An actor has been fired from the touring production of Green Day’s American Idiot, now playing at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne, for breaching its producers’ “Statement of Zero Tolerance to Inappropriate Behaviour”.
In an apologetic Facebook post today, the performer, Linden Furnell (pictured foreground, above), who plays the lead character of Johnny, said he was sacked for ‘serious misconduct’ which he explained as an inappropriate comment about menstruation told off mic to a co-performer while both were on stage.
“I made a crude allusion to menstruation amongst the banter. It was in poor taste and a lame attempt at humour,’’ he wrote.
Furnell said said he apologised to his co-performer later that night and “said that I would do what was necessary to avoid making that mistake again and reassured that I definitely did not intend to cause hurt or discomfort”.
The co-performer, he said, complained of his conduct to the show’s producers, Shake and Stir Theatre Company.
“I wasn’t asked to explain, give my account, dispute it or attempt resolution,’’ Furnell wrote. “The producers had a knee jerk reaction, probably as a form of damage control / prevention and I found myself fired without so much as a conversation.”
Shake and Stir’s artistic director Nick Skubij, said in a statement this afternoon: “Mr Furnell’s dismissal was a consequence of breaching the company’s ‘Statement of Zero Tolerance to Inappropriate Behaviour’ previously communicated to him and all other company members by company management. The decision to dismiss Mr Furnell was not taken lightly. Accordingly, and in the interests of a healthy and safe workplace, the company decided to act. At the time of his dismissal, Mr Furnell advised in writing his acceptance of the termination”.
Yesterday, the peak body representing theatre producers, Live Performance Australia, released a draft of a new code “to provide comprehensive, best practice standards to prevent discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment and bullying in workplaces”. You can read the draft of the new code here.
LINDEN FURNELL’S FULL STATEMENT
Those that know me well, are probably accustomed to my impulsive mind and somewhat inactive filter. The majority of the time it serves me well and makes me the inventive performer that I am. In this particular case it sabotaged me.
There is a scene where the characters Johnny and Whatsername have sex. Needless to say it’s a vulnerable, delicate scene and the actors need to trust each other completely. The director had responsibly monitored the scene and our individual comfort repeatedly throughout the run and any possible points of friction had been addressed and resolved in the spirit of workplace friends. In this climate, I know very well this kind of scene is a minefield and trod very carefully through the physical requirements of the scene. Her and I would intermittently check up on each other outside work to make sure we were comfortable with the scene and a few months into the tour, had become good friends with a great sense of trust.
Ironically, this was not where the misdemeanour occurred.
It happened in the moments following this scene. Johnny and Whatsername are dimly lit while another scene takes place in the foreground. Some off-mic character banter takes place between us in the background.
One night I wasn’t careful and made a mistake. It was a particularly hot night in an old theatre without suitable aircon and we were both comically sweaty. Without thought, I made a crude allusion to menstruation amongst the banter. It was in poor taste and a lame attempt at humour. The kind of thing you say to make your friends go “euugghhh gross”.
I found out later that same night via a text conversation with her that it had made her very uncomfortable and thrown off her show. Naturally, when I discovered the fact I apologised immediately and said that I would do what was necessary to avoid making that mistake again and reassured that I definitely did not intend to cause hurt or discomfort. I made a poor judgement call, assumed too much comfort in a work friendship. I apologised again for the upset caused. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she had also gone to management.
I occasionally make bad judgement calls, assume others are on my wavelength and pick the wrong crowd when it comes to humour. It’s a personal challenge that I come up against. I always apologise and do my best to adjust. That said, I genuinely regret the upset I caused that day.
Apparently she didn’t intend for this to happen, but it did happen and here we are. The climate is a sensitive one and there appears to be little room for nuance, intention, or even an accurate portrayal of events. Once something like this is even mentioned, duty of care rolls in and takes over. The producers had a knee jerk reaction, probably as a form of damage control / prevention and I found myself fired without so much as a conversation.
Now that I am unemployed I’ll have to figure out what to do with myself. I’ll do a little travel, spend time with friends that I trust and try to get some mojo back.
I’ve always wanted to pursue my original music more seriously. I’ll need all the support I can get on that front so if you are interested in continuing to follow my career, that’s where you’ll find me in the immediate future.
Not a call for anyone’s pity or scorn. This is an update on where I’m at so I don’t get a bazillion messages about why I’m no longer playing Johnny in American Idiot. I made a mistake, owned up to it, was immediately fired. That’s hopefully the end of it.
Your pal, Linden”