Shocking claims of sexual harassment in the theatre world have made us all rethink our attitudes to how we conduct ourselves with our colleagues. What are your rights? Sally Clark asked Chloe Dallimore, President of Equity – the performers' division of the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance.
Chloe Dallimore is a leading triple threat performer with many outstanding performances and many awards to her name. She is committed to using her extensive experience in musical theatre to make certain the younger membership work under better workplace conditions.
Q In light of recent revelations and allegations against Harvey Weinstein and other prominent people in the performing arts industry, how can artists working in theatre, film or television in Australia best equip themselves to fully know their rights around the workplace issues of sexual harassment, bullying and feeling unsafe or compromised?
Every workplace and training institution should have codes of conduct surrounding expected behaviour in the workplace. Equity is working with theatre companies and Live Performance Australia to help employers update and revise their current Codes of Conduct. If you are unsure of your workplace’s Code of Conduct, go to your company manager or stage manager who will be able to guide you further. No one should ever feel unsafe in their workplace. If you don’t feel you are getting the answers and/or support you need to do your job safely, you can call MEAA for free and confidential advice.
Q What industry parameters exist to guide you, and most especially protect you, when it’s insisted that your own standards be challenged for the sake of creating “art”? Is there a standard “code of conduct” applied to performing arts? And if so, how and why does it differ from rules that might apply if you worked in a bank? And when it’s been breached, what is the way to seek a resolution?
Our industry and therefore our workplace is unique. No other workplace is like it. We have to physically, emotionally and mentally challenge ourselves in order to create. How do we keep our workplace creative, inspiring and fun, get the job done, but also keep everyone physically, emotionally and mentally safe?
In light of the Equity Survey results in Sexual Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace (a survey completed by 1500 respondents in mid-2016 where 40% claimed to have experienced sexual harassment, bullying or another form of misconduct), our industry employers have acknowledged that we have to work together as an industry and assess how we can achieve this safety for ALL workers. This is not just about performers. This is not just about women. Equity has received reports of harassment and bullying from every sector of our live performance industry, from men, women and LGBTQI.
If you feel at risk in the live performance workplace, the most obvious person to reach out to is your stage manager. The stage manager will most likely take your report to the company manager and it should be attended to by upper management from there. No report should go unacknowledged or undocumented. From our survey, it seems that a big obstacle to resolution is is that the report is not dealt with in an appropriate manner, sometimes making the scenario worse, or the report is not dealt with at all.
Q Can the industry make any changes in its current provisions, or are they already adequate?
There is so much we can do better, and employers and also training institutions have already been reaching out to Equity because they want to do this better.
Q It has been said that, “Backstage culture can be lewd”. Who is responsible for setting the tone of how artists treat each other backstage?
We ALL have to be accountable and we all have to be part of the change for the better moving forwards. We all have to feel we can be honest when we don’t feel safe and not be ridiculed or disregarded. And if we witness what we think is harassment or bullying, we need to not just be observers, but feel safe in “calling out” such behaviour.
Q What are the rules around nudity? And appropriate costuming?
Nudity is something that is usually dealt with at the time of negotiating the contract, and is up to the individual. Any production involving nudity is required to state this “up front”. The performer has the right to not audition for or not accept that role.
Costuming is a trickier scenario and something I want to talk about further as we move forwards. Costumes are created and designed by a contracted and usually highly trained costume designer. The artist usually doesn’t have any input into the costume. The head of wardrobe is usually the one present at all costume fittings, so if you didn’t feel comfortable with what you were trying on, I would suggest letting the head of wardrobe know at the fitting. This then gives time for discussion and resolution.
Q If you don’t have an agent, how would you best proceed?
Call Equity! We can help with any of these points. There is very little that Equity can’t help with, so if in doubt, pick up the phone and give us a call 1300 656 513!
A longer version of this article, with bonus content, will be appearing in the April/May 2018 edition of Dance Australia, out late March. Don't miss out! Look out for the issue at your favourite magazine retailer or purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app or subscribe here.