

By the time it got to NYE I started feeling excitement because I knew I was never going to come back again. I had one last piece of business to discuss with Taytor though as my contract came to a close. I wanted one more thing from him a parting bonus, my headshot off the wall. You see, when you come into the Flaming Bird you are greeted at the top of the stairs by a wall with headshots of all the actors, present and past, that have graced their stage. I wanted mine off the wall. Sure, I could have just taken it. But I’m not a thief, and it would’ve been to easy that way. I wanted him to hand it to me himself. So when the show ended and the room had been cleared, I pulled him aside and asked him. He said he didn’t know what to say, no one had ever asked that of him before. He said it would make everything seem so final. I agreed, because I told it that it was final. I was never going to return this time. I got what I wanted, and he had failed to destroy me in the process, so I was going to cut my losses and move on.

He gave me the photograph, we shook hands and that was it. It’s like you see in a hockey game. During the game they are fighting each other and shoving each other, but at the end of the game everyone shakes hands and acknowledges the opposing team. Taytor was a fine adversary and although we had our differences I respected that he was still a fierce competitor in this game of wits we were playing. I still had one card to play though. I felt bad for taking the picture from the wall and leaving a big empty spot up there so I left a picture that I made in its place. I’ve been told to this day it still hangs in Taytor’s office. Notice the lettering on the t-shirt:


It was all a game and I played it the best way I knew how. I strongly believe that he came to understand that in the end. It wasn’t personal, I just like something to cut my teeth on.

"Volume automation takes time. You don't got that kinda time. You could be getting naked with somebody somewhere." -Slipperman

Mathieu Benoit - Fluid Productions
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Mathieu Benoit
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Joined: Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:55 pm
Location: Saint John, New Brunswick

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