Artists and writers want their work to move people, but some can be moved to blind rage. Especially if they’re imbalanced to begin with.
Anna Gunn, who portrayed Skylar White on Breaking Bad, received death threats because of the intense hatred some had for her character, and St. Louis based author and playwright Donald Miller found himself in an eerily similar situation a few months back.
While vacationing in California he began receiving threatening messages from a notorious member of the St. Louis LGBT community’s seedy underbelly, an infamous group I refer to as “the Snake Pit.”
Some messages were sent to Miller directly, vowing to “make him pay.” The man vowed he’d never stop in his quest for vengeance, and said the first phase of his plan was to destroy Miller’s reputation with the university until his career was in ruins. Others were sent to the fan page of an over the top character he created. Those threats were more broad and ominous.
“I’m going to hold you accountable. You don’t get to fuck with people’s lives like this and just walk away” threatened the disgruntled gas station attendant, indignant about feeling tricked into somehow believing the outrageous character was a real person. “I’m on the phone with the police right now” the angry man continued, apparently under the notion that creating a fictional character is somehow illegal.
The threats and the sheer anger behind them were hard for a husband and father to ignore, coming from a notorious hot head who’s banned from numerous bars for assaulting patrons, staff, and entertainers. The man pulled a knife on a woman at Korners (now Bar:PM, where he’s still banned for life), he’s been arrested for assault and sex crimes, and runs with a crowd of criminals reminiscent of the antagonists in David Lynch’s psychological thriller Blue Velvet. The leader of this group’s own mother has a protective order against him.
The barrage of threats took Miller of guard, and for a time put a dark cloud over his family vacation.
“A thought that sticks with you is these are people with nothing to lose. Only marginally employed with tenuous living situations, no vehicles, and not even clean records. When one of them vows he won’t rest until he inflicts harm on your livelihood and family, it’s unsettling” Miller begins. “But after the initial shock, my husband and I laughed at how ludicrous it all was. What kind of individual gets into arguments with fictional characters? It’s a bit sad.”
Fortunately for Miller, who spends much of his time on campus or with his family in their charming Mid-St. Louis County bungalow, he doesn’t run in the same circles or frequent the same establishments as the Snake Pit. The man making the threats goes from court hearings to the off-brand inner city gas station where he sells beer and cigarettes from behind bullet proof glass, occasionally hitching a ride to the one or two bars where he’s still allowed inside. The odds of them crossing paths are relatively small, and when and if they do cross, the troubled man will likely have a new, unrelated fixation.
In addition to completing a novel and three plays in the past few years, Miller is making his acting debut at the fourth annual BRIEFS festival of short LGBT plays this coming weekend.
“I’m so excited about my creative outlets and appreciate those who get it, and support me on a continuous basis. Those who don’t, well, you can’t please everyone. And I really don’t want to anyway.” Miller says.
If Miller’s acting can inspire the same passions as his writing, his performance this weekend is sure to be interesting. Author, playwright, actor, husband, father, teacher. Donald Miller is many things. Just not a snake charmer. V
Pearl Vodka in conjunction with That Uppity Theatre Company and Vital VOICE Magazine will present the fourth annual BRIEFS: A Festival of Short LGBT Plays. BRIEFS is a unique venture in St. Louis that brings together numerous directors and theatrical artists to showcase the work of eight different playwrights all under one roof. BRIEFS presents theatrical work that addresses the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people and is targeted to a diverse and mature audience that appreciates good theatre in unique settings.
Tickets are available at http://briefs15.brownpapertickets.com/
Written by Chris Andoe