This went public a few months ago but I’ve gotten a lovely response so decided to plop it in my blog!

_____________________

To whom it may concern:

I am stepping down as Clockwise Theatre Artistic Director.

Sincerely,

Madel….

****************

…oh no. No, no, no. The formal, simple, brief announcement might work for some but…well….I’m me, so grab a cup of coffee, kick back, and let me fill you in…

This resignation? Not a bad thing! Oh, yes, I love Clockwise. I mean, I LOVE CLOCKWISE. But it’s time.

First, the professional reasons:

I’ve taken the theatre as far as I can. Truly, I have thrown everything in the Madelyn-arsenal at the organization. And it’s worked! I mean, Clockwise is awesome! See its magnificent production history at the bottom of this e-mail.

But I’ve got nothing left in the tank. I’ve nudged and nagged and bothered everybody. Started stacks of projects, some took, others didn’t. I’ve worked every contact, friend, acquaintance and near-stranger. Over-e-mailed pretty much everyone I’ve ever met. It’s time for someone else to bring their ideas, energy, vision, and momentum to the table (AKA Bob Sanders. We’ll get to him soon. But right now this is still all about me. Yup. ‘Cuz a gal doesn’t get many resignation letters. I’m milking this puppy)

One of my goals from Day One was to build such a strong company that I became dispensable. No organization that is too linked to its founder(s) survives succession. And after all this work, I want Clockwise to thrive. Because I so believe in the mission. I adore theatre. I love new work, current work, art about us, elegant stories illuminating our experience.

I must add: I am so proud of Clockwise. I’m proud of its toughness, fiscal responsibility, and devotion to excellence.

Another professional reason is that my own writing has suffered.

No. Wait. That’s not quite right.

My writing time has suffered.

I’ve learned oodles that I now bring to my own work. I am a smarter, better writer but the constant distraction of Clockwise (and yes, a fairly ugly Facebook and on-line Scrabble addition) has taken its toll. I have more plays in me that need to come out, and I want to bring the same energy to marketing my own work that I brought to marketing Clockwise. I want to get my work out into the greater world, hopefully getting some of my plays produced…which is where my creative heart finds the most peace.

Second, the personal reasons:

I have a really big life right now. I have two teenagers who have become really interesting people, people I want to spend time with before they scamper off to change the world. The generation ahead of me is also interesting and wonderful, and I want to spend time with them before they scamper off as well. There is my delightful husband whom I just adore spending time with.

And I need to stare at the sky and ponder the world.

Paint things.

Plant things.

It is time to throttle back and see what bubbles to the surface.

The What’s Next portion:

My successor is Bob Sanders. He’s AWESOME! Brought up in Lake Forest, 40 years in NYC, back living in Lake Forest, he’s already brought new people in, is generating new ideas, projects, organizing, and generally tearing it UP! Please, please support him. He has my backing 100%. We get along like a house afire and his presence has me so energized about the future of Clockwise. His e-mail is This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Shoot him a kudos/welcome/etc. He is a SUPER guy bringing so much to the table. Clockwise is very lucky to get him!

The Thank You portion:

As I began to think of this letter, dozens of names flooded my mind. All the people that have helped me and Clockwise along the way. I fear naming people because one ALWAYS leaves out SOMEBODY super-important. Then they get mad. But don’t tell you. But you sense it. Then ya worry. Fret.

Oh hell, life’s too short. I’ll just dive in…

Rebecca Adler

Clockwise would not exist without Rebecca. She taught me so much about business, about myself, professionalism, tenacity, toughness, and resiliency. One of the most elegant and intelligent people I have ever met, I know I will go to my grave treasuring the time I was lucky enough to spend with her, building this organization. And I am lucky enough get to hang out with her still! She is a Jedi Master.

Pat Kerr

Oh, Pat. Pat, Pat, Pat. One of the highlights of my professional life will be the memory of my feet propped up on my desk, distracting you from paperwork, insisting you talk to me. The times we have spent, laughing our heads off, talking each other in off the ledge, and hashing out problems has been sublime. Your wisdom has guided me with a steady and true hand. I am forever grateful. You’re the best.

