Common Traps for The Aspiring Artist, A Testimonial at Trap Door Theatre

This is a testimonial piece by Chicago Theatre Community member Robin Minkens, who had a multi-year experience with Trap Door Theatre, a local storefront theatre. This is a personal experience, told from a single perspective. These pieces by their nature, and per our mission, are subjective by intention. *Rescripted has not independently verified the details in this testimonial. The opinions in this piece belong solely to the author. This is not reporting, but community support. Our aim as always is to amplify those who do not have a platform, and to empower the experience of the artist. 

Editor’s Note:  Robin came to me through Facebook at the end of April because she had seen my own testimonials on social media. Robin had recorded her experience in a draft, and was wondering if her experience had merit, and if it would be beneficial to share it with others. At that time, she did not know that I was an editor, or of the existence of Rescripted. When I had read the entirety of her story, I was appalled. What captured me about Robin’s testimonial is that it is a story many of us have lived through. Emerging into a professional theatre scene with abundant hopes and dreams, only to encounter prejudice, maltreatment, and gaslighting. The commonalities in this piece are harrowing to me, because they require us to accept that the way we have been working is not ethical. The experiences we have endured are not acceptable. This piece is a death by a thousand paper cuts. I encourage you to read it to the end. This is Part One, and you can access Part Two by clicking this link. 

This post is to share my experience, from the point of view of a woman of color, born and raised on the south side of Chicago, working at Trap Door Theatre. I have had the privilege of working at a variety of theaters in the Chicagoland area since graduating in 2017. The extra layer of education that comes with applying what you have learned in college is very helpful, but there is no rehearsal for the real world and its surprises. This is an outline of blatant neglect and unprofessionalism, the story of how a theatre company played a game with my trauma and forged an alliance with the person who violated my boundaries. The telling of how a theater company could not have your best interest at heart if it gets in the way of their power, ability to control you, and their egos. These events have taken place over the course of three years. 

I would hear about Trap Door rarely casting people of color, but I figured I had survived a predominantly white conservatory B.F.A theatre program, and a semester in Moscow, Russia. This would be an opportunity to grow in my artistry. After much contemplation, I learned that this is much bigger than myself.  I was very hurt by these circumstances, but what about future aspiring artists moving to Chicago, possibly fresh out of their collegiate career? 

I have been taught to journal my entire life, and after reflecting on my journal entries regarding Trap Door I realized something was very wrong. There has been a theme that Black women are strong and do not experience the same level of pain and trauma as other ethnicities- this is a common misconception black women face in most institutions. This is a warning to people of color, for what I am about to tell you can happen anywhere. 

From my experience, I learned that this company abused their power and my emotional tolerances. My dream with Trap Door turned out to be a nightmare, where I learned what I was willing to tolerate for my artistic passions. I have experienced deliberate gaslighting, assault, sabotage from my peers and leadership, accompanied by poor communication and malicious gossip. Continue reading “Common Traps for The Aspiring Artist, A Testimonial at Trap Door Theatre”