“1776” Actress Sara Porkalob Is An Ethics Dunce And Should Be Fired

The new, non-traditionally cast, “diversity”-pandering revival of “1776” is about to open on Broadway. Ethics Alarms already discussed it here: the production seems like a cynical, misguided, truly terrible idea that is likely to crash and burn, but as I wrote last month, “I hope the result is brilliant and illuminating.” I also wrote, “What I see, however, is a cynical abortion of a classic musical motivated by arrogance, ignorance, and greed.” In other words, the thing has a lot of self-inflicted problems standing in the way of critical and financial success, nicely symbolized by the photo above of an Asian-American woman playing slaveholding Continental Congress member Edward Rutledge singing “Molasses to Rum to Slaves” in the musical’s most dramatic scene. As a stage director and American history fanatic, I don’t see how having that song performed by someone who can’t evoke Rutledge in any way does anything but undermine the best song in the show. But hey, you never know.

One thing the radical production doesn’t need, however, is for that same performer to trash the production publicly. Here is “Rutledge,” Sara Porkalob, in an interview with Vulture’s Jason P. Frank:

“To me, the play is a relic. It is a dusty, old thing… On the inside, I’m cringing… I’m like, It’s okay. I wouldn’t have wanted it this way, but I am doing my job….[The direction] is horrible. I hate it… What I want to do with my time is make new works with collaborators…I feel like I’m going to work.”

Asked what she hopes to get out of being in “1776,”  Porkalob replies: “A Tony nomination, good reviews, and a smart, personable, hard-working agency that’s ready to rep me. Also, I guess more Instagram followers and more community here in New York. I don’t want just a career. I could make a career just being in commercial Broadway musicals….But I don’t want that to be my life.”

She also says that she isn’t working as hard as she can, saying that she is giving only “75%” to “1776″:

“At the end of the day, if I’m compromising my desire to do my own work, but the resources are there, it really just comes down to labor. If I’m compromising, I’d better be getting paid a lot more money, honey. I have to ask, ‘Do I want to give 100 percent of myself to this?’No! They’re gonna get 75%, but that 75% will be great.”

Wow. She’s not only an ethics dunce, she’s a pathological narcissist and an asshole.

Performers like this—although I’ve personally never encountered one this extreme—are poison to a production. I would fire her for the last comment alone, even without the rest. She’s not being paid enough to do her best? Bye! And never bother to audition for me again. That statement should haunt her for the rest of her career, which, if there is any justice in the universe, will be nasty, brutish, and short. I expect performance artists to extend themselves if they are being paid nothing at all. My best work as a director has been pro bono.

Criticizing one’s own production, however, is also ample justification for firing for cause even without the “I’m just phoning it in but it’s good enough” comment; indeed, I believe that dismissal is mandatory. Porkalub’s statements betray her fellow cast members, the directors and the backers: it is part of her job to help sell tickets, not to broadcast negative publicity.

In the ensuing controversy over this toxic jerk’s remarks, @New York Theater ran a reader poll:

The main takeaway from these results is how few people have ever run an organization, mounted a theatrical production, have a clue about team-building, or could identify unethical conduct if it flew up their nose. Sure, she’s free to betray her colleagues and sabotage her own project: that doesn’t mean it’s excusable to do it. Morons. Her comments are a whole lot more than “inconsiderate”—they are divisive, destructive, unprofessional and a betrayal of trust. As for “Depends how you do it”—there is no way to attack a production you are part of in public and denigrate the directors that isn’t unethical and unforgivable.

The day after the interview came out, a co-director of “1776,” Jeffrey Page, posted  on his Facebook page:

Dear nameless person, I know that you feel good about that thing you said…I didn’t feel good about it. I know you feel like it is now your time in the sun. You ain’t put in the time and you ain’t done the work. You are ungrateful and unwise. You claim that you want to dismantle white supremacist ideology…I think that you are the very example of the thing that you claim to be most interested in dismantling.  You are fake-woke, rotten to the core, and stuck in the matrix; I hope that you get that increased IG following that you so desperately thirst.

