Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Date: March 04, 2023 02:42AM
Hoo boy, that was a wild ride, reading through all those comments. I was in CP from 1995 to 2000. I got on a plane 3 weeks before my 18th birthday and flew out to California to "serve the Lord", but really I wanted to get away from my own disfunctional, abusive, f*cked up family.
I didn't see it as a cult at the time. I remember someone (Marcy Kisby) who was in it a couple years longer than I was at that stage kind of commenting on how some of the lifers had a cult-like adoration for Chuck, but it didn't occur to me at the time - as a naive and trusting teenager - that Chuck had set up this group to have all this power and a steady stream of adoration with very little pushback.
Looking back now, if I could do it all over again, I'm really not sure if I would. It kind of did what I needed it to do at the time - got me away from my family, let me travel the world (even if I was stressed out all the time about how to earn enough money to survive the summers in CPCC or afford a plane ticket to visit my family). I don't think, as a kid growing up in a poor household, that I would have been able to travel all over Europe for 3.5 years. I didn't have the money for college and it would have been wasted on me as an evangelical Christian who could only view the world through that paradigm. In that respect, CP was like the military for a lot of poor American teenagers who didn't have a lot of other options.
I think the most dangerous aspects of CP was the danger we were put in, especially women. I can't believe I got in cars with strangers and went to their homes to stay, blissfully unconcerned about how vulnerable I was. Thankfully I was never assaulted in my years in CP, but in the last couple of years I have thought more and more about how it could so easily have happened. And it would have been swept under the rug.
I remember my training in California before my first tour. The female instructors (Linna Shea and someone else) spent all this time telling us how to hide our used sanitary products in a hosts bin and not one single word was said about if we felt unsafe, what we should do. I suppose they didn't want to freak us out, or admit this was a possibility, and what advice could they really give us? You're in an unfamiliar place, don't have a mobile/cell phone (I think they were only for really rich people then), what could any of us have really done? Especially since we were all Christian women, socialised to be nice and sweet and don't make waves.
It kind of sickens me how many years I wasted there, but I'm more upset by how many years I wasted believing in God. Like others have mentioned here, I do still have nightmares about being back in CP. Usually along the lines of I've got very dim job prospects, or something else in my life has fallen apart, and in the dream I think -well, CP would always take you back. I wake up feeling horrified by this thought. The thought of not having my own space, of having to spend all day performing or PRing, then talking with hosts and learning lines late at night. Rarely ever a moment to yourself to think your own thoughts.
I had some decent-ish team leaders, and one truly evil narcissist (Dianne Colbert). She screamed and yelled at us and then bought us 'presents', just like an abusive spouse giving flowers after hitting their partner. She worked us into the ground, all for her ego. And she never got called on it at all, because the money she sent to BIO and ECO was sorely needed. I know that could happen in any job, and I've worked in a job since where I had a boss that shouted and threw things at us, so I know it's not just CP. The difference is when I left the horrible job in the secular world, I didn't have a guilt trip about 'breaking a commitment', like I would get in CP if I walked out on a mission.
The summers were definitely a haze of sleep deprivation and sub-par food. I'll never forget one January in California my host home was about an hour away from Sepulveda, and I would be collected around 7am. This one particular morning I was so sick, with one of the worst colds I'd ever had still to this day. My van load of other people pulled up and I stumbled out and said I was too sick to go, and I was quickly told to suck it up, throw on some clothes and get in the van. I wish I had a backbone then, but being a Christian I obeyed authority even when it was detrimental to me.
It's all well and good for Chuck to talk about how little sleep he needed, but he had drivers ferry him to and fro. He could sleep in his luxury van, or in his office during the day when we were attending classes, rehearsing, building sets, sewing costumes, etc.
I think it was better in Germany, or at least my host homes were closer, and it was easy to walk to the village and get food or just get off campus for a little bit.
The dress code was wild too. No blue jeans!!! Because he didn't want the company associated with hippies. Oh man, he was stuck in the dark ages on that one. Not that I particularly cared, I've always been more into long skirts and dresses, but it was just so arbitrary.
Some of the plays were awful - preachy and boring, and dull to perform and watch. Those Stanley Blodgett plays were cringey, and some of the shorter ones were non-sensical. I'll never forget one that was premiered in Germany one January. It was an anti-racism play where one character just droned on and on about 'people you think are white, but who are actually Black/Indian/Hispanic'. I had to prop my eyelids open during it and I felt sorry for all the future school children who would be subjected to this tedium.
Does anyone else feel a bit of embarrassment now when you meet someone new and you talk about your past jobs - do you readily mention CP or do you call it something else? I think because I've deconstructed my faith and am an atheist now I don't want to tell too many people about it, unless I also get the chance to tell them I don't believe in that stuff anymore. If it comes up I mostly just say it was a travelling theatre company that I toured with, but I try not to say the name unless it's really necessary.
I can't imagine they've got that many people in it anymore. I just looked up their official Facebook page and it seems they have very small teams touring very large areas. Like one team with only 3 people will tour 4 large states. I feel like those who want to stay in it should almost go back to the very beginning and tour large areas in large groups. Do the plays that require a larger cast or something. I mean, I wouldn't be sad if it finally came to an end, but I can't see any of the Tanner sisters going working somewhere else. This is all they've ever known.
At any rate, I'm glad to see there are other people who have relatable experiences to my own.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 03/04/2023 02:45AM by HistoryLover.