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I'm in a stage management class at my high school, and every semester we are assigned 'situation ethics'. These are just hypothetical situations, and we answer with how we would respond if we actually encountered them. This semester, I've been given a situation that is extremely intimidating, and I haven't the slightest idea how to   begin to handle it. The situation is as follows:

'You are stage managing a show of many children between the ages of 8 and 14. They are good kids, but of course you need parents backstage to help control   everyone. One of the parents- a father- is a big supporter of the theatre and the parent of a popular kid.  It's difficult to get fathers to volunteer backstage, and you are grateful to have him to watch the boys' dressing room. However, some of the boys are reporting to you that they are not comfortable with this man in the dressing room. They are not very clear in their reports, but you sense that something inappropriate is going on. How do you handle this situation without embarrassing the man's child, without putting yourself in a position for a slander lawsuit, meanwhile protecting the children you are in charge of AND keeping a good atmosphere at the theatre?'

I would really appreciate any helpful advice on this. It's a tough one!

*This post as been approved as a student project. Modified by Candy0081*
Cleaned up the bbcode a bit. - PSMK

I live and work in a jurisdiction where anyone who is responsible for the safety and well-being of a child and who suspects any sort of child abuse is required by law to report their suspicions to the proper authorities or risk criminal prosecution if it later comes to light that you had these suspicions but did nothing. This doesn't involve calling the police: you go through social services and they take it from there. As a result, I have a rather clear-cut and simple answer, and would encourage you to research the laws in your area to see if you have a similar "out".

If you want a real answer, though, this is a matter where we can drill out several key priorities. Here's how I'd rank them, in order of descending importance:
1) My responsibility to the children in question. I have a duty of care as someone responsible for their well-being and as an interested adult to ensure nothing untoward happens to them.
2) My responsibility to the person who signs my paycheques and the organization which they represent.
3) My responsibility to the company and the personnel involved on this particular show.
4) My responsibility to attend to the happiness and well-being of volunteers.

It would be great if I could protect this man's ego. It would be super if I could minimize backstage drama. It would be awesome if I could avoid a lawsuit. But none of this would justify ignoring reports of what sound like child abuse.

However, it must also be acknowledged that I as a stage manager don't have the skills, resources, experience and standing needed to adequately investigate and assess this situation, particularly since it may become a matter of interest to the police. With this in mind, I'd discreetly meet with the producer and explain the situation: they have the attorneys on retainer and ultimate responsibility for the well-being of everyone involved in the production as well as the company itself, while I'm just some schmuck with a stopwatch. If I uncover evidence that child abuse seems likely to have occurred, then I'd skip the producer and go straight to children's services or the police, depending on the situation--and, likewise, if after speaking with the producer nothing seems to have changed and the reports continue coming in, at that point I'd escalate the issue to the authorities.

It may be tempting to come up with a please-everyone, just-get-the-guy-doing-something-else answer, but these are very serious allegations and must be handled as such. If someone misbehaves with a glue gun, you subtly move them onto ushering instead. Misbehaving with an underage cast member is a whole other kettle of fish.

I have to agree with On_Headset: the question itself is flawed because it's focusing on the wrong priorities.  It should have been phrased more like, "How do you protect the children you're in charge of, the liability of your employing organization, and yourself from a slander law-suit while, hopefully keeping a good atmosphere at the theatre and not embarrasing the man's child?"

Everything from here on out is assuming that I don't live in a "require to report" state.  If I did, that's what I'd have to do.  I'd let the producer know, first, but I'd report over their objections if necessary, for the good of the kids, me, and the theatre.

Several things I would not do: ask the man straight out what's going on, make any assumptions, whatsoever, or converse about it with anyone who is not in my direct, upward chain of command.

The first thing I would do, when getting these "vague reports" from the boys is to ask for more clarification, on the spot (which I probably wouldn't get, but you have to try.)  For all I know, they COULD be uncomfortable with him because he reeks of garlic or forces them to listen to polka music or tales of his latest D&D character's battle with the goblin horde.

Assuming that the reports were made before a show: If I were a male SM, I'd find excuses to pop into the dressing room more frequently until curtain (let me check your makeup because it was a little off last night, wardrobe made a slight adjustment so how's your costume, I heard Bobby had a cold so do you need cough drops, etc.) but as a female SM, I'd have a trusted male crew member/ASM run these little "errands" without letting him know the real reason behind it.

After the show, I'd call the producer and explain what was going on, exactly what the boys said, and any other information my "errands" may have garnered me.  I would follow this up in writing, including only the facts and no hypotheses of my own.  And I'd insist on a replacement.  Tomorrow.  I know male volunteers are rare, but they're not one in a million, and we all know an actor who is not currently working, a board member, or a teacher, or a dad with a day job who may not be related to anyone in the cast but can be trusted and can do the job, at least for a few nights.  If nothing else, I'd drag my husband in and make him do it until we could get a permenant replacement.

The next day, I would call the volunteer and thank him for his help, but let him know that his services were no longer needed.  (Actually, I'd foist this off on the volunteer coordinator, if I could, and in my opinion they would need to be apprised of the facts of the situation.)  If he asked why, I'd be honest(ish).  "The boys have told me that you're distracting them from focusing on their performance.  We've found someone else to watch their room."  And for the rest of the conversation, I'd be as nice or as mean as he was, but he would not be coming past the stage door when he dropped his child off for the show, that evening.

This is a GREAT question.

Above. This is not officially your issue, but as SM you are the first line of defense once the show is running so knowing state law and pathways to follow is really essential. This also requires supreme power of observation – body language, words and patterns that vary, etc. Your job is to notice things.

And tact, diplomacy and confidentiality are key. The guy may be doing something wrong. He may not be. But often, and to some, being accused is the same as being found guilty and can follow / destroy the life of this person even if they did nothing more than tell the cast bully they couldn't play their Gameboy in the wings before they go on. Some kids like to lie (Children's Hour was born from a real case). Some men are just naturally more touchy-feely than others. And pedophiles are too often found too late. (One of the young San Diego victims was the niece of a wonderful actor-friend). So prevention and protection are vital, but so is making sure this person's life is not destroyed by rumor and innuendo.

Find a replacement, male or female, immediately.
Then tell the father in question that others have volunteered and you are going to start a rotation.
You will call him when you need him next.


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