Phyllis Gordon says it and we laugh, because the phrase “Who does that?” in so few words captures the very essence of one’s ability to navigate the complexities of life.
In this case, the phrase reflects Gordon’s inability to understand how a man can treat a woman in a demeaning way and pass it off as if it is normal and acceptable behavior simply because he is a man.
Gordon, an actress and comedian from Worcester, tells this story: “I was in this relationship with this man, for three years. I had faced behaviors that he assured me [were] normal for all men. I mean, he even convinced me that looking at other women while we were out was acceptable because that’s ‘what men do,’ ” Gordon said. “He would say to me, ‘Where do you think she’s from? Think she’s Spanish or Cambodian?’ It came to a point in our relationship that I didn’t want to go outside with him. I mean, nowhere! I wanted to stay indoors at all costs, because when we went out he would just stare at other women.
“One time, a few years ago during the ice storm of the century, when the state was shut down due to the weather, I was in his apartment visiting, and out of nowhere, he says to me: ‘I think you have to go home. I need alone time.’
“I just looked at him in shock and asked him if he had noticed the weather. He didn’t care and I started to drive home from Waltham. Before leaving he assured me that I would be OK and closed the door behind me.”
We stare at each other for a moment and laugh again. “I mean, who does that?” she asks.
These experiences are among the many examples that prompted Gordon to start a Kickstarter campaign to fund a series of Web videos that capture the absurdity of some interactions while raising awareness about verbal and mental abuse.
“After telling my friends about the things I went through with this relationship, my friend said to me: ‘Who does that? That should be a web series!’ ” Gordon explained. A few friends later and with some reinforcement from supporters, Gordon was off. She wrote the series and through connections to actors and people with experience, she compiled a team and started to film.
The six-part series is now underway, but Gordon established the Kickstarter to raise money to support the creative talents of her cast members. With a goal of $1,200, Gordon is more than one-quarter of the way there with 15 days left as of Saturday, Nov. 7.
Her goal is to simply pay her actors for their time. “In our industry, it is not abnormal to not get paid for your time. There have been times I have worked in theater for free – just to build my resume – but I am a strong believer in paying my actors. Their time is valuable. I don’t want to just buy them lunch every day, even though that isn’t an uncommon form of payment within the industry,” Gordon said.
From early on, Gordon knew she had the talent to do something creative. She initially thought she would be a reporter. (“I remember thinking, I can be a reporter. I would be good at that.”) But as time passed, it became inevitable that Gordon would be drawn to theater. Performing in high school plays and local community theaters, Gordon found herself surrounded by people who ingrained in her mind that she “should be an actor.”
After graduating from UMass Amherst, Gordon started her journey in the utopia of creativity: New York City. Immersing herself in the world of theater, Gordon continued to build her resume by taking on parts with independent companies and community shows, and landed herself a one-woman show at the PIT of New York. That’s the People’s Improv Theater of New York, a place synonymous with the building of character within a comedian.
“I did a show called ‘Painfully Funny.’ A show about my love life and how after this awful relationship, I started dating on eHarmony. I could have done an entire show on eHarmony. The men I met were unbelievable,” Gordon said. After coming out of a verbally abusive relationship and sampling the market for prospective gentlemen, Gordon started to turn her pain into comedy.
Gordon wants to shed light on abusive relationships. She wants women to understand their worth and not lower their standards and become subjected to inferior treatment. She wonders if filming the Web series can open the eyes of other women who simply can’t see the red flags, as Gordon once was unable to.
The “Who Does That?” Web series cast is small but with Gordon crafting a team of local talents that include Tasos Bishop, local actor and studio cameraman for Channel 7, the small cast is a perfect fit to portray her message.
To donate to her Kickstarter page to help support the local creative community: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/whodoesthat/who-does-that?ref=city