At Columbia University in the City of New York, the unconquerable and indefatigable Dr. Howard Stein, would beg his graduate Playwriting students to never be “The Goat” on any production.
“Every production has a goat,” Dr. Stein would yell, “The goat gets the blame. DON’T BE THE GOAT!”
Dr. Stein’s advice is timeless and excellent. He wanted to make sure we were all appropriately trained to deal with anything and that we would always be able to work around any obstacle in a production so nobody could point a crooked finger us and say, “This is your fault,” thus making us, “The Goat.”
Sometimes you cannot avoid being labeled The Goat — it doesn’t mean you earned that title or that you did anything that deserves pointing — but the eternal fact in any production is that there must always be someone to blame. Every show needs an unlucky totem. Every show needs someone to kick when everyone is down.
The Goat is usually the least experienced person on the show in an important position and, unfortunately, that usually means the author gets the Goated label, and once you have that finger pointed at you as the root cause of all trouble, there is really no escape until the roller coaster everyone is riding slams into the concrete wall and kills everybody.
A clue The Goating is about to occur is when there is trouble on the set and people begin to compare resumes. Majority rules on the Goat Vote.
The really good productions will have an undeserving goat in the guise of The Muscle who will take all the blame and keep the innocent clean. When The Muscle becomes The Goat, nobody is a goat and the show always goes well and becomes a success.
When, however, The Muscle allows the unfair slaughtering of the show’s Goat — there is no recovery from the betrayal — and the damage done; especially if The Muscle is the one holding the blade to the goat’s throat to prime the cutting release of the production’s lifeblood.