The rest of the world

Early on, when Clockwise was just a glimmer of an idea, there were many, MANY people who said, “Do not do it. DO NOT DO IT!” Three people told me, “Do it” at just that perfect time, right when the “no” votes were tipping the scales. So for that belief in me, I thank you, Judy Fried, Maggie Speer, and Jane Waller.

My deepest thanks to the Clockwise Board of Directors (past & present), the Clockwise Artistic Advisory Board, the City of Waukegan, Bob Sabonjian, Noelle Kischer-Loepper, Russ Tomlin, David Motley, Waukegan City Council (past & present), Mayor Wayne Motley, Violet Ricker, Less Boyd, Wayne Mell, Doug McDade, Jim Neal, Evan Lasko, Dan Moran, Myrna Petlicki, Waukegan Main Street, Jamie O’Meara (another Jedi Master), Waukegan Arts Council, Bruce Kennedy, Christopher Davis, Cassandra Ellwing, Amariah Henderson, Brad Paschall, Jeri Tocco, Kylie Welker, Norma Serna, Mason Absher, Amy Chapin, Anne & Craig Linn, Lori Neirheim, Jane Ferry, Claudia Chocolate Freeman, Jason Clark, Bob Sanders, Greg Hughes, Peter Handler, Sandra Carobine, Eric Ziegenhagen, Susan Lieberman, Russ Tutterow, Sandy Shinner, Justin DiGiacomo, Brian Boston, Doug Post & The Dramatists Guild, Jen Green & Piven Theatre Workshop, Chicago Dramatists, the entire Genesee Theatre staff (you all could have been a big monster and instead you were a gentle giant!), TreSe Productions, Rigo Serna, FIST, Bowen Park Theatre Company, Driehaus Foundation, Three Brothers, Losch Beverages, First Midwest Bank, Waukegan Theatre District, Clockwise subscribers, donors, supporters, volunteers, other local business owners, and our AUDIENCE!!!

A SPECIAL THANKS to all the playwrights, actors, directors, and designers who have thrown their lot in with us, created brilliant work on a shoestring budget. One of the greatest satisfactions of Clockwise has been being able to greenlight work I believe in and hire people I admired. One of the toughest parts was not being able to compensate all of you enough. So thank you for the generous sharing of your time, talent and energy. Artists are the greatest supporters of the arts.

Thank you all for this journey. Clockwise has been, and I am certain will remain, one of the high points of my creative and professional life (with an extra shout out to our production of Special Needs, the cast and crew…love vibes to Lisabeth)

Finally, thanks to my friends and my family, David, Lucas, Izzy, Tori, Nancy, Kassandra, and Sandy & Erwin. Your patience, support, and belief have been a true constant for me. David especially.

Onwards to theatrical world domination!

Sincerely,

Madelyn Sergel

Clockwise Production History

Bolded credits indicate women or artists of color

 

  • Kita y Fernanda by Tanya Saracho, directed by Doug McDade, July 30th-August 15th, 2010
  • Special Needs, written and directed by Madelyn Sergel, February 25th -March 27, 2011. World premiere
  • goodness by Sean Christopher Lewis, directed by debrah neal, April 29th-May 29th, 2011
  • The Long Awaited by Claudia Allen, directed by Madeline Franklin, October 21st-November 13th, 2011
  • Courting Vampires by Laura Schellhardt, directed by Alexandra Main, January 20th-February 12th, 2012
  • Palmer Park by Joanna McClelland Glass, directed by Doug McDade, March 16th- through April 8th, 2012
  • Soul Sisters by Joanne Koch and Sarah Blacher Cohen, directed by Joyce Becker Lee, October 19th-November 11th, 2012
  • Cars and Quinceaneras by Susan Lieberman, directed by Juan Castaneda, January 25th-February 17th, 2013. World premiere
  • The Party in the Kitchen by Madelyn Sergel, directed by Andrea J. Dymond, April 19th - May 12th, 2013. World premiere
  • Carnegie Hill by Dorian Palumbo, directed by Wayne Mell, October 17th-November 10, 2013. Midwestern premiere
  • Doubting Thomas by John Green, directed by Doug McDade, January 24th-February 16th, 2014
  • A Fine Line by Rob Winn Anderson, directed by Andrea J. Dymond, April 11th-May 4th, 2014. World premiere
  • Impenetrable by Mia McCullough, directed by Judy Blue, October 10th-November 2nd, 2014
  • Captain Superlative byJessica Puller, directed byMadeline Franklin, November 21st-December 14th, 2014
  • Mr. Benny by Mark Humphrey, directed by Bob Sanders, January 29th -February 15th, 2015
  • Constant State of Panic by Patrick Gabridge, director Richard Shavzin, April 17th-May 10th, 2015

I miss girlfriends.

