I was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, not long ago to attend the opening of a play of mine being put on by a native theatre company. The director was a lovely and talented white woman, and during our discussions she revealed that she'd been having trouble getting some, if not most, of the native actors to arrive on time and stay at rehearsal for any length of time.She asked me if this lack of professionalism was a common and understood practice in native theatre.
The good news, I told her, was that up in Canada most of the native actors I know understand the concept of professionalism. Indian Time doesn't exist when other people are waiting and writing your cheque. I know too many native people who are proud of the hours they put in and the finished product they come up with.
But I also remember during my time as artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts having a director from the U.S. tell me several days into rehearsal that one actor was continually coming in late, then leaving two hours early ('cause he had another job to get to that he'd neglected to inform us of before we hired him).
I asked the director if he wanted to get rid of the actor, and he looked surprised. "I just assumed that's the way it is in native theatre," he told me. We fired the actor. That saved him the trouble of having to show up every day.
Another time, a playwright appeared three days late for a workshopping of his play and demanded to be paid before starting. Needless to say, we didn't do his piece.
This kind of thing also creeps into academic circles. I know a woman who taught a course in aboriginal studies at a Toronto university who got her wrist slapped because she dared to be professional. Three native students complained about their marks.
The first attended half her classes but felt she should be marked for full attendance. I think she said she was there in spirit. Or she wanted to be there but the dog ate her flat tire. Or she was there but invisible.
The second failed to hand in six assignments but wanted credit anyway. The third wanted her grades raised because she was on academic probation and was in danger of being kicked out.
Evidently, these students wanted to have their bannock and eat it, too. Professionalism - it gives some people a lot of problems. But if my article doesn't appear in the next issue, I still want to be paid.