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Behind the Scenes News

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The Behind the Scenes Counseling Fund to Aid Industry Professionals Fighting Depression and Addiction
November 28, 2016

Behind the Scenes announces the creation of a new granting program, the BTS Counseling Fund, which is designed to provide early access to mental health and addiction counseling for entertainment technology professionals by assisting with the associated financial burdens. Behind the Scenes was approached earlier this year 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). The Walker, where Soft Goods premieres December 8-10, will be donating a portion of the proceeds from each ticket sale to seed the fund.

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.”

After an initial period of fundraising, Behind the Scenes will begin accepting applications for grants from the fund. For individuals seeking to initiate or support ongoing counseling, the funds will be 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 will also be available to individuals entering an in-patient or intensive out-patient recovery program or those experiencing an emergency in-patient mental health event.

Rick Rudolph, Chair of Behind the Scenes, commented, “Our Board quickly embraced Karen’s idea, clearly recognizing the need she identified. We have worked to develop grant guidelines and create a streamlined process to allow applicants to gain access to counseling as quickly as possible. We applaud Karen for taking action to bring this long-time industry problem into the light and for seeking a concrete way in which to assist our colleagues suffering from depression and chemical dependency. We are honored to join her in this mission.”

Performances of Soft Goods will take place in New York and Los Angeles in 2017 and will be announced on Karen Sherman’s website at www.karenshermanperformance.org and the Behind the Scenes website at www.behindthescenescharity.org.

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