Author Topic: Racism - dilemma?  (Read 3514 times)

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Racism - dilemma?
« on: Dec 21, 2005, 09:57 pm »
(If this post should go to a different forum, please let me know)

How does one deal with accusations of racism in rehearsal?

I am currently working on a show in university (not as SM; I am the research assistant for the directing and design staff), and in five of our fifteen rehearsals we have stopped discussion of the show to iron out differences between actors and the director. This stems out of some particularly clumsy comments the director made regarding character histories, which a number of the actors have taken issue with. He has admitted that the original comments were, perhaps, in poor taste; has asked the cast to take his opinion with a grain of salt; he has offered to step back from the construction of character histories completely, in the hopes that the relationship he has with the actors can improve.

While I have spoken off line with the SM, there is little I can do to affect this situation. The director has asked me to speak to the mentality of the actors (who are all students as well), and I have done my best to maintain their confidences and to help him understand where they are coming from.

One of the questions that I am having a hard time hammering out an answer for is this: when do you go to a producer/production manager/dean and ask for conflict resolution specialists to be brought in, if at all? As a student who has stage managed at this institution, I am fairly familiar with what students can and can't do or be involved in, but this is a new experience for me, and unfortunately, I can't go to one of my school's advisors without spilling what might be too much information.

Any thoughts would be much appreciated.



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Racism - dilemma?
« Reply #1 on: Dec 22, 2005, 05:53 pm »
Is this a professional/faculty director, or a student?
I think that is to be considered here wen evaluating the situation.

I had a possible potentiality for sexual harrassement issue that came up last year and the actor and I discussed how she was dealing with it and the steps we would take if it reached a point where she felt substantially uncomfortable and wanted him talked to.
When I discussed it with my advisor, she was quick to note that in professional theater, more often than not, this may very well have passed quickly out of the SMs hands already (all you professionals out there please would love your two cents on this one!), because at that point you're dealing with a legal issue of harrassment. THankfully it never went that far and I didnt have to talk to anyone. BUT, I think this may be a similar situation in that it's a learning environment even if you are trying to run it professionally, and there are things that need to be taken in to account.  I don't know that I drew conclusions that will help you to take action either way, but perhaps I've broadened the scope a bit? I don' tknow... I just had my wisdom teeth out this morning so I feel inclined to say a lot online, given that my mouth is stuffed full of cotton   :P  heheh... anyhow good luck with this, and wish the sm luck - it sounds like a challenge, but hopefully a manageable one. I think you should not be afraid to seek imput from the higherups though, esp in a university situation where we are learning how to navigate this relationship. If it's a guest director though, I really think that changes stuff quite a bit. They should know what they're doing enough to not offend, at least not be offensive past tthe point of being constructive (that might exist-- i dont know- giving someone motivation for a scene/monologue)
Oh look at my groggy self rambling more. :-)


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Racism - dilemma?
« Reply #2 on: Dec 23, 2005, 10:08 pm »
thats funny..I just got mine out on thurs...wisdom teeth that is...hehehe. I'm totally drugged, it's awesome...

Mac Calder

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Racism - dilemma?
« Reply #3 on: Dec 24, 2005, 06:48 am »
This is rather general.

As an SM, your best friend becomes documentation. You NEED to document every discussion - the major points etc. Date and time them. Then, if you are at an impass, like you seem to be, look back through those notes.

You then have to decide if what has happened is impacting on the show.

If you look through the notes and it shows relationships are steadily deteriorating, you NEED to get someone in to rectify it if you cannot do so yourself.

Performing arts are highly dependant on trust.

You meantioned you are worried about confidentiality. You should be able to talk to the head of your department/whoever and just say "We are having issues between certain members and I need to arrange CONFIDENTIAL conflict resolution and mediation." If/When you are asked for more information, simply say "I am sorry, but I guaranteed confidence, and I will not break it."

Generally, schools and places of education are good with confidentiality. Trust between teachers and students is an important part, and a teacher breaking confidence can be disasterous.

The only times you should break confidence are when the issue could result in harm to the person in question, or another person.

I took a three month mediation course. A lot of it is a load of bull, but there are some good issues raised.

First, find a second person to 'assist' - this is essential. Then explain to them the process.

You sit down with the first person, whilst the second person sits out with your assistant. The assistant is to talk about the weather with the second person and keep their mind occupied, whilst you get the first persons point of view on things, and the issues. Then you swap. Neither of you mention anything that has occured with the other. Get both to come back in.

Sit them NEXT to each other or at right angles to each other, not across the table (that makes it seem like a battle zone). In silence, go over your notes.

Look to the party who feels wronged and ask if they would like to tell the 'wrong doer' how their actions have made them feel, then reverse the situation.

Basically, keep them talking in normal/low tones, and see if you can reach a comfortable compromise. Through this, your assistant is taking notes, preferably verbatum, or it is being recorded (both parties should be advised of the fact the conversations are being recorded). Suggest a compromise (ie "Person A would it be aceptable if person b made a public appology, we would not mention names of course.") if nothing else has arisen.

Finaly, write up exactly what has been agreed on (ie "person a feels that person b's comments on dd/mm/yyyy were inapropriate. person b has expressed his appologies and will make a public appology without mentioning names on dd/mm/yyyy to the entire cast") then have them both sign it.

Un-qualified mediation is only applicable in cases where there has not been a criminal report filed. The second it becomes a matter for either the police or the civil courts, the theatre MUST back off and seek their own legal advise.

I was involved (the SM) in a production where the director came onto an actor too strongly and it was reported to the police. However the company asked me to mediate. I talked to the local police before I contacted them about mediation, and was informed that my intervention could lead to the obstruction of justice as it could be seen as coersion on the theatres part to get the charges dropped so that the show could continue. I had the fun job of telling the uber-controlling producer this, and the shows lead and director were re-cast.


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