Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Chicago Theater Community Suffered for Two of Its Stars Gone

I’m sorry for the loss of Chicago theater community and the whole theater community of USA. The actors Bernie Yvon and the actress Molly Glynn, were struck down in the prime of their stage careers, both the result of accidents. The news collects the mourning from friends and business partners of the passed. 

Here, if you were the manager of the theater that actor or actress worked for, with all the sorrow, what situation would you be in face of? First of all, of course, the incoming musical without major performer. It is said that Yvon was killed on his way to a rehearsal, and the musical had been scheduled to open next week. The musical may be postponed anyway. Secondly, in the future, the theater has to hire a professional and qualified actor to make up for the loss. However, the fact is that there is an identified shortage of profession trained musical theater performers in the field, and it could be hard to find an actor as experienced and cooperative as Yvon. 

What would you do next? For the near future, the best situation is that you have prepared substitute performer, the musical