This is just a partial list of the gals in my life I wish I had time for: Susan, Jen, Jamie, Jamie, Gretchen, Rebecca, Violet, Megan, Brenda, Mia, Judy, Mindy, Lisa, Stacey, Janis, Marina, Alex, Karen, Teddy, Deb, Allyson, Jessica, Diana, Diane, Diane, Jane, Veronica, Anne, Lori, Amy, Debbie, Claudia, Dorian, Ellen, Jan, Jill, Kathy, Maggie, Noelle, Sara, Susan, Lourdes, Cindy, Julie, Tori, Pam, Margaret, Rhonda, Sandy, Andrea, Cari, Barb, Yolanda, and Carol.

Complex and vibrant women, each I could talk to for hours.

And the list above is not just longtime good friends but also women I want to get to know more. Ones I admire. We "click," sharing professional challenges, or maybe just a similar sense of humor.

In my youth, oh my god but my girlfriends saved my life. In high school, college, in my twenties, my thirties, they listened, encouraged, held my hand through career hopes, dreams, choices and carnage, lost and found love, identity reinvention, helped me find a therapist, cheered and wept with me.

But now? How often do I get quality time with any of them? Maybe once a month. IF I squeeze and wiggle my schedule just so...

But I am now I am in the thick of being the sandwich generation.

  • Teenage kids needing more attention, not less. (And boy, is that a surprise. I thought baby-toddler was the most time-intensive patch but I find I'm back in the trenches. Not bandaging skinned knees but helping heal bruised feelings. Not guiding them away from bad traffic but away from bad choices. Discouraging negative self-talk but encouraging strong work ethic and self-discipline. Sometimes I use humor. Patience is highly recommended. So is a smart spouse. Tough love with a sprinkling of off-the-cuff, casually sly suggestions, nagging, it is like fencing with a very skilled advisory that you adore. And you both are doing this on a tightrope. Above a pit of snarling alligators. Only you are the only one who sees the danger. They just want to win against Mom who keeps poking them!)
  • Then there are the parents. Damn but getting old is hard! Limitations encroaching on personality. It is a very rocky path, climbing the final mountain. And while you know the summit is there, ahead of the ones you love, it is shrouded in mist. Arrival time uncertain. I don't know how to help besides being patient and listening.
  • Work. Satisfying but demanding.
  • Oh, yeah, and I should work some time in for the marriage. Probably a good idea to do that.
  • Then maybe I should work out once in a while...oh shit! I forgot to walk the dog! Will that count?
  • Sleep.
  • Prepare everyone healthy and savory meals...which the past few years has meant buying healthy and savory frozen dinners. (Editor's Note: Lean Cuisine Flatbread Sandwiches are awesome!)

But back to my long time girlfriends. Who I never seem to see. And the fabulous women I know and want to know better but they too get bumped down the totem pole. In the To-Do List, ageing parents, offspring, marriage, and work do often trump a casual, relaxed evening to catch-up.

Oh, shut up, you young gals! "I'll ALWAYS make time for my friends! How can you call yourself a feminist if you make other women a low priority? I would never do that!"

Bite me, kid. Right now your mother is taking your call when she could be having lunch with a girlfriend.

I want to say to myself, "There is time." But I've been around for a bit and I know one
can hope for more time...but don't count on it. Maybe there isn't. Making friends, keeping friends, tending and nurturing takes being present and there are only so many minutes in a day.

I want 36 hours in a day. Or an extra two days a month just to catch up with friends.

I do know it is not just me. I try to arrange time with friends and they are juggling the same issues. How many times do we schedule weeks in advance and the last 12 hours, "something" comes up?

