Author Topic: PEOPLE: What to do with an actor behaving badly?  (Read 4984 times)

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Deirdre Benson

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PEOPLE: What to do with an actor behaving badly?
« on: Jan 09, 2008, 04:00 pm »
I was hoping someone would have some advice for me.

I'm currently Stage Managing a small cast show that includes one Equity Actor with us under a Special Appearance contract.  I am not an Equity member, I have no contacts at the union and my only experience with them is working with actors under Special Appearance repeatedly.

The actor in question has been between 5 and 15 minutes late to every rehearsal and when he arrived at last night's rehearsal he had obviously been drinking.  

I'm planning to discuss with him how unacceptable that is, but I wondered if there is some reporting process to the Union to make sure this is documented?  Also, we open in a week and he knows we can't easily replace him, so I'm hoping there is some process I can initiate to get him to shape up.

Any thoughts or suggestions would be appreciated.
« Last Edit: Jun 09, 2009, 01:36 am by PSMKay »


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Re: What to do with an actor behaving badly?
« Reply #1 on: Jan 09, 2008, 08:33 pm »
when he arrived at last night's rehearsal he had obviously been drinking.
I can't find anything specific in the special appearance agreement about being incapacitated.
But that may qualify as just cause.

Forgive me if I cite wrong, but I believe rule 59, section D of the Transition rulebook has the definition(s) of just cause.
Rule 55, section I subsections 1-8 defines lateness, proper documentation and penalties.
Transition Contract Rulebook 07-10
(not a direct link because I can't get to my server)

Also, drunk people are a liability to the building's owner(s).
In theory insurance policies can be revoked if a complaint is registered with the insurer by say a disgruntled employee.
As we all know, no insurance equals no show.
Philip LaDue
Shore Production Group LLC
IATSE Local #21 Newark, NJ


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Re: What to do with an actor behaving badly?
« Reply #2 on: Jan 10, 2008, 02:19 pm »
Sorry to hear you're in this situation, it is never easy.
But - that being said, your conversation can be.

I would start by reminding the actor that he is setting an example to the rest of the cast what it means to be a Union Actor, something many of them (including yourself) may aspire to be. His behavior and demeanor are being watched and emulated by many of the cast and you wouldn't want for him to get tripped up or acquire a bad rep for such a silly thing as lateness. A little kissing up goes a long way...

As to the drinking, well... Many people can have a glass of wine or a beer at dinner and be perfectly fine. So do be careful how you approach him. But definitely do say something. Casually at first but let him know that alcohol on his breath is setting a very poor example and intoxication will not be tolerated by management. That includes yourself and your producer.
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Re: What to do with an actor behaving badly?
« Reply #3 on: Jan 10, 2008, 06:12 pm »
What VSM said.

Always best to go the individual first in a non-confrontational manner - no need (yet) to call them on the carpet or have others in the Company see / be aware this chat is happening. Hopefully this will resolve the issue with this.

That being said -

If the Artist is on a Guest Artist Contract, then they (as well as the Management) have contractual obligations they must follow and meet. While I don't know the AEA Guest Artist Agreement off hand, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it may be vague upon Duties and Obligations of the Artist - but as an AEA member, certain professional expectations are implied, and that includes arriving for Calls on time and not being impaired (again, as VSM said, is it a beer with lunch or is it significantly more?).

Document your chat with the Artist 'for the files'. I'd also advise management that you've had some concerns and you have attempted to resolve them informally. If your concerns are not resolved at the time or there is backsliding, then I think its is perfectly fair to further involve the Management and, even if not an Equity Company, call Equity and pose the problem to them and ask what is the procedure to follow.

This may result in a little 'heart to heart' between Management, Equity and the Artist as contractual obligations are reinforced  (and perhaps a little tenseness in rehearsal or the Green Room), but doing a production isn't about 'covering' for an errant Artist, to the detriment of others or the production.

Just my 2
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Re: What to do with an actor behaving badly?
« Reply #4 on: Jan 11, 2008, 08:03 pm »
To explain how to deal with this situation, depends a lot on how you have managed this person up to this point.  It's all about your personal management style.

You say this person has been 5 to 15 minutes to every call - has this been noted in the report?  have you spoken to them about it?  have you notified management above you about this situation?  is your director pissed off about this - or is he the kind that doesn't mind someone arriving late.

As far as having booze on the breath . . . well, I have encounter actors who have NEVER performed sober, or at least without a quick drink before the show.  As long as it is safe, it's hard to make a big stink about it unless there is something either in the contract or the theater's posted policies.

In the end, actors, like most employees, crave very specific boundaries - if you let an actor slide in late over and over, they are going to make a bad habit of it.  Why not?  No one seems to notice, no one seems to care, there is no repercussion.  Why not have a drink or too before the show, the SM doesn't seem to mind bad behavior?  Why not change blocking?  It can just keep escalating. 

Anyone in this business long enough will start to develop their own style in how to deal with things.  I usually handle my cast with a light touch - I am jokey, I am not a total dictator, but I like people to know I run as tight a ship as I can - if an actor is a couple of minutes late, and we were holding for some other reason - then I am not going to make a big deal.  If an actor is late and we are holding on him, I usually make a big deal asking if they alright, and say that mostly we were just worried about them - or, take a light jokey attitude like "12:00n or 12:05 - really, just show up around the call" - usually they get the message right away - they are being watched.

On the the second time, I will probably speak to them at the end of rehearsal, seeing what the root of the problem is - but treating it a lit more serious.  (Is it transportation issues?  Family issues?  Whatever.  You can learn a lot by a quick little heart to heart at the end of the day.)

On the third time, and rarely does it get to this point, I am handing them a written letter, and notifying upper management.  Look, I was nice, I was stern and then I cutting to the point that this crap needs to be dealt with.  (Usually upper management will chose to cc correspondence to the agent as well.)  Usually step one works, but step two solves most tardiness issues.  Rarely I am at level three.

Now as far as the drinking - was it once?  Did it effect his work?  Unless the director or upper management wanted me to step in on this issue, I would steer clear of it.  Like I said, many actors have a casual relationship with booze.  If this becomes a more serious issue, then it should be dealt with by upper management.  Remember, you have to keep a working relationship with this actor for the run of the show - you could easily step into some awkward personal issues when dealing with booze and actors - and quite frankly, I think it's best to have stage managers dealing with issues that are might best left to professional psychologists.

Now it may sound like I avoiding the drinking issue, but I have dealt with this on MANY occasions and with little success.  Often, the only time is to get upper management involved so they realize the professional consequences of the drinking.

Best of luck - but know that dealing with this issues are truly the core of stage management - typing a daily call, teching a show, calling a performance tend to be the easier parts of job - but the day to day management of the humans we work is the heart and soul of our job, and can easily separate the good ones from the bad ones.

- Matthew

« Last Edit: Jan 11, 2008, 08:07 pm by MatthewShiner »
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