Transcendence alumnus decries “culture of toxic positivity” at company

Brooke Tansley, a theatre artist who worked with the Transcendence Theatre Company (TTC) from 2011 through 2015, has added her voice to those seeking change at the company.

In a post on the Medium web site, Tansley afffirmed the recent claims of Nikko Kimzin and Leah Sprecher of a hostile work environment at TTC, expanding those claims to include hostility “for working families and artists striving for a healthy work environment” which she relates to “a culture of toxic positivity.”

Brooke Tansley

“Workers were constantly reminded to stay positive, and the expectation set forth for workers by the leadership team was one of constant cheerfulness and euphoria. Normal human emotions in response to normal human tragedies, such as divorce or the death of a loved one, were disapproved of and considered character failings. In the first season, I began navigating an almost three-year-long, high-conflict divorce. Other coworkers also navigated divorces and the loss of loved ones. We were all told to stay positive, that today would be the best day ever, that all of life is a work of art, and that everything happens for a reason. Whether the topic was basic needs, work/life balance, or normal human emotions, I consistently found myself trying to talk to a leadership team that didn’t understand what people are and what people need. I didn’t know how to explain that, and I consistently shut down.”

“Increasingly, I felt like working there was detrimental to my mental health, and for those first couple of years, I thought that I was the only one who felt that way. It was disorienting and I often wondered if I was the problem and questioned if I was really experiencing what I thought I was. It isn’t a coincidence that the majority of the early artists have left. It wasn’t until other artists left and we began to share our stories with each other that I fully understood that what I was experiencing was real, unhealthy, and unsustainable, and that the actions of the executive team were in direct opposition to the stated company values and vision. We had been victims of gaslighting.”

Tansley also delves into TTC’s relationship to and negative impact on other local theatre entities.

Tansley concludes her statement by joining Kimzin’s ‘call in’ for change. “Transcendence has failed to turn the words of its vision and values into actions, and it’s time for a change in leadership. It’s specifically time that the Artistic Director and Executive Director step down from the Board of Directors and that new board members be appointed who have the ability to put the words of the values and vision into action. I ask the community to look at the actions of the leadership team and look at the workplace they’ve created. The outcomes clearly show that they have built a toxic culture and work environment that must be met with actionable change.”

Click HERE for the complete text of Tansley’s statement.

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