Gee, that was inarticulate and juvenile—but that’s show biz! Getting in a public pissing match with your cast is also unprofessional, not to mention stupid and counter-productive. The most articulate message would be to fire her. Presumably, he doesn’t have the authority. If he does, he’s a weenie. If he doesn’t, those who do have the authority are fools.

Meanwhile, the ridiculous Ms. Porkalub is determined to get herself out of a hole by furiously digging. She has posted tweets like these:

These move her beyond mere asshole status to the dark Ethics Alarms category of fick: someone who is unethical and proud of it.

I would have fired this ethics villain the second I saw the interview, and I guarantee that if she isn’t fired, the production will suffer.

15 thoughts on ““1776” Actress Sara Porkalob Is An Ethics Dunce And Should Be Fired

  1. Foolish us for thinking that, when she said 100%, we didn’t realize she had to eat, sleep and evacuate her bowels. Of course, no one expects her to starve and constipate herself to death. But, when you are on the job, you do your best work. That’s true of anyone.

    There is no such thing as Quiet Quitting in the entertainment industry unless you want to go nowhere fast.

    • BINGO! Her tweet is hilarious. You’ve got to give her credit for being about as quick as a Democratic communications consultant working for John Fetterman for coming up with a distraction. I’d say she’s as desperate as a Democrat.

    • The two comments are irreconcilable.

      She says her 100% would be unmatchable, but then said her 100% includes pooping, so….

      On second thought, she might be right.

      -Jut

  2. I just watched a video of her singing an entire song live. She has a strong, solidly good voice, but in my opinion, committed the cardinal sin of being pitchy! Multiple pitch issues that I, as a trained musician, found unforgivable.

    I was curious to see her performance level, after all of her shocking braggadocio in the interview and in subsequent condescending tweets over the last few days. Even if she were an extraordinary talent, it wouldn’t give her an excuse for the utter lack of gratitude, professionalism, or any semblance of ethical integrity. And she is NOT an extraordinary talent.

    Normally I’d wonder where this elevated sense of entitlement was coming from, and then I remember that we’re in the current climate of participation trophies and masturbatory ego self celebration, and just shake my head at the waste of it all.

  3. Well, first off, no one is going to believe that is what she really meant by her original 75% tweet. She was saying that she did not think this play was worth her best effort. Although Rutledge is a good part, it’s certainly not close to being the lead role.

    Second, if she thinks 1776 is and old, dusty play, then I gather she’s never going to do any Shakespeare. But he’s dead, so what does he matter in theater?

    “I feel like I’m going to work.”??? Was this supposed to be playtime? I love my job, but yes I do feel like I’m going to work.

    • DG,
      “Well, first off, no one is going to believe that is what she really meant by her original 75% tweet. She was saying that she did not think this play was worth her best effort.”

      Agree with your second sentence but isn’t she just quantifying what less than her best effort is here?
      “When performing; Porkalob is very specific and precise in her energetic output depending on a myriad of circumstance.” Said one reviewer.

      Btw Sara; with a name like yours I suggest leaning a bit more heavily into gratitude than acting like a celebrity Grand Dame. How did you get this way?

  4. I don’t know which one to ignore more, a narcissistic stage performer or a woke theater director. I followed Page’s link to his Facebook page and found this:

    https://playbill.com/article/all-female-transgender-and-non-binary-broadway-revival-of-1776-opens-october-6?fbclid=IwAR3oW78gbxM9W3oEPtXDTuaTmtfherWh9n36VjsfWOa6a6fO_eaWgej_7kI

    I realize that non-traditional casting is a thing and I understand that the only issue is whether the casting works, yet, somehow a production of a famous/well-known piece with a cast featuring only checked boxes – and being celebrated because of it – is not something I would be all that inclined or interested in watching. Call me a philistine, but . . . I am told to watch “Bro” but, frankly, I have better things to spend my $150.00 on than two movie tickets, a small popcorn and a soda. I am just not interested in the story line, no matter how many times CNN, et al, tell me I should be.

