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The subtext: jealousy and a little bit of envy.

When I told my wife I was thinking of a column about envy and jealousy she told me I had already done that. So when I looked up the piece I had done years ago I saw that what I was thinking about now was not the same, but definitely related, as any musing on the subject was bound to be. Then, I wrote about the neurological basis for envy and jealousy, but now I have been thinking about them from an anecdotal perspective.

About the time of the first column I was about to or had just retired. At my retirement party, my colleague Ralph Funicello spoke about how when he joined the faculty he was amazed that I was not jealous or resentful. I guess I was a bit envious of his design practice, for my design work, except for a large theatre in Russia, had dwindled down to a few small local theatres, and my creative focus had for years been on writing. What Ralph didn't realize was that, even though we are a generation apart, I was happy to have a colleague who shared many of the war stories of working in New York, with many of the same people. And when we taught together, we almost always had the same aesthetic philosophy and finished each other's sentences. And it didn't hurt that I had tenure and thus no fear of him taking my job.

If I had thought that he would take my job I would have been jealous, which is an emotion requiring a trio, in this case, Ralph, me, and an administration. A better example would be a boy, a girl, and a boy. Boy one has girl, boy two loves girl but doesn't have her. Thus jealousy. The only way boy two could get the girl would be to club boy one, sling the girl over his shoulder, and carry her to his cave. Even then, she may have resisted his attentions. This equation can be turned around. Boy one is jealous if girl shows an interest in boy two.

It is the green-ey'd monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.

Shakespeare, as always, had it right. Experts agree that jealousy is always a negative emotion.

In the past couple of years a situation developed in Russia that involved either envy, jealousy, resentment, stupidity, or all of the above. The director of the Bolshoi Ballet, Segei Filin was attacked with acid that resulted in twenty-three surgeries to restore his sight, which has still not recovered. A soloist with the company, Pavel Dmitrrchenko, was charged with masterminding the attack because he thought he should be the director and his girlfriend should get better parts. Sentence--six years. If this resembles a Shakespearean plot, it is unique these days in artistic circles.

While organizational politics can be brutal, rarely does it result in physical harm. It seems that the larger the company or faculty the more jealousy and infighting results. But even though there is a wish to kill someone, more subtle means are used. Theatre companies may have jealous members, but I think the technical members of the companies are less prone to jealousy than one might suspect.

In a theatre, unlike a large corporation, the largest responsibilities fall to one person doing a specialized job and not a group doing similar jobs. Especially in design jobs, where separate skills are needed, one person in each area is not second-guessed by a rival. The crew may have different ideas and there might be some envy.

When I was a student in New Haven and took my girlfriend to the Shubert Theatre to see pre-Broadway tryouts, oh, so many years ago, when there were such tryouts, we saw a play that was so terrible that the audience laughed at what were meant to be serious lines.

Whose baby is it?

It's yours, I swear.

It can't be.


I'm infertile.

Studies show that men and women are not jealous in the same way. As with the above, men want to be sure that children are theirs if they are expected to support them. Women--at least in the past--wanted to be sure that they and their children would be supported. (Mia Farrow has recently said that she is not sure if her grown-up son is Woody Allen's or Frank Sinatra's. True? Or the payback of a women scorned?)

Envy is a two-hander. I might, in past years, have envied other designers who got more prestigious jobs, better reviews, or more money. I never once considered killing them. When I went to a show, I might have envied the designer's skill, imagination, or technical prowess.

Some experts say that, unlike jealousy, there is sometimes a positive side to envy. If envy entails wanting to do better, to be like the envied, it may be a goad to self-improvement. But without this desire, envy remains a toxic emotion. It can be worse if rather than wanting what another has, we want that person to lose what we he or she has, bringing them down to our level. Wanting to see someone fail, schadenfreude, is another level down. I mention this because I love to write schadenfreude.
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Author:Salzer, Beeb
Publication:TD&T (Theatre Design & Technology)
Date:Jan 1, 2014
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