When I was working on the Broadway production of — “The Will Rogers Follies” — I was contacted by a friend of mine who was teaching at a major East Coast university.

My friend said he knew someone who had recently been hired for a tenure-track job at his university who had used, as a credit on his curriculum vitae, “Assistant Director” on “The Will Rogers Follies.”

I did not recognize the name wanted me to confirm and I knew all the creative crew on the show.

My friend was surprised, but not shocked. He asked me if that person worked on the show in any capacity.

I told my friend I would check the next day.

I checked with everyone on the production and nobody had ever heard of the guy in question — and when I told them why I was asking — every single person from stagehand to actor to author were furious and outraged that somebody was using their show to get a university job they did not earn.

I called my friend and told him I could “100% guarantee” that the person never worked on “The Will Rogers” follies in any capacity. That person was not paid staff. That person was not an intern or even a volunteer at the theatre.

My friend thanked me for the information and said he’d be in touch.

The next day, my friend told me the university had confronted the new tenure-track hire about his “Will Rogers” lie — and the person confessed and resigned in disgrace. Both he, and the university, were sullied by the same, unchecked, lie. In some ways, the university’s lack of C.V. verification was a worse offense than the common deceit because the university risks a higher value for tarnishing in the destruction of the truth.

My friend told me the suspicion started when he struck up a conversation with the new hire about “The Will Rogers Follies” — my friend knew I was working on the show — and when the new hire said he didn’t know me and became antsy and undignified and evasive, my friend thought that behavior was strange and that’s what ignited the first call to me.

The lesson in this mess is to never lie on your C.V. — especially in the theatre — because it is too easy to get caught. We have internet databases of show productions. We have people who know people. Long memories rule behind the footlights.

The professional theatre community is very small, slightly snarky, often closed, and always defensive — and when someone tries to unfairly reap the bounty of their hard-earned successes through deceit, everyone in the lie of the lie is forever marked with the blood of the deceiver.

3 Comments

  1. It was amazing, but it happens all the time, Gordon! People lie on resumes a lot and some don’t even bother to shade the truth. They just lie to get the job and if they get caught later… they don’t care.
    A few years ago, a guy was hired to Chair the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Theatre Department. He said he had an MFA, a terminal degree, and was hired.
    Later on in the year, when UNL started to verify his position on paper, he was asked for transcripts for all his degrees. He didn’t provide them for months. Finally, UNL figured out the guy didn’t have an MFA and when they called him on it, he just disappeared and was never heard from again.

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