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Bullying within programs

afterp89afterp89 378 replies2 threads Member
With the recent suicide of a longtime member of the cast of Chicago (http://www.onstageblog.com/editorals/2018/7/10/issues-at-broadways-chicago-all-too-familiar-when-it-comes-to-bullying-in-theatre) and in reading the varied ways in which different programs treat the actors at auditions, I'm wondering if there are certain programs with reputations for going too far with personal attacks or gaslighting of participants in their BFA programs or productions? It is really sad to me that some still would find this an acceptable way to treat people or that any of our kids would think it's just the way it is and they need to toughen up if they're going to make it.
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Replies to: Bullying within programs

  • CaMom13CaMom13 1909 replies13 threads Senior Member
    Wow - thought-provoking topic. I don't know if people would be willing to call out MT programs or teachers here for the same reason people aren't willing to call out abusive directors while employed - they may have to work with them again and it puts you at odds with the many apologists for abuse who work in the field.

    For acting and voice I have heard Julliard called out several times for the extreme negativity and stress put on student by teachers but Julliard's an easy target - people are going to keep coming there even if they are badly treated and their students continue to excel after graduation. So that seems to echo the message of the article - when you're in power they'll "let you do anything". On the other hand I know / have talked to students at the top-ranked MT programs (CMU and U-Mich) and they haven't expressed bullying or abuse as an issue, on the contrary it seems like those programs create kind of a safe space for their artists.

    From what I see it boils down to whether the program wants to teach you to compete to be "the best" at all costs.

    I think our kids need to be aware of the issue. I think they need to be prepared to either accept or combat abuse and understand the ramifications. I do think/hope that the increased recognition of the wide-spread and toxic nature of sexual harrassment has elevated everyone's understanding that to combat abuse you must speak up. Everyone has to or it won't stop. The fact that this woman's lawyer said "You just have to let him bully you until he’s done bullying you. ". Huh? That strikes me as the kind of things said to justify Harvey Weinstein's casting couch approach to producing - and look where he is now. I also think we as parents of artists need to teach them to put their mental health ahead of their careers by telling them that we care more that they stay sane than that they stay employed.
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  • afterp89afterp89 378 replies2 threads Member
    @CaMom13 thank you. My fear is people will be too afraid to talk about. I think part of it will be to go on instinct. When visiting Juliard with our D she definitely felt put off by the vibe there - but I'm sure for others the intensity works well. Schools are notorious for sweeping things away and handling them "administratively" where parents cannot find the truth - not just with performing arts, but in athletics and the general student population as well. Sexual assault is at the forefront and seems to be getting the most attention right now (and it should), but bullying is a threat as well that still is not getting enough attention.

    To illustrate the "administrative action" approach at schools, one professor at Central Connecticut State had sexual assault complaints going back years before they just suspended him http://centralrecorder.com/2018/04/09/multiple-women-accuse-theater-professor-of-sexual-misconduct.

    Honestly, in cases like this, anecdotes from past participants seem like the best source of information - but even then some are reluctant because they don't want to hurt the reputation of their alma mater. As a sports fan with a S who is finishing up college I'm aware of many athletic departments that have had issues, but I'm still in the dark for the most part where it comes to theatre departments with less than stellar reputations.

    Maybe a better approach would be to ask what are those schools best known for having faculty that is most supportive and nurturing of young artists and uses mistakes as a teaching and learning point.
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  • beachymombeachymom 239 replies44 threads Junior Member
    "No job or role is ever worth a piece of your soul."
    This was quoted to my son by one of his high school theatre directors. And it rings true across the board - don't condone/accept/reply in silence when faced personally, or "proximally", to abuse.
    I think it is fair to ask about school environments and their commitment to wholeness and wellness within the program's student body, although responses will likely be a mixed bag. Reflection and sound-boarding after your child tours or audition can be a huge help. What was their "feeling" about the experience, professors, and current students? Also ask about support networks in the major - do they offer classes in stress management and self-care? Do they have mentor or big bro/big sis programs with alumni and upperclassmen?
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  • CaMom13CaMom13 1909 replies13 threads Senior Member
    edited July 2018
    Well my D *did* ask her program at the admitted students about how student stress and mental health care was handled at the school. The student group laughed a little but the school rep was happy to answer. My D doesn't have any history of mental health issues but she knows people who do and she's heard that stress and a lack of concern for the students psyche are some of the issues with joining a competitive performing arts program. That concern totally did not come from me - because I know nothing about these programs - but I'm glad she felt empowered and concerned enough to bring it up. The answer from the school was solid enough but again - you don't really know until you're there.
    edited July 2018
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  • artskidsartskids 1528 replies22 threads Senior Member
    Texas State and Penn State (probably more - these are the two that really advertise!) both incorporate mental health care into their programs. They want to treat and care for the whole person and these programs are incredibly stressful for young adults.
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  • boxerdogmomboxerdogmom 19 replies1 threads Junior Member
    I really like hearing what programs are supportive especially since it is understandable why some might not want to say negative things about a specific program. @artskids mentioned Texas State and Penn State incorporate mental health. Are there other schools out there who consistently care for their students more holistically? I am a college professor myself and I think this is such an important part of my job. Thanks!
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  • MTSongbirdMomMTSongbirdMom 162 replies0 threads Junior Member
    @IfYouOnlyKnew you are so right about the fact that bullies often target a few they see as easy targets and so there are often not many to file complaints and just as many that will sing the person's praises. My D (and others) have faced bullying from a high school teacher the past two years. And while she, as well as a few other students, have talked to administration about it, there are many more who sing his praises. Still others don't want to say anything because they fear retaliation. So the administration doesn't feel it can do anything. As a result my D has made the difficult choice to not take one of her favorite subjects as a senior because she feels it is not worth dealing with this person. She has definitely factored in her experiences into selecting schools that she thinks will be a good fit.

