Big Breakdown at Broken Gears Project Theatre Changes Cast of The Hand

Categories: Theater News

Hand_Jeff Smoke.JPG
Jeff Swearingen and Joey Folsom (right) in The Hand.
Last week, The Hand got the finger. The two-man show so good I reviewed it twice is still running through Saturday, June 25, at Broken Gears Project Theatre, but actor Joey Folsom has been replaced by director Andy Baldwin, who now is playing the role of "Poor Man." Actor Jeff Swearingen continues in the role of "Rich Man" in German Madrid's witty one-hour play about two strangers and the five-fingered appendage they have in common.

Folsom departed the production in a dust-up before the scheduled performance last Thursday. The show has been hurting for ticket sales since it opened a few weeks back and that night, June 16, there was only one person in the house, freelance critic Christopher Soden, who was comped in. According to Folsom, the trouble started backstage when he asked production manager Elias Taylorson if Soden might agree to return on a different night, say, when there were a few other people in the 35-seat audience. Company policy, says Folsom, who is the founder and artistic director of Broken Gears, has always been to cancel a performance if there were fewer than three paying customers. Taylorson refused to consider canceling the show that night and wouldn't ask Soden to re-schedule -- something confirmed by both parties. "My thought was, the show must go on," says Taylorson.

After that, the drama was all offstage. Voices were raised and expletives were uttered, say those who saw and heard what went down. Folsom changed from his costume into his street clothes and headed for the parking lot. He hasn't returned to the building since. Baldwin posted something on Facebook that night about the walkout, which spurred a flurry of more than 150 comments, mostly from theater people arguing about how small is too small a house for a 45-minute, two-man show.

As of today, Folsom, 27, says he is no longer a part of Broken Gears and most of his company's loose "collective" of young actors, directors and designers have aligned with him.

Taylorson confirms that The Hand went dark last weekend and re-opened this week for a final four nights of shows starring Baldwin and Swearingen. (Director Robin Armstrong stepped in for two nights of rehearsals.) Both sides confirm that Taylorson owns the Broken Gears web domain name and has the only access to the company's bank account. Folsom says he asked Taylorson to relinquish those to him and Taylorson refused, saying, "It's my company now."

For now, the entity still performing in the little house on Fairmount Street in Oak Lawn is still called Broken Gears Project Theatre, though Taylorson says he'd never have started a theater with "Broken anything in the title." Taylorson also said he sank a lot of his own money into Broken Gears' shows, but never took a penny in salary.

Taylorson says he has not spoken to Folsom since the bust-up last week, but adds that he doesn't want to be "the guy who took anybody's company. We only need to get through the end of this run. Then Joey can take Broken Gears and do whatever he wants with it, if he wants."

Folsom, one of Dallas' best young actors and one of the Observer's finalists for a Mastermind award last fall, says he has known Taylorson since appearing onstage with him several years ago in Upstart Productions' Talk Radio. They became friends and when Taylorson was booted from Upstart in a disagreement with that company's founder, Josh Glover, Folsom invited him to work with Broken Gears. Folsom says that long before he waved goodbye to The Hand, however, he'd asked Taylorson to leave his theater, too.

Taylorson, who spent 10 years as a show manager for Medieval Times, says he thinks some of the problems he's had with Upstart and now with Broken Gears arose from the experience gap between him (he's 45) and the younger theater-makers. "Ten years ago some of these guys were still in high school, just getting their driver's licenses," he says.

"In any company, there's conflict," says Folsom, who says he's been asked to audition for shows at three other Dallas theaters and will be directing a play soon in Fort Worth. "But I don't have anything to prove to anybody. Yeah, I walked out. I left. I'm not going to have anyone talk to me like that. There was yelling, screaming and cussing, but not by me. Whether that was the best thing to do, my leaving was the right thing to do, in my opinion. I let my work stand for itself. I have integrity and I'll stand by it, even if it costs me work."

Taylorson says he would work with Joey Folsom again "in a minute...when cooler heads prevail. Enough of the drama."

The Hand continues through June 25 at Broken Gears Project Theatre, 3819 Fairmount. Tickets $15. Box office: 214-443-0000.


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23 comments
The other other john
The other other john

All that is necessary for an act of theater to occur is for one man to walk across a stage while another man watches.

The Aych
The Aych

I don't know, nor have I worked with Mr.Taylorson, but I have worked with Joey Folsom. The arrogance and blatant disregard for his fellow cast and production crew is certainly no surprise. To my knowledge, this is the second company Mr. Folsom has started and the second one he was removed from. In this business your reputation is all you have. Both gentlemen will certainly feel the impact from this unnecessary drama being made public. 

