gentleman's agreement

I've been thinking lately about contracts. Those agreements, explicit or implied, that govern our relationships.

The last few weeks of work have been consumed by the explicit this time of year there are only two of us working full-time, and one working part-time in our office. Over the summer, between singers, music and production staff, artistic teams and interns, we'll grow exponentially to have around 80 additional people here. Each one has an individual agreement with us that reflects specifically the reasons they're joining us: designers have due dates for final renderings and light plots, Filene Young Artists and WT Studio Artists have repertoire to learn prior to their arrival, directors and conductors are expected to begin the first rehearsal at a pre-determined date and time. Duties, dates of residency, wages, housing and travel arrangements vary from person to person, but are outlined in this document. Sometimes the differences are fairly subtle; the inclusion of a release date or a reimbursement amount. Those very subtleties are the reason that it takes a long time to crank out these documents, as there are 3 or 4 people who proofread them. Every. Single. One. And sometimes we still get something wrong. (But it happens much less often than it would were I to churn them out alone!) But the document is adapted to reflect the circumstances, the expectation.

Sometimes we've had people ask to break their contracts. The reasons are always compelling, but even with these 80+ people running around it's difficult to absorb. It might hit us in a particular way due to the ways in which we choose our repertoire: it's a little like having your sweetie look at the absolutely perfect birthday present that you've painstakingly picked out, beribboned, and surrounded with love, and ask for the receipt because it's just not quite right. As of this note, we've *knock on wood!* not had any casualties, and I hope it remains so.

So, those are the explicit contracts I've been swimming in this last month. The implicit are more fluid, less black-and-white. But they all have one clause in common: the "Oh, sh*t" clause. Known in explicit-contract-world as force majeure, this paragraph outlines the circumstances in which all bets are off. If the world ends, the earth swallows us whole, the state of Virginia falls into the ocean, well, I guess then you don't have to put on an opera. And while the legalese is certainly a corporate thing, the idea exists in all of our relationships... if the unthinkable happens, however you define unthinkable, either or both parts of the relationship can walk away.

The romantic, optimistic part of me really dislikes this clause.

Our particular contracts, however, add one additional piece of langauge to this clause, which I am incorporating into all of my internal agreements as of today. It says, in a nutshell, that everyone involved will work together to find an agreeable solution should something unthinkable happen.

I like that.

(And if the Old Dominion slides into the Atlantic, maybe Francesca would rent us those cool mermaid costumes...)


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