So, Susan, Jen, Jamie, Jamie, Gretchen, Rebecca, Violet, Megan, Brenda, Mia, Judy, Mindy, Lisa, Stacey, Janis, Marina, Alex, Karen, Teddy, Deb, Allyson, Jessica, Diana, Diane, Diane, Jane, Veronica, Anne, Lori, Amy, Debbie, Claudia, Dorian, Ellen, Jan, Jill, Kathy, Maggie, Noelle, Sara, Susan, Lourdes, Cindy, Julie, Tori, Pam, Margaret, Rhonda, Sandy, Andrea, Cari, Barb, Yolanda, and Carol, let's all just keep trying.

Yup. That's all I got. Let's keep trying.

I was recently asked what I thought of Divergent.

Which I saw opening weekend. With my teenage kids.

And, yes, I had read the book.

And boy was I jazzed to see this movie. On paper it hit all my sweet spots!

  • Dystopian futuristic action movie
  • Strong female lead
  • Set in Chicago
  • Written by a woman
  • A friend had done the extra casting so I was also supporting a women-owned business
  • Action was driven by teenagers so I could enjoy with the family.

FABULOUS! Right?

Um….not so much. Oh, I enjoyed it. I did. But something was missing. It took DAYS for me to put my finger on it.

And I think it comes down to the direction of the lead character, Tris.

Tris is played by a terrific actress Shailene Woodley. And the character has a lovely arc in the books.

But the character in the movie, as directed by Neil Burger, had no GUTS! No moxie!

I am a longtime fan of the strong female action hero.

  • Linda Hamilton/Sarah Connor/Terminator
  • Sigourney Weaver/Ripley/Alien
  • Anne Parillaud /Nikita/La Femme Nikita

Divergent-The-Movie’s Tris was a doe-eyed innocent throughout the entire thing. Perfectly highlighted, tumbling hair. Every lash coated with Maybelline Super Black. Even post-beaten-up Tris has a lovely rouge-colored bruise highlighting her high cheekbones.

Where’s the sweat? The rage? The transformation from Abrogation sweetie to Dauntless fighter to Divergent trailblazer? She bored me.

So she was the first to jump? THAT is why battle-hardened Four/Tobias falls for her? Really?

Tris was allowed to struggle but not truly triumph. The battle crawl to Dauntless was done with perfect hair and the ease of going from sophomore to junior year. Because to embrace all of her divergent qualities would mean more “masculine” qualities of ferocity, bloody conquest, and anger are on the table for all to see. And that is just not okay.

For me, this fragile and ever-well-styled Divergent-Movie-Tris kept the experience firmly trapped in very-well-produced television miniseries-land.

Divergent director Burger should have checked out Charlie in Revolution. Yes, a television series! Now that’s an arc I can get behind! Charlie has gone from protector to fighter. Sweet to jaded, she fluctuates from passionate to hurt. Even allowed to have a sex life which embraces sexuality without regret, she is now leader of her own group of (all male) rebels. As far from boring as a dystopian loving fan can get!

I want my action heroes to get dirty. Sweat. Build muscle and kick ass.

Gloriously.

Not prettily.

Because pretty is just one thing.

And we are DIVERGENT!

Recent experiences have inspired me to jot down some thoughts on work, success, and life in the arts. Theatre in particular, of course.

Step One-And-Only For Success

Do what you say you are going to do.

Do it when you said you said you are going to do it.

Other thoughts follow...random musings as is my habit!