No audience is too small. Get over your ego and do your job. If you have been wronged, tell your union, after the show. You owe it to the art to follow through and finnish the job. 

FO
FO

I saw The Hand more than once.  The first time I attended, at curtain time, there were only three people in the house.  The show was delayed about ten minutes, during which time three or four more people slipped in.  I overheard later in the evening that Folsom had threatened to walk out that night, because there were only three of us in the audience.  His backstage tantrum gave the late arrivers time to get settled, and the show did go on, but with consequences.  The energy was low and the interaction that should have been like electricity between the characters was severely lacking.  Anyone who's seen Swearingen perform can vouch for the masterfully focused energy he brings onstage with him, and his performance on this night was in keeping with what I've come to expect from him, so my logical conclusion is that Folsom was put out about having to perform for us.  It certainly showed.  In this performance, Folsom seemed very capable of arranging his limbs in flattering poses while waiting for his turn to speak, but I saw none of the intensity, virtuosity, or "watchability" which seems to have sunk its hooks so deeply into Ms. Liner.

The performance I attended in which Andy Baldwin portrayed the role deserted by Joey Folsom was exponentially better than the one I attended the week prior.  The house was nearly full.  Baldwin and Swearingen turned out to be a powerhouse combination.  Their delivery was engaging, an amoebean display of thoughtful reaction and interaction; the pace was fluid and appropriate to each moment's emotions; neither actor appeared to be preoccupied by what light would best serve the bunching of their abdominal muscles while lounging on the set's toilet.  My most prevalent thought during this performance: this is how it should have been since day one.

And there's the crux.  The how or why of Joey Folsom's abrogation from Broken Gears doesn't really matter, in the end.  If the final performances of The Hand can serve as a metaphor for the BGPT's life after Folsom, it seems that everyone involved, including the audience members, will flourish in his absence.