    As for Porkalob, she had better be as good as she says she is – by way of people flocking to the theater to see her perform and pay the sums at the box offices; otherwise, life has a nasty way of cutting someone down to size. There are millions of stars who never make the big time.

    jvb

  5. My first thought is that here is an ideal example of why “diva” and “prima donna” are no longer simply non-valuative terms for the lead soprano in an opera.

    Although I have a handful of credits as an actor and director in the professional (non-Equity) theatre, most of my work has been in the academic world. It’s not uncommon to encounter 18-year-olds who think they’re, as the saying goes, “all that and a bag of chips.” I remember responding to a colleague’s question about a student actor that “if she works hard, she might someday be 60% as good as she thinks she is now.”

    But these are student actors, post-adolescents who have never had to deal with even the level of competition they’re suddenly encountering even from other undergraduates, let alone professionals. The vast majority of them quickly realize that they need to get better, and that’s going to take work. They also find out very quickly that there are few maxims more valuable than “don’t shit where you eat.”

    This production of 1776 is clearly intended to blow the proverbial dust off a classic musical (where have we seen this before?). I’ll take Porkalob at her word that it doesn’t. Theatre-goers such as myself (old, white, het, cis, male) who were skeptical are now quite content to save our money. But more importantly, or at least more relevantly, those who chase after the latest Shiny Thing in the Woke Universe are also less likely to plunk down a couple of Benjamins (he’s played by a black woman named Patrena Murray, in case you were wondering) to see a production with “horrible” direction and, apparently, little to recommend it other than its narcissistic smugness.

    Side note: once in a while a friend from out of town will send me an email or a Facebook message asking if a show I’m working on is worth driving in from two or three hours away to see. I answer honestly, and sometimes that means saying “no.” But that’s a fundamentally different phenomenon in two ways: it’s in response to a direct question, and it’s a private communication. It also means that if I say “yes” the next time, they’ll believe me.

    The “75%” business is indeed outrageous, and I have an ocean-front property in Kansas to sell really cheap to anyone who believes her… erm… explanation. If she had any integrity, she’d quit. She apparently doesn’t, so she should be fired.

    • Tangential to the precise issue, but I find it flat out amazing that investors would put millions into a Broadway production of “1776” in which Ben is played by a black woman named Patrena Murray. This would have been unimaginable except as satire even 5 years ago. There really are people out there who will risk large amounts of money on Hail Mary virtue-signaling, and the audience be damned.

      Think of all the ways such discretionary cash could be put to productive and indisputably valuable use, even if restricted to the arts, and these strange people bet it on a long-shot project that is likely to be remembered as the B-way equivalent of “My Mother the Car.”

      • Ms. Murray may indeed be supremely talented and a joy to work with, but I confess I’m in no hurry to pay to find out. Then again, I’m hardly the target audience for this production, nor am I possessed of the financial resources to underwrite this little experiment.

  6. You launch a show with stunt-casting of performers who were chosen more for the intersectional victimhood boxes they checked rather than their talent, then discover you’ve built a production on broken, toxic personalities who you can’t fire because you’ll be accused of all sorts of nasty “-isms” if you do. What a shockingly unexpected result!

    Enjoy the hell you’ve created for yourselves, producers of “1776”. The good news is it won’t last long. This terrible idea likely would have failed rapidly anyway, but it’ll really sink in a hurry if your own performers are out there talking shit about it.

  7. 1776 is an important historical drama/musical, and should be presented as such. If the producers insisted on diversity, then they chose wrong. Let’s try having a white female dwarf sing “Old Man River” and see how that goes.

  8. I’m just impressed that she manages to live a healthy life while only sleeping for 2 hours and 24 minutes per night.

    One hour and 12 minutes in the bathroom each day sounds like . . . well . . . she’s clearly full of something.

    –Dwayne

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