Author Topic: DEAR ABBY: Long runs, short vacations & understudies, oh my!  (Read 2760 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.


  • Site Founder
  • Administrator
  • *****
  • Posts: 1354
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: None.
  • Current Gig: SMNetwork *is* my production.
  • Experience: Former SM
The following "Dear Abby" question is posted on behalf of a member who wishes to remain anonymous. 

Dear Abby,

This situation often comes up on a longer running show, and I would be interested to see how other stage managers deal with it.

You are on a show with legit, well paid, and professional understudies, but the contract doesn't allow for an actor to take time off for anything but illness (or vacation pay has not kicked in, of whatever reason). 

An actor wants to take a day off (for whatever reason, audition, shoot a commercial, give the understudy a performance for family in town.)

Do you as a stage manager encourage the cast to come to you and tell you ahead of time that they are "calling in sick"?  Or do you play along and just wait for them to call in?  How much do you encourage them to “cheat the system”?  When do you cry foul?

Would you go ahead and plan a put in rehearsal based on that information?

Would you plan a put in rehearsal if the actor is shooting a TV show on Monday (your day off), and has been asked to keep Tuesday "on hold" just in case she can't be there Tuesday?  Even if, technically, he would have to call in sick to do the Tuesday gig?

How do you walk the fine line between honoring the contract, keeping actors happy, and maintaining the artistic integrity of the show?  Who do you end up finding yourself more beholden to . . . a producer?  The actors?  Or the best interest of the show – since sometimes those things don’t always line up.

Overworked and Understudied
« Last Edit: Aug 07, 2010, 07:48 pm by PSMKay »


  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 402
    • View Profile
  • Experience: College/Graduate
Re: DEAR ABBY: Long runs, short vacations & understudies, oh my!
« Reply #1 on: Aug 07, 2010, 10:03 pm »
I'd be extremely wary of watered-down shenanigans: if you're hoping to "play along" with a sick call in order to avoid liability, you will find that it doesn't actually work that way: if you knew they were doing it fraudulently, you're still responsible for allowing and encouraging them to skip off work. Likewise, if you give a brief speech at a company meeting ("Look, I know you're doing this, and I need to report it if I know about it, so please don't do it in front of me."), this similarly doesn't actually protect you from responsibility (in the ethical and legal senses) for what follows.

What I would do is speak to the producer. "There have been a number of requests, and I think allowing actors to take days off would be good for company morale. It would also help to keep the understudies fresh. Of course, we need to make sure this is handled responsibly, but people have been grumbling and talking about calling in sick in order to do other gigs, and I think we need to nip it in the bud."

In terms of scheduling, you do what you always do: schedule as best you can considering all the information available to you. If you don't think someone will be present, don't schedule anything which requires their attendance. If you have ambiguous information, call them and give a straight question: "Should I schedule you to be present on Monday, or will you be occupied with other things that day?" If they lie to you or mislead you or refuse to commit, then it's their own fault if the schedule results in their missing a call or being sent home for lack of need.


  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 1574
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA, SAG, AFTRA, SMA
  • Current Gig: Caroling, caroling now we go — and looking for my next gig!
  • Experience: Professional
Re: DEAR ABBY: Long runs, short vacations & understudies, oh my!
« Reply #2 on: Aug 08, 2010, 12:13 am »
Does your contract include an MRE clause? There are very specific rules dealing with time frames for notifying producers. But my guess is, this is a full contract that has a living wage and therefore doesn't include an MRE.

When I work with name actors who work alot in film/tv, I make sure we have regular u/s rehearsals in contracted time frames so we avoid the worst of the last-minute situations, and only do put-ins when absolutely necessary.

And yes, I do ask my cast to discretely give me (and only me) a heads up if they think they might miss a performance so we are all ready to roll no matter what happens. We can discuss what needs to go to producers and what can be handled in house. But if it happens so much it becomes abuse, then the producers may need to replace the actors. And if you end up needing to work on your day off for any reason, yes you shd be paid. I have worked with understudies in particular situations requiring rehearsal on my day off, for example an actor injured himself Sunday night in a 2-man show, we needed to rehearse the u/s on Monday and do a put-in on Tues afternoon before the evening show. And yes, I was paid my percentage for Monday.


Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
3 Replies
Last post Dec 19, 2008, 07:14 pm
by kiwitechgirl
9 Replies
Last post Feb 17, 2013, 12:52 pm
by NomieRae
1 Replies
Last post Jan 30, 2018, 09:49 am
by Michelle R. Wood