    I love the idea of training and caring for the whole person including addressing mental health. College can be stressful enough as young adults transition into adulthood. So Brava to those programs.
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  • beachymombeachymom 239 replies44 threads Junior Member
    Programs that seem to have a wellness/ mental health focus or a very obvious support system in place - UMich, TxSt, BoCo, Wright St and Shenandoah.
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  • beachymombeachymom 239 replies44 threads Junior Member
    @boxerdogmom and @MTSongbirdMom ^ this info might be helpful
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  • afterp89afterp89 378 replies2 threads Member
    Thank you this is helpful. I hope others will continue highlighting their experiences.
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  • Notmath1Notmath1 575 replies36 threads Member
    I was just going to say that more programs need to have this. Kudos for those who do.
    "I love the idea of training and caring for the whole person including addressing mental health. College can be stressful enough as young adults transition into adulthood. So Brava to those programs."
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  • uskoolfishuskoolfish 2906 replies50 threads Senior Member
    I think that one thing that performers need to address is that often directors or professors will expect them to dig deep within themselves to find the emotions to sing a song or act a scene. So often there is encouragement to find raw feelings and to go back to situations or relationships that are emotionally devastating in order to find motivation.

    This is not seen as abusive, but part of the process of acting. But at what point does it go too far for some students?

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  • beachymombeachymom 239 replies44 threads Junior Member
    @uskoolfish I agree wholeheartedly, and would even go out on a limb to say that professional performers must be able to dig deep and connect with all emotions, even the difficult ones. I don't see that as bullying at all, although the process undertaken should be done with care. I do wish that all programs incorporated some sort of class that taught how to disconnect from your character/role/text when needed.
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  • actorparent1actorparent1 774 replies6 threads Member
    edited July 2018
    It depends what acting technique is being taught. For example, in Meisner, you generate emotion by imagining "as ifs" - fictional scenarios. So you're not reliving painful memories that ACTUALLY happened. I wouod guess that imagining fictional situations is probably less dangerous in terms of mental health than reliving real-life traumas.
    edited July 2018
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  • dramamamaCCdramamamaCC 52 replies0 threads Junior Member
    My daughter is starting at NYU in a few weeks and I wanted to share that the Student Health/Wellness Center seems to be a good support so far. In her wellness survey, she discussed her history of anxiety/depression and has already had a counselor reach out to set up an appointment when she gets there so she will have someone to go to if she has any issues, which makes both of us feel better. I don't expect her to have any sort of crisis (outside the normal freshman stress) but it's nice to know that she will already have the option set up as classes begin.
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  • mylovesmyloves 827 replies25 threads Member
    edited August 2018
    UArts is incredible in this area. When my D was going through the audition process 5 years ago (!), she was deliberately seeking a place with great support along with high quality professional training. She could handle toughness out in the “professional world,” but she wanted her “home base” to be nurturing as well as professional and to be concerned about the whole person. She definitely found this in UArts. I continue to be blown away by the individual attention and care that the faculty and administration show towards the students, and that filters down to the way students treat each other. Honestly, they have set the bar high for colleges for my other 3, younger, kids!

    My D put a lot of deliberate thought into her list, both with the aforementioned requirement and the type of training being the priorities for her. She did not pay attention to “top schools;” if their reputation of care did not match her desires, she did not apply. Thus, many “top schools” did not make the list. Stand-outs from her list that stood out for us in this area were UArts (obviously), Shenandoah, Wright State, UAB, and Illinois Wesleyan.
    edited August 2018
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  • beachymombeachymom 239 replies44 threads Junior Member
    The support offered at my kid's program appears to be solid and earnest, although he is only a freshman; therefore, our opinion is based upon what current families/students/faculty have told us and what he's experienced in a short amount of time. I can heartily agree with 2 of the recommendations above, as well - Wright St and ShenCo. Texas State has just released it's wellness program to other universities, so I think many will now pay even heavier attention to this healthy trend!
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  • NJNYvtNJNYvt 64 replies4 threads Junior Member
    I hesitate to bring this up because I imagine it’s a can of worms if true, but it’s important for my kid to have more info before we spend the money applying. We’ve heard rumors about bullying problems with the MT-connected sorority at Michigan. Can anyone speak to this?
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