John
John

The situation is appallingly. Enough is enough. I help run an equity theater outside Dallas, where I am from, I am choosing to stay anonymous since it is so very obvious that Taylorson and his friends will attack anyone who dares to support Folsom. I’ve followed this issue since it was brought to my attention on Facebook from Armstrong and Baldwin’s posts. I don’t know Folsom or Taylorson personally, I have seen them act, that is all, but it just so happens that when I saw Folsom act I was in an audience consisting of the director, my friend and I. The show was Broken Gears” Danny and the Deep Blue Sea”. The performance Folsom gave was one of the best I have ever seen. Taylorson, Baldwin and Armstrong are all great artists as well, but this is not the issue.   Let’s move to the real point of all of this. From the outside, what I make out as the root issue was a conflict over policy, a policy decided by a whole group of people who knew the inner workings, a policy which Folsom enforced and Taylorson did not. Folsom never said he wouldn’t perform (both sides seem to maintain this) but he also wasn’t given the option to according to what Taylorson has gone on record to say. It seems completely unbelievable that Folsom would not have performed if the audience member said he couldn’t return, but that audience member wasn’t asked, as Taylorson admits. Add to that the fact that this show had small audiences the whole time it had been going on, according to what Taylorson openly admits. What made that night different is Taylorson losing his professional composer. Folsom left a bad situation. He was the bigger man and walked away from a situation that shows itself to have been lose-lose. Immediately, the night of the incident, he was subject to ridicule presented from only one side, without context and which now has been confirmed as false (by the statements Taylorson has made), how convenient for the argument of Taylorson. Telling the public he walked out because the audience was too small has come out as not being the real reason, it was just a plain lie. Even if it had been, it was what a “collective” had decided would be in the best interests of the company. “The show must go on” says Taylorson, after doing his best to make sure it didn’t.The situation continued to be exacerbated and contorted into opinion over the character of these two people. So let’s talk about that. Friends will take up for friends and some people won’t like others. Both Folsom and Taylorson could be bad guys or fantastic guys, but this is not the point. Look at facts. Folsom didn’t respond to his Facebook bashing, he didn’t sink to that pettiness as it seems so many of the other so called professional artists in the Dallas community did (which, by the way, shame on all of you who involved yourself in what should have been a private matter). That leads to the next thing, why wasn’t it private? Isn’t something like this presented openly called airing dirty laundry? The digital material shows that Baldwin and Armstrong (Armstrong, who had nothing to do at all with the situation until after the fact) and Taylorson started playing the parts of the victim that very night on Facebook painting Folsom as a villain.  This in hindsight now seems like soliciting sympathy for themselves and discrediting Folsom before he said anything. There are names for that kind of conduct: liable, slander, smear-tactics. Taylorson, Baldwin and Armstrong displayed their level of professionalism in this moment and their character. In the professional world of theater, such childishness would get them fired. Certainly it would keep them from getting a job or invited back. In my experience, a person who has a history of making an effort to speak poorly of their current co-workers, past co-workers as well as places of employment is someone you don’t want to work with. They are the types who don’t take responsibility for their actions, who deflect and always cause problems. Taylorson seems to make a habit of this. Case in point, one year after being removed from one group of people he worked with, Taylorson is again abandoned by another group of co-workers. It couldn’t be because of his conduct, it’s the age gap he claims. People who had an axe to grind with Folsom about nothing to do with the issue used this opportunity to jump on the bandwagon in a pathetic attempt to make their own issues relevant. So let us talk more specifically about this article in the Observer and the comments to it, again more fuel for the fire. It is the one and only time both sides are presented, the one and only time Folsom makes any comments whatsoever. It comes off heavily in the favor of Folsom. Why? Maybe it’s because truth and fact. Folsom says what he did and takes responsibility for it. Taylorson takes no responsibility for his conduct.Taylorson says he would work again with Folsom after condemning him as someone you shouldn’t work with. Taylorson says “enough of the drama”. What a laughable, hypocritical thing to say by one of the people that created drama and made this situation a public issue. Let us again look at the facts, Folsom said nothing and responded to nothing on the issue until the article and only there in that open forum, while Taylorson , Baldwin and Armstrong made sure to make as much drama as possible happen in any place they could. The actions of Folsom speak highly of his character and professionalism. The actions of Taylorson, Baldwin and Armstrong indicate a severe lack of character and professionalism. Actions do speak louder than words, so do facts. Taylorson is 45 (why does no one ask why he doesn’t work in a company with people his own age if he looks down or can’t get along with those who are younger?), I’m not sure how old Baldwin and Armstrong are, but their actions are that of high school girls and sleazy politicians. Folsom seems to have a much higher maturity even though he is clearly the youngest. It is a fact that the company Folsom founded and served as Artistic Director of was successful before Taylorson was involved, the same for the company Glover founded and served as Artistic Director of. It is also now a public fact that Taylorson digitally bushwhacked the name of Broken Gears, taking sole control of the web address and publically insulting the name of the company; a company and collective of people who he shows blatant contempt for. The company name on the website changed, but all of the quotes about Broken Gears remain on it. Does the Dallas Theater Center have quotes about Kitchen Theater Three on it?Here and now, Baldwin has put his money where his mouth is by joining a new company with Taylorson; Armstrong isn’t as confident it looks like. All of you who claim such confidence in Taylorson should follow suit with Baldwin. Go and work with Taylorson at his new company, or hire him to work at yours as a producer for a year, that amount of time seems to be the break point for people who work with him. Prove him right, back up your words. I’ll be shocked if you who have spoken so highly of Taylorson would do it. All of you who were so eager to involve yourself and pass judgment should be ashamed. You are gullible and short sighted. I’m going to do some more research into this and each of you. Folsom is taking the high road, he deserves better from his artistic community, if I had been in his shoes I would like to say I would walk away too, but I probably would have given Taylorson what he seems to deserve, a good swift kick in the ass.

John Venable
John Venable

Saw the wonderful production of The Hand last night and I'm so proud of Andy Baldwin and Jeff Swearingen and the job they did...stellar. But even more proud of my good friend Elias Taylorson who is the glue that made this show, and every other show he's ever had a hand in producing, a success. I absolutely hate that his name has been dragged through the mud in this whole process as he doesn't deserve that...quite the contrary. His work ethic, professionalism, and passion with all of his behind-the-scenes work in all of the shows that he's worked on can be seen in the quality of those productions on stage. He has worked tirelessly in support of those who, in the end, not only did not appreciate him or his business acumen, but had zero regard for the time, effort, and money he poured into each production as well. He is a fiercely loyal friend who I would work with at anytime in any capacity. Viva la mano!

Jenn
Jenn

There was really no argument on facebook about how "small was too small", it was more like a big facebook agreement: You work your show. 

Additionally, I don't see where there was ever a question about the quality of work. It seems the big issue was one of professionalism. There were clearly issues within the company, and that is between them. Finish the run of your show and deal with them, away from the people you have invited to come work with you/for you, and your audience, paying or not (especially when that "audience has an audience", to quote Elaine Liner). The end.

