Author Topic: PEOPLE: Actor better when he's high  (Read 1891 times)

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omaira17

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PEOPLE: Actor better when he's high
« on: Jul 17, 2012, 11:35 am »
ok I have a situation and am just looking for other opinions and ideas on how to handle it.
We just opened a show that will be running for 6 weeks. We had a relatively short audition-rehearsal-show process (2 months). There was an actor that blew us all away at auditions due to his incredible voice. He was very soft-spoken and played the role unlike any other actor audtioning. He informed us he was an opera singer by nature and needs to do more musical theatre to help with his acting. He read well and we cast him on the spot. During rehearsals we were very disappointed in his portrayal of the role, it seemed he never grew in character when everyone else did. He was immediately picked out as the weakest link in an unbelievably strong cast of 30. During tech week one evening we sat him down and tried to get him to go back to what he did during auditions. Preview came and he was everything we remembered and more! Afterwards, I headed backstage to congratulate the cast and was informed by some cast members that he reaked of Marijuana. Some of the adults were concerned since we also have a cast of 8 minors. I pulled him aside and asked him straight up if he was high to which he said yes. I reminded him the contract he signed strictly forbids him to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at the theatre. He told me that it helped him relax and get over the nerves of performing in front of an audience for the 1st time and he only does it before the 1st performances.
The next night for opening night he was awful again! Dropping lines, speaking so fast you couldn't understand him. His character came across a pompous jerk and not a well-educated love interest for one of the leads. Our Producer wanted to know what the problem is with him since she has some really important people coming to see the show this week and wants him to play it the way he was on Preview night.
I informed her he was high at preview and unfortunately it seems the only way to get him to perform is to allow him to play it high?
Not what we want at all. We have a male swing but if I put him into the role than I lose my best dancer for the 3 big dance numbers.

Anyone have any other ideas of getting him to recreate the feeling of being high without allowing him to light up?

Edit to subject line-Rebbe
« Last Edit: Sep 29, 2012, 01:25 pm by Rebbe »

Rebbe

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Re: Actor better when he's high
« Reply #1 on: Jul 17, 2012, 07:02 pm »
The difference between his performance quality night to night might have to do with behaviors that go along with smoking, or circumstances outside of theater that cause him to smoke, rather than, or as much as, the drug itself.  Perhaps he could explore relaxation exercises to help him calm down or achieve whatever mental state he needs to be in to perform well.  But it seems unlikely that he will be able to figure this out on his own, even with the support of the company, during the run of your show; if he knew how, he’d probably already be doing it.  I say all this as someone with professional training in substance abuse recovery.  Another point to consider is that people change when they are ready to change, and negative consequences from drug use are often the motivating factors that lead them to want to make changes.  If you let him go from the show for violating his contract, you might ultimately be doing him a favor, even if there is a cost to the show.  To not implement a consequence of some kind given his contract violation would seem to set a bad precedent by itself. 
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)

On_Headset

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Re: Actor better when he's high
« Reply #2 on: Jul 17, 2012, 08:50 pm »
Quote
Anyone have any other ideas of getting him to recreate the feeling of being high without allowing him to light up?
Three things I'd like you to consider:

1) If an employee is getting high on the job (or is arriving at work intoxicated) and management doesn't intervene, you're automatically voiding some of your insurance policies. If anything happens to this actor (or happens as a consequence of his actions), your company may end up having to eat the consequences without any assistance from your insurers. This isn't just about his health and well-being, and that clause isn't in his contract just because your managers disapprove of pot. This is a serious financial risk, and one which can be easily avoided.

2) You don't owe this guy anything. He's not entitled to perform, he's not entitled to your support or assistance, and he's not entitled to have his ego or feelings protected. You should make every reasonable effort to protect and help the guy out, but if the thing keeping you from firing him is a worry about hurting those feelings, this is something I would urge you to get over. His drug use is only your problem insofar as you're prepared to tolerate it without cutting him off.

3) The only thing worse than an untalented actor is an inconsistent actor. A bad actor, handled properly, will not ruin your show: you park them in the back row, you give them few lines, you keep their part simple, you can manage it. An inconsistent actor, on the other hand, is by-definition unmanageable. If his performance varies that much from night to night (sometimes it's transcendent, other times it's abyssmal and--if he's dropping lines and ignoring blocking--may even be violating not only his contract, but the director and author's contracts as well), and especially if there's a deep-seated and unmanageable problem underlying the inconsistency (like, say, substance dependence), you will only be able to assert very, very tenuous control over this actor, his performance and the situation generally.

There is no good solution here. Someone gets hurt and bruised no matter what you do.

But as a stage manager, you are ultimately an agent of the producer, and a large part of your job is to protect that producer from potential liabilities like this. (It's not your job to personally get this guy off dope. It is your job to kick this upstairs and alert the appropriate people within the company so the situation can be handled appropriately.) And sometimes, in this capacity, you need to suck it up and ruin someone's life.

It sounds to me like this may be one of those times.

omaira17

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Re: Actor better when he's high
« Reply #3 on: Jul 31, 2012, 11:18 am »
Thanks for the advice. We are now at 2 weeks of performances left, while his personal performance in each show has improved, we still have had some issues with him in other areas. But now we know what type of actor we are dealing with for future casting consideration at least.

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