  • Be aware of how TPTB like to communicate. Even if you text, others may make phone calls. Adapt.
  • Be nice to those who do the hiring.
  • When contacting others, always leave your name and phone number clearly. Always.
  • Respond in a timely manner. Always. Time is money.
  • The after party is still your job. Find a way to be yourself, be authentic, and participate.
  • Learn to chit-chat. Mingling is hard for 90% of the world. It is a skill. Develop it. You can be yourself and work a room.
  • Listen to others. 20-somethings love to pull the conversation back to themselves to prove they too are interesting. Resist.
  • Give/send handwritten, paper thank you cards. Especially to those who sign the checks. But to everyone on opening night. 3 lines minimum. Legible. Thank you_____. Your ____made me look great. Etc. If it was a tough show, “What a wild ride! Thanks for______”
  • Never do hard drugs. Pot and liquor only, and then ONLY after you have completed Step-One-and-Only.
  • Learn how to be unemployed in your art without becoming a drug addict. Have hobbies.
  • If you begin to achieve some success, be able to talk about something other than your work. Advocate for a charity. Climb mountains. Write a book. Do something.
  • It’s not your fault if someone is an asshole but also give them one more chance (unless it is unforgivable like smacking a kid or killing a kitten). Everyone has a bad day and this is an intense business.
  • Most criticism isn’t personal. It feels like it is, but it usually isn’t. And not all of it is right. In your heart, you will know the difference.
  • Find a way to make peace with the hunt. People who seem to survive over the long stretch have talent, tenacity, willing to work hard, and be suited for the lifestyle. The hunt for work is not personal.
  • Know your room. A fundraiser serves a different function from an after-show party from an opening night, and onwards. Understand your role. Be gracious.
  • Have your personal “elevator speech.” A 30 second thumbnail summary of you. So when people say, “Tell me about yourself” you have a backstory ready to go so they can get a handle on you, and also have material for future conversation.
  • If you have a meeting over a meal, match what the person in power orders. Don’t drink if they aren’t.
  • You will fuck up sometimes. It’s okay. Just keep showing up. The sins of commission are much more forgivable than the sins of omission.
  • If you are late, apologize. It is okay to lie about the reason…traffic, whatever. People don’t care. Just don’t make it a practice.
  • No one wants to hear your health problems except if they are going to impact your work. We all have ‘em. Don’t care.
  • Save 10% of what you make. Always. If you make $300 doing a show, put $30 in savings and don’t touch it.
  • Produce something so you understand the business of the business better.
  • Be nice but defend yourself if needed. And you are just as smart as anyone else in the room…but you can also learn from everyone else in the room. Even if it is how not to behave.
  • You will make friends. Some will just be show friends. Some will be life friends. Some will be respected colleagues. Recognize the difference and be kind to all. You can be warm, friendly and comfortable without being best friends.
  • The biz will always be there if you have to leave for awhile. If you need to care for a parent, take a “serious” job, raise some kids, don’t panic. There is re-entry at any time.
  • This is a people business. 100%.
  • It’s all about the process. The work. Enjoy it. It goes really fast.

There have been a few recent stories in the news which have piqued my interest.

No.

That’s a lie.

They have pissed me off.

The massive media obsession with Jimmy Fallon replacing Jay Leno as the Tonight Show host has burned my toast. Seriously. It has been a story on the network evening WORLD news multiple times. You would think they were electing a new Pope. Not to mention the swath of white male faces dominating the late night interview circuit. And the acceptance that this is normal, even though 51% of the population is female.

And then Chelsea Handler’s recent essay.

Olivia Wilde getting fab.

Cate Blanchett calling folks out

Holly L. Derr’s: At a recent summit of DC-area artistic directors, Ryan Rilette of Round House Theatre made a reference to the infamous “pipeline” of new talent that runs from New York and London to America’s regional theaters, claiming that there are not enough plays by women in this pipeline for his theater to produce. Her entire essay is here and more can be found on line. Folks are pissed.

Why don’t people SEE it? The Jay-Leno-Jimmy-Fallon-Tonight-Show story is as much about MASSIVE NUMBERS OF WHITE MEN IN BEHIND THE DESK as how cute Jimmy is.  

People don’t do the math. We are all so used to not seeing ourselves, women, people of color, people with disabilities, on the small and big screen, in the credits, behind the desk, it doesn’t even register on our radar screen. And if someone makes noise about it? The standard, other women have it worse/quit complaining/sour grapes/etc. argument takes hold.

Like I said? Burns my toast!

But how do I make a dent?

So, on the treadmill today I was pondering this. Better than watching the minutes slowly tick by. And I thought, in that random exercise-induced fantasy time one engages in to try to pass the time…If I was a celebrity, I would boycott all male-led talk shows for a month. Imagine if every famous female celebrity got together, Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, Sofia Vergara, Julia Roberts, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Angela Bassett, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Octavia Spencer, Anne Hathaway, Julianne Moore, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie, Amy Poehler and they all decided NOT to do these talk shows? Just for a month?

And then, on the elliptical, I got even crazier.

How could we all make a dent? And for how long?

Riffing, I thought of the standard menstrual cycle. That’s 28 days.

And women make up 51% of the population.

So that’s it.

