Author Topic: PROFESSIONALISM: marijuana and theatre  (Read 9933 times)

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oso_te_great

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PROFESSIONALISM: marijuana and theatre
« on: Jan 13, 2007, 03:52 am »
I am currently working backstage (running crew) at a production.  Recently I noticed that the Deck Manager was a little bit high, making more jokes than he usually does, laughing obcenely loud over headset, and just constantly fooling around during the show.  It did not affect him doing his job (from what I saw, though it could have), but I was concerned.  When I asked him about it, he just said that he was happy (the matinee was cancelled), and then proceeded to tell me it was his job (over and over again).  Assuming that one should never show up under the influence, what are some ways that marijuana use could affect any aspect of technical theatre?

Thanks in advance

-M
« Last Edit: Jun 09, 2009, 12:07 am by PSMKay »
Malcolm Foster
Seattle Academy Class of 2007
University of Montana Class of 2011

kiwitechgirl

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #1 on: Jan 13, 2007, 06:30 am »
I don't smoke marijuana, so I'm not speaking from personal experience here, but rather from being around others who have smoked it and seeing what happens when they do.  From what I've seen, marijuana tends to make people more "mellow", and with this comes slower reactions.  This is what scares me about the idea of someone showing up to work stoned; the possibility of things going wrong immediately takes a huge jump.  If you've got a stoned LX operator, then all that might happen is that some of your cues might look a bit strange if they come up or go down later than they should, but if you've got a stoned people-flying operator or flyman, then the possibility of injury immediately becomes much higher.  The one that really freaks me is the idea of a stoned stage electrician who is firing pyros.  With reaction times slowed, chances are the pyro is going to fire later than it should, and therefore the possibility of an actor moving to within range of that pyro is greater.  Also, their judgement as to whether an actor is far enough away from the pyro to allow firing is likely to be influenced.  I've had to deal with a slightly drunk DSM when I was firing pyros myself; her calls were getting very sloppy and not what I considered to be safe, so several pyros were not fired that night; I simply couldn't take the risk.  I could have fired them when I knew they had to be fired, and when I could see that it was safe, but even with a drunk DSM I was not going to override her authority.  (And before anyone asks why she was still allowed to continue calling the show, well, we didn't realise quite how drunk she was until after the show - she hadn't been well anyway, and so we just thought that her concentration was not the best.  Plus I think she'd been quietly having a couple of drinks in prompt corner, hidden from where we could see her).

ReyYaySM

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #2 on: Jan 13, 2007, 07:51 pm »
Showing up to work under the influence at the theatre that I work at is grounds for immediate dismissal.  If I were to suspect that someone is high and have reason to believe that the person will be unable to perform his/her crew duties for the performance, I am to call the production manager, who will come in to handle the situation and arrange for someone else (usually an intern) to come in and run crew for the performance.  I have never (knock on wood) been in this situation, but this is the understood game plan. 

LiLz

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #3 on: Jan 13, 2007, 08:40 pm »
I'd be very worried in any situation where I felt that a crew member's reaction time or focus might be impaired, both for the sake of the show and for safety reasons.  In your case it's pot but I've had to talk to  crew because of cold medicine as well.  I had a member of a running crew show up high on ecstacy once ... needless to say he was dismissed, but the show was complicated and we had very little time to figure out how to cover him during scene changes.  Our job, as stage managers, is to protect the show.  If you have someone speaking too loudly over his headset or joking around too much backstage, he might cause missed cues or might not be paying attention should a potentially dangerous situation occur.  I agree that there may be cause for concern.  Good luck!

Mac Calder

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #4 on: Jan 14, 2007, 05:14 am »
I have a zero tollerance policy with drugs - most theatres I know also have one, as do most companies.

What seems to happen though, is that management tend to take the "We are in the middle of a run and will not be able to get an adequate replacement, just slap them on the wrist and they will be good" approach, as opposed to the "You are in violation of your contract, the door is to your left, please allow the stage manager to escort you from the building, your services are no longer required" stance.

HOWEVER - if ever you are worried that a crew/cast member is a danger to anybody, it is your responsibility to make sure the show does not open with them involved. That is not just a drug thing though, that is just a general rule in my books.

smsam

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #5 on: Jan 14, 2007, 05:56 am »
Yep, unfortunetely I've had the misfortune of having to deal with crew turning up under the influence. One time I particularly remember was when I was the Lighting Designer for a Musical Variety Performance playing in a big theatre. There was a 2pm call the day after we opened to do a few focus notes and the theatre's Chief LX turned up completely smashed - he stank of whiskey and couldn't walk in a straight line. As he was a friend/ colleague I didn't want to report him immediately and thought if I could just get him to go and sit quietly in the crew room until the show where all he'd have to do if op the desk, he wasn't having any of it though and said that he was fine to go and focus FOH. He started getting harnessed up and I had to do something so I radioed the theatre manager who came down immediately. She breatalised him and he was something like 3 times over the legal limit for driving! He was escorted from the premises (unfortunately he didn't go quietly and stage door had to remove him) and was formally suspended until a hearing. It left the show without a Chief Electrician and a friend without a job but I know it was the right thing to do. If I hadn't taken action then he would have definitely caused harm to himself and probably others too.

