Off stage harassment, violence remains mostly unregulated in theater

Image of Page 1 of today's New York Times with a theater story about sexual harassment and violence in the offstage theater community.
Page 1 of today’s New York Times with a theater story about sexual harassment and violence in the offstage theater community.

The Page 1 editors of the NYTimes never cease to amaze me with enlightened choices. Most newspapers, no matter the content, would publish a theater story on the entertainment pages. Actors pushing against sexual harassment and violence in the theater is above the fold today in a story by Patrick Healy, a NYT reporter who covers the business aspect of show business very well.

The editors’ choice for the lede photo on Page 1 is of a rodeo rider, teasing to the Sports cover and story about how rodeo and ranching is one family’s past and, hopefully, its future.

But back to show biz.

Anybody who has been involved in theater know the romance and drama is not just confined to the stage. That’s true from high school and college plays to community groups through to professional companies. Some companies are better than others and not every show has issues. But enough do that some actors are speaking up for guidelines beyond what Actors’ Equity includes in its existing policies.

Healy reports that actors Glenn Close, Sutton Foster and Donna Murphy said they never experienced harassment. But younger actors in they 20s and 30s have less tolerance for licentious than performers who came of age in, say, the 1970s with womanizing directors such as Bob Fosse.

Marin Ireland, who came to work one day with a black eye from her off stage partner and co-star, is lobbying for changes. Among them, why do women have to undress during an audition when it has nothing to do with the job.

And what do you do when you work in a business without an HR department when a problem arises and your stage manager is untrained or unwilling to help?

Personally, I was running props backstage during a college production. An actor exited a scene and punched me full force in the stomach because he was unhappy with his performance. It hurt, a lot. Nobody else witnessed it. The actor pretended nothing happened after that. I was 18. I did nothing.

Read the complete NYTimes story here.