The Counseling Fund is designed to provide early access to mental health and addiction counseling for entertainment technology professionals by assisting with the associated financial burdens.
For individuals seeking to initiate or support ongoing counseling, the funds are issued as a subsidy on a per visit basis giving the grant recipient the flexibility to change providers if they find their initial choice isn’t working well for them and, most importantly, encouraging a longer-term client/therapist relationship. Funds are also available to individuals entering an in-patient or intensive out-patient recovery program or those experiencing an emergency in-patient mental health event.
Behind the Scenes was approached by Karen Sherman with the idea of creating the fund, “I’m a choreographer whose day job is as a stage technician; I’ve worked both sides of the stage for over 20 years. Stage technicians tend to view themselves as invincible, working as they do in a physically demanding, dangerous industry that shuts them away in a darkened theater for days, nights and weekends, and through it all asks them to remain unseen and unheard. While depression, anxiety, and substance abuse occur across every profession, many aspects of the stage production industry reinforce these problems.“
A few years ago, Karen began working on a piece called Soft Goods to highlight this issue. Structured as a live load-in, tech, and rehearsal for a show that never happens, she has developed it in collaboration with an ensemble of technicians and dancers, all of whom appear in the performance in their actual roles. Soft Goods has been co-commissioned by the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), P.S. 122 (NYC), and the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA (Los Angeles).
Karen commented, “Most people think of theaters as places that bring people together but often that’s at the expense of its workers. I’ve lost many colleagues to suicide and alcoholism, including during the making of this very show. In an effort to add to the project a tangible, real-life resource addressing the issue, I approached Behind the Scenes about creating this dedicated fund. I recognize that for anyone who is struggling, the hardest part is admitting they need help and finding resources. But I didn’t want money to be anyone’s final excuse for not following through – especially for freelancers like me who toil in an already impoverished art economy, making financial stability unpredictable. There are many things we can do to improve our industry and make it more survivable. This is one.”