Sam x
Sam x

megf

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #6 on: Jan 14, 2007, 10:05 am »
Oso_te_great - correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you may be talking about high school/youth theatre. Is this the case? If so, then your responsibility as a student would be to speak - privately, calmly, etc. - to the adult in charge about your concerns. If this adult happens to be the person who worries you, go over their head, in the calmest and least tattle-ish way you can, and let the next highest person know what you see.

oso_te_great

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #7 on: Jan 15, 2007, 02:47 am »
Meg, no it is not highschool theatre, which is some of the part that scares me.  I am resting on the fact that the dm has no chance to get high, and that come the next show we will be co workers, and I can keep him in check.  If I felt that at any time the DM was putting himself, anyone around him, or the show in any sort of danger I would have spoken to the production manager about him.
Malcolm Foster
Seattle Academy Class of 2007
University of Montana Class of 2011

angelofmusic1781

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #8 on: Jan 15, 2007, 07:52 pm »
There is no place for drugs in the theatre.  If there is an accident it opens up the theatre to law suits.   

Jessie_K

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #9 on: Jan 15, 2007, 08:57 pm »
There is no place for drugs in the theatre.  If there is an accident it opens up the theatre to law suits.   

There is a place.

It's called the cast party.

Do what you want on your own time.  Whether it be drinking, drugs or whatever.  But leave it all at the door when you come to work.  No matter what your job is.

denisezeiler

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #10 on: Jan 15, 2007, 09:06 pm »
Persons under the influence of marijuana usually experience impared reactions and abilties. This could be incredibly devastating for the safety of the actors and crew and audience.

Mac Calder

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #11 on: Jan 15, 2007, 09:50 pm »
There is no place for drugs in the theatre.  If there is an accident it opens up the theatre to law suits.   

There is a place.

It's called the cast party.

Even that is a tad dodgey - especially if it is an actual company event (ie formalised and not organised on the side). I know in AU that an employer is responsible for ensuring the safety of all employees whilst at a company function or do (that includes the trip home - so if drunk, it is the employers responsibility to ensure they take a taxi home, and to pay for it). The standard response from management seems to be "Officially, we are not organising anything, although So-and-So is throwing a party on Closing night and I believe they have invited everyone... maybe you should ask them for details."

Jessie_K

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #12 on: Jan 15, 2007, 10:20 pm »
There is no place for drugs in the theatre.  If there is an accident it opens up the theatre to law suits.   

There is a place.

It's called the cast party.

Even that is a tad dodgey - especially if it is an actual company event (ie formalised and not organised on the side). I know in AU that an employer is responsible for ensuring the safety of all employees whilst at a company function or do (that includes the trip home - so if drunk, it is the employers responsibility to ensure they take a taxi home, and to pay for it). The standard response from management seems to be "Officially, we are not organising anything, although So-and-So is throwing a party on Closing night and I believe they have invited everyone... maybe you should ask them for details."

Mac, you are missing my point.

My point is that what you do extra-curricularly is your business.  What you do on my time is my business.

If you want to snort coke off the bare belly of a russian hoker everynight but you still come to work ready willing and able to perform your tasks, great.  If you need that to unwind, fine.

If it bleeds into your ability to do your job, then we have a problem.

Scott

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Re: marijuana and theatre (I dont know where to put this)
« Reply #13 on: Jan 16, 2007, 07:03 am »
My point is that what you do extra-curricularly is your business. 

That's the way it works in my city, too.


ljh007

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Re: marijuana and theatre
« Reply #14 on: Jan 19, 2007, 05:48 pm »
No drugs in the theatre. Period.
I totally agree that what you do in your own time is your own business.

But be it booze, pot, coke, or anything more colorful, it will affect your work performance and the safety of your colleagues. And the important word here is SAFETY. Coke will not help make a load-out go faster. Pot will not make the sound board operator come up with a brilliant new mix. The alcoholic choreographer is not more graceful when her iced tea is heavily laced with vodka. Drugs [in the workplace] are bad, m'kay?

I have been in many student, community, and professional theatres where this issue has come up. While always being clear that I will not tolerate drug use, possession, or intoxication in the workplace, I do not kick and scream about it in general. (Sort of how when parents kick and scream the kid only gets more curious about drugs and other mischief...) If someone is identifiably under the influence, they are fired. If I smell something fishy, I grab the TD and/or house SM if it regards crew (who usually knows exactly what's going on, whether or not s/he is involved), or the director or Artistic Director if it's the cast, and request that the smell be erased and all crew informed that drug use or possession in the workplace will result in immediate termination. Be professional. Draw the hard line. And you'll be respected for it because you're keeping everyone SAFE.

A true story form a professional IATSE house... most of the crew were out in the theatre alley smoking a joint at intermission. The cops came and arrested them. When we came back from intermission, we didn't have enough crew to make the scene changes in Act II. Besides **SAFETY**, this is one example how drugs can wreak havoc on your theatre.

If you need to know more about how to identify people who might be under the influence (because you'd better be 150%+ sure before you fire them), check out www.erowid.org, where you'll find encyclopedic listings of effects, behavior, tolerance, smell/taste, and all sorts of other things about nearly every drug ever, complete with personal experience posts that can be informative, amusing, and sometimes downright scary. And if you do need to dismiss someone while they're under the influence, be sure to have some big guys around, and let them know what's about to happen (but don't be unnecessarily intimidating, just make sure they're in the room). Usually, it will pass without incident. But sometimes, people on drugs can get very angry and strong and scary when you do things like fire them.
« Last Edit: Jan 20, 2007, 09:52 am by ljh007 »

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