I, for one, was very happy to see people stepping up and doing what they needed to do, in a very small timeframe, to finish out the run. For the director who took over the role and remaining original cast member (especially), and the production team, they deserved more respect. Taylorson proved his mettle in his actions after the dust-up. The show I saw is evidence of that, and he deserves more credit. 

Oh, hey, so what's up next?

M Gibson
M Gibson

Although Ms Liner made an attempt to get both sides, this article is heavily weighted to Mr. Folsom's side. Perhaps a more balanced followup article would be advisable. After all, both Mr. Taylorson's and Mr. Folsom's careers and reputations are being effected by this story.

R. Adair
R. Adair

 Anyone who walks out on a performance shows total disregard for their fellow actor and company. Frankly, their own reputation, too. From a first hand account I can tell you that Mr. Taylorson is not only a talented actor, but an incredibly ...generous, dedicated, hard-working producer. He deserves credit, not only for the positioning of a previous company, but for the strides of this current assembly and their 6-show season. It's very true, one's work does stand for itself. It seems to me that Mr. Taylorson is the deserving "MasterMind".See More

John
John

Folsom likes to believe he is the most talented thing walking around Dallas. Don't get me wrong he has talent, but not enough to justify his arrogance. (It should never justify anyone's) From Folsom's history I can pretty much bet he got what he deserved. He is that hard to work with and from past articles written by him Folsom believes he is some sort of sacrificial life. My advice... gain some humility.

Em Traeger
Em Traeger

Clearly, Taylorson and Folsom seem to have a problem being in charge of theatre companies. Maybe they should just stick to what people like them to do, which is act in other people's companies. Leave the important stuff to people who can handle it without getting hot-headed (because I doubt it was only one side who did that).

J R Berker
J R Berker

I wasn't there for this, obviously, but a quick conversation with anyone who went to college with Mr. Folsom or worked with him in the first company he founded and was ousted from will tell you that this is not the first "dust-up" he's been involved in.

"John" #2
"John" #2

Joey...er, I mean "John" is awfully long-winded or shall we say, "dramatic" . In my experience, the one with the most to say, has the most to hide. Ding-ding!

Jones John 1970
Jones John 1970

I should also add kudos to Ms. Liner for letting the truth be known.

Jones John 1970
Jones John 1970

Mr. Venable, supporting your friend is the right thing to do. However you seem to think productions happen through the efforts of one. Let me educate you that they do not. I read an article that shows Folsom picked this script out last year, before Taylorson was involved with the company. From how the reviews read for the most part, he picked a good one. In fact he seems to have been the only person that recieved positive reviews accross the board. He is also credited as one of the developers of the script for English. With this in mind, why did he not excercise his legal right to stop the show? Seems he is more interested in good art happening then pity. He would rather a show he found and help create be performed by the group of people out for his blood. Again, a credit to Folsom. By all means, join Taylorsons new company for a year and work with him, see how you feel after that. I'll remind you Taylorson and Folsom were friends when they started there work, apparently so were Glover and Taylorson. In the end, not so much. Common link, Taylorson.

Jones John 1970
Jones John 1970

Jenn, you seem to have a clearer head but are ignoring the fact that Taylorsons actions, not Folsoms are what stopped the performance. If Folsom has a history of performing in front of small audiences why would he not all of a sudden? If Taylorson had kept a "cooler head", to use his term, this whole thing would not be an issue. Taylorson did show his mettle, he fixed an issue he created, but do not ignore that he created the issue.

John
John

Mr. Adair, you are one of the most talented actors in Dallas. I would like to see what your reaction would have been under the circumstances. I argue you would have walked away. I also argue that if a producer at a show you were working on came backstage before your performance and raised his voice using vulgar language you would not want to work there. Taylorsons abilities are not the issue, his character and professionalism are, and they are clearly lacking.

John
John

I fail to see anything in this that would describe Folsom as arrogant. Your arrogance is very clear.

Jones John 1970
Jones John 1970

The hot headed thing seems to be what Baldwin, Armstrong and Taylorson did. Folsom walked away.

John
John

Mr. Berker, how do you explain the ammount of people that Folsom has worked with from that college and worked with him in that previous company? You must be the type of person who believes everything you hear at face value, the word for that is "sucker".

Aside from that, I don't know anyone who didn't get into some kind of trouble in college or in their youth, that is the time and place for that. How sad you are a person who feels he has the right to pass judgment off of gossip. I very much doubt you have even been in the same room as Folsom. 

