Stage managers could be offered training to support harassed company members
Stage managers could be given dedicated training on dealing with workplace harassment and bullying in efforts to better support the well-being of theatre professionals, Equity’s Annual Representative Conference has decided.
The move is intended to offer more support to people who experience harassment and bullying at work, as well as ensuring that company and stage managers – who are often an individual’s first port of call if they have a complaint – are equipped to handle this in a way that is not detrimental to their own mental health.
A motion at the ARC, which was passed unanimously, asked Equity’s council to investigate the possibility of providing training with a counselling perspective for stage management and company managers around harassment, sexual harassment and bullying.
Proposer Matt Parsons-David, from the West End Deputies’ Committee, said it was aimed at informing and protecting company and stage managers but that it was not intended for them to take on sole responsibility for colleagues’ mental health.
“We are absolutely not suggesting that stage management become totally responsible for the mental health and well-being of the company but that they have the right and opportunity to receive training and be able to appropriately deal with situations that frequently arise in the theatre workplace around bullying, harassment, sexism or any form of discrimination,” Parsons-David said.
He said he was aware of company managers who had left shows because of the “high pressure and personal distress” they experienced after feeling unable to support colleagues who had come to them with complaints.
“This is not only for the company members who need it but also to protect the members of stage management to whom companies are already turning.
“There is so much entertainment, film, TV and theatre currently being created that discusses mental health and we as a generation are beginning to shine a light brighter than ever on these issues. Stigmas are being broken. In the fall-out from the Weinstein scandal, our entire industry has been forced to reassess,” he said.
He added: “People are now being encouraged, more than ever, to speak out on harassment and their mental health. It is of utmost importance that we create the safest places in our theatres so people will continue to do so.”
Equity Greater Manchester and Region General Branch’s Jamie Byron, who is also a company manager, said such training would mean support could be provided from within the industry rather than sending people to external helplines and sources.