Starting April 1st, for 28 days until April 28th, I propose the 28-for-51 event. What if we don’t show up for 28 days? Don’t buy. Don’t flirt. Don’t diminish ourselves or make ourselves small. Don’t feed the beast of pretty-young-thing or Guys Rule or Oh-Stop-Making-A-Fuss.

Celebrities: Yes, you first. Because face it…if you have gotten to the top of the celebrity heap, you like to be first. Which I am fine with! These days fame seems like a serious Be-Careful-What-You-Wish-For scenario.

  • Only participate in women-driven media and marketing. Like the well-known Blue Flu, get the 28/51 flu. Cancel on David, Matt, Seth. But drag yourself out of bed for Ellen. Chelsea. Wendy. Interviews set up with People Magazine, Rolling Stone, Vogue, Elle, New York, and any paper at all. DANDY. Do it. But ask for a female journalist. REQUIRE a female journalist. And photographer. Between April 1st to April 28th, only gals get the Get.
  • For 28 days, frolic on the paparazzi-laden beach in big t-shirts and athletic shorts. No bikinis. Withhold the sugar and only feed the beast whole grains and lentils for 28 days. Stop marketing “the body” for 28 days. Let your work speak for you.
  • Yes, you are contractually required to walk the red carpet…so do. But do it in jeans, t-shirts, and sensible shoes. Or in clothes designed and produced by a woman-owned company. Shake up this youth-perfect-body cultural obsession with a little fun. It’ll be a blast if you all do it! Imagine…28 days of comfortable shoes.
  • Sign on for women-strong projects. Decline the girlfriend role. Imagine if everyone did that.
  • Withdraw your support from projects which don’t have 50% women in the cast. The cop, the ambulance driver, the lawyer, the repairperson, they can be cast with women. Make it a contractual stipulation.

For the other 99.999998% of the population: Of the following do one, do many…because we all know, we can’t do it all!!!

  • For 28 days, love your body as it is
  • Purchase or attend movies only which are directed by women, starring women in prominent roles, and/or written by women. Remember…it’s only for 28 days!
  • Turn off Seth, Jimmy, David, and turn on Chelsea, Ellen, Wendy.
  • Go to theatres whose seasons are made up of at least 50% women-written and/or women-directed plays. Yes, this includes community theatre, school plays, as well as larger theatres. Let these theatres know you are looking at their selections.
  • Don’t purchase magazines which perpetuate impossible standards of income or physicality. Vogue, In Style, Cosmo, etc. It’s just ONE month, ok?
  • Only purchase women-created music, books, movies, etc. from iTunes, Amazon, Kindle, wherever you get your entertainment.
  • Buy from a woman-led company. Let them know in “Customer Comments” section that this is a 28/51 purchase. Vera Wang. Shazi Visram. Jenny at Missouri Star Quilting. Robyn Frisch. Pamela Loren. And this is from me just puttering around the internet for five minutes…
  • Support or donate to a woman-led company or organization which advances women’s issues or employs women with a donation. Whatever is within your means, .51, $5.10, $51, $510, $5,100, $51,000, $510,000
  • If you donate to your alma mater and they do not have women in leadership positions, let them know you will be withdrawing your support until that changes. Same for your church. Any organization you support which doesn’t boast a close to 50/50, female/male ratio in their leadership.
  • Yes, we all watch a lot of TV, much of it shared time with family and partners. So compromise…for 51% of these 28 days, watch television series or programming which features women in at least ½ of the roles.
  • We are so often encouraged to dress provocatively. Expose skin. Dress to attract a mate. So…for 28 days, only dress in a way that advances your career or in a way which makes you feel comfortable. Authentic. Or just truly YOU. For 28 days, don’t play the attractive/sexy/hot card. Play the competent/serious/creative card. Don’t worry. Sexy will wait for you….
  • Mentor a younger woman in your sphere. If you are 50, give a hand to the 40 year old. If you are 18, help the 13 year old. It could just be an e-mail or a call or a note, saying “I believe in you.” “Your work is excellent.” “Well done and keep going.” There are younger women, less experienced all around us. Hand them a compliment with no strings. Make a call on their behalf. Be in their corner even if they think they don’t need it.

Because someday, we will all need each other. So let’s practice. It’s just for 28 days!