John Venable
John Venable

John, I know that it takes more than one person to produce a show as I, like both Regan and Joey, am a member of Equity. I've never worked with Joey, only seen him on stage twice (with one performance so outstanding that I introduced myself to him afterward), and he's always had a pleasant hello for me when I've seen him in passing. I am, as you pointed out, good friends with Mr. Taylorson and felt it necessary to say something in his defense. I'm also a friend of Josh Glover's. I was privy to the info that Elias would be moving on to a similar situation with Broken Gears after the sudden severing of his ties with Upstart. One door closes and another one opens; no need to pick sides or defend anyone. And besides, in the gossipy world of theatre (as I'm sure you know) it behooves one to let others fight their own battles lest your name be dragged through the sludge as well. But when Mr. Taylorson's name was put through the wringer again, I couldn't stand by idly and watch that happen.

Joey did pick a good script, a very good one. And that makes it that much more difficult to comprehend such a move...to walk away from what was supposedly "your show" only to have those left behind continue doing what they were doing before; working. But as with any story, there are two sides. Both sides want to paint themselves in the best light whenever a falling out/fight occurs and if you think that Joey shares no burden for this "dust-up", then I would suggest you don't have all the facts. It would take more than a few well-placed "mother fuckers" and a one-person audience to cause any of the DFW Equity members that I know to walk out...much more. Once again...curious behavior like that would lead any sane individual to think there's more to the story. Suffice it to say that the remaining cast/crew for "The Hand" and the first-hand knowledge they all possess, well, they have both individually and as a group been very discreet with their handling of this situation; very much so as far as I know. Did a few not take the high-road on FB? In the estimation of some...no they did not. Others would say they are simply unafraid to say what's on their mind in a matter-of-fact or sarcastic way. But walking out on a production, regardless of the reason, is not high-road behavior either. Even if one party thinks there is a really good reason to walk out on a show, it's not problem-solving behavior to leave everyone who has contributed to a production in the lurch and hit the road, that is for certain. And it seems to me that's a pretty decent rule-of-thumb be it in any collaborative art...or life in general. Walking out is easy to do, it only requires resolve and two legs. Solving problems is more difficult; it requires patience, compromise, and to still actually care about the issue at hand. I realize that there are times in life when the former makes complete sense to someone, but would I defend Joey's actions in this case? No. But his actions don't have to make sense to me, they only have to make sense to him.

You defend Joey. I defend Elias. Welp...who really cares about that? Probably Joey and Elias. Beyond that? Not many. But kudos to you for coming to Joey's defense. You and I choose to defend our friends when their names are besmirched...huzzah!

Jenn
Jenn

Thank you, John. Actually, I'm not ignoring anything. The events that led to this are between them, and I don't have (nor do I want) those details. Like I said, that's between them. I have no comment on that mess.. There's a lot of "shoulda, woulda, coulda" involved here, and it's not my business. I admired issues were fixed and the show went on. I don't think there was proper credit for given for that, specifically.

Honestly, I don't think the blog should have been written at all, and actually I agree with Regan's second post on the rest. So much so that anything else I'd write would be an echo.

R. Adair
R. Adair

Thank you for the compliment, John. I can honestly tell you that my reaction in that situation would've been to GO ON WITH THE SHOW! There never would have been an argument! I never would have questioned the appointed producer about whether the patron could reschedule. Why? Because I am a professional actor and I know my place.....AND I also know that when you are working on a show that is already in production then you are commited to the time! whether it be one person or a thousand. Unless I'm in a hospital bed or have a serious family emergency....then I am commited to going on with the performance. I'm a proud, 7 year member of the union. Mr. Folsom is a member as well. If indeed Mr. Taylorson is responsible for these claims of belligerent assault, then Mr. Folsom should take that complaint up with his union rather than the Dallas Observer. My initial comment on this matter was never intended to maliciously attack Mr.Folsom. I have great respect for him as an Artist! However, this article is a bit unjust in its indirect defense of unprofessional behavior. Why is there the need to crucify Mr. Taylorson over doing his JOB as producer? Wouldn't that be an example of good character and professionalism? I'm not here to list a multitude of reasons why Mr. Folsom is in the wrong. Not because I couldn't, but because it's truly none of business. This article.....is NO ONE'S business. If everyone were made privy to all aspects of business dealings at Broken Gears, I think this would be an entirely different story. Your stance, for example, might be an entirely different story. Who knows........

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