Why are so many actors and theatre staff finding out about the delayed return or cancellation of their shows via social media? Shouldn’t it just be basic good manners that a producer tells those involved with the show first, #dear?— Matthew Lumby (@MatthewLumby)
Social media is for moaning, trolling, showing off, using cringe-worthy hashtags like #actorslife and making announcements that nobody cares about apart from your mummy.
It is not, however, meant to be used by companies to make statements that have a demoralising effect on workers, especially as they have a duty of care.
The problem is that a lot of these media accounts are run by people who don’t consider the whole ‘company’ ethos of a production. These people just sit in offices (or, now, at home) drinking frothy-skinny-triple-shot lattes while quickly releasing caffeinated statements without considering the workers they affect. And it is so hypocritical.
Companies have strict social media policies that prevent performers from making announcements that may be deemed inappropriate. But this ‘inappropriate level’ is entirely ridiculous, and often stops understudies from letting their followers know their show dates. Since when did private social media accounts become the property of the company you work for?
Many of these shows are run by crusty old producers who are stuck in an age when social media didn’t exist, so they don’t understand the consequences of companies like Dear Evan Hansen and The Book of MoreMen finding out about their shows being postponed on Twitter.
Obviously, it is only common courtesy that people get to know before the general public. But it just goes back to the hierarchy of theatre – the actors, stage management and other workers are often the last to be considered – and now it seems that the fans are more important than the people actually appearing in shows.
Social media can be damaging. Fact. We’ve all seen it. When people have tweeted things indiscreetly that have been hurtful (avoid drinking 14 pints and then tweeting, dear), or tweeted opinions that have then affected their careers. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are now very important platforms that advertise the business you belong to.
Crucially, there need to be social media guidelines that companies have to follow just like performers and other theatre workers do.
The companies that are guilty of tweeting out this show postponement information should apologise publicly. There is no excuse for it. A simple email to the people involved or a call to agents beforehand would have saved all this anger.
Maybe in the future, actors should tweet that they won’t be performing that night before letting the company manager know? It’s the same thing, isn’t it? (It would infuriate me if they did that in one of my shows, dear).
Coming out of a pandemic, and one that is still hugely affecting our industry, we must look after our own more than ever. Certainly, tweeting about the cancellation of shows is doing the opposite and could be a big factor in people’s mental health. We all need to be kind to each other – in real life and online – now more than ever, dear.
Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer