Author Topic: PEOPLE: what should I do when there is a death?  (Read 3046 times)

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PEOPLE: what should I do when there is a death?
« on: Aug 17, 2005, 03:27 pm »
I'm currently transitioning out of my contract and handing off to a new stage manager next week. I had a fabulous PA who was to help with the turnover and it seemed like I could just leave.... But over the weekend, he died from a self-inflicted injury and we're all a bit messed up. However, I still am to leave my contract ... but I've been asked to handle the hiring of a new PA and extend my stay to help with the transition. The cast is very unsettled with having the position filled and feel that I should leave it open. There has been a lot of tears and anger expressed this week as it's been mentioned that the "show must go on" and that I need to find someoen to run backstage. And I can't get myself motivated to find someone. I also am in tech at that point so I can't extend my stay beyond a couple of days. I don't know what I'm asking for... maybe just how I should approach this with the cast... should I tell the applicants the situation... should I just let the new stage manager hire and have 2 new people just tossed into the mix? My mind is just frazzled.
« Last Edit: Jun 08, 2009, 10:28 pm by PSMKay »


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what should I do when there is a death?
« Reply #1 on: Aug 17, 2005, 03:45 pm »
Wow, tough situation. The show must go on and all, and replacing someone who won't know the tricks is a challenge but it's gotta be done, and quickly.

FWIW, I worked a small cast show with regular ushers who we got to know quite well, and when one of them unexpectedly committed suicide had to deal with all this - and it's awful. No matter what you do, someone will be upset and the cast/crew will be affected for a while.

Can you gather the cast and crew and talk this out/vent in a safe place and time with some neutral 3rd-party psych assistance and support? Corny and common as it seems, it really helped us get through the week and do our work until we could take the time to heal.

And we had a little memorial after the matinee, for us.  It helped too...

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what should I do when there is a death?
« Reply #2 on: Aug 17, 2005, 08:31 pm »
WIth something like this, it is always best to get someone in to council the cast and crew, both one on one and in a group environment. It is SOP for a number of places - like schools and large businesses (I even worked for one business that required 6 monthly manditory talking to a councilor (not in the theatre industry))

As for finding a replacement - do you have a replacement SM picked out?

Can you get them in early, so that you have a longer transition?

I would find a PA asap. Have them also start immediatly. Make sure both people are briefed on the situation. It is possible that the PA may cop quite a bit of flack from cast and crew. As with introducing any new 'team' member which the cast will spend a lot of time with, make sure you spend a few minutes doing an intro session.

Say something like: "I am sure (OLD PA) would not want us to just give up on this show. It is bitter sweet that I am introducig (NEW PA) to our team to try and pick up where he left off. (OLD PA) has done a fantastic job, and you all treated him well. I am sure (NEW PA) will do his/her best to live up to your standards, and I hope he will be given as much respect as you showed (OLD PA)."


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what should I do when there is a death?
« Reply #3 on: Aug 19, 2005, 02:24 pm »
First of all, I'm so sorry for your loss.

Second, I agree with the above. The position needs to be filled. Does it have to be you to do it? Again, where is your production manager in all of this? Maybe someone else could be involved in the hiring process.

Good luck with all of this. It doesn't sound easy.


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Thank you!
« Reply #4 on: Aug 24, 2005, 02:37 pm »

I found someone who could take on the PA posiiton, helped the new SM with spreading the news of the change and offering support. We're going to have a private memorial at the theater on Saturday before one of the four shows (we're in rep). Last week, I found a counselor at the local college who was volunteered to be "on call" for a few days to help. And I talked to a local catholic priest who volunteered some time to the couple of cast members who had some really strong moral concerns, so it eased their pain.

There were still a lot of tears and hugs last show, but overall, the emotions have mellowed with time and it's nice to get a full night's sleep rather than having to respond to a 3:30 phone call from a really depressed cast member. And the company has now seen me work with the new SM, so they feel some sort of comfort knowing that it's "back to normal."

As for the Production Manager... I'm not sure where he has been, but it seems like once the shows open, the PM just kind of vanishes. The company is only a 30hr/week SPT contract so I knew that I'd have to pitch in more than when I was working larger companies, so this has been a good learning process.

Thank you for the advice and tips. I felt so... overwhelmed when the admin staff and cast both turned to me and wanted me to do something. And with all that I've experienced with performers having emergencies, I thought I could handle this better than I did. Anyway, hopefully I won't have to face this situation ever again.

And now I'll get a chance to grieve before I go into tech for the new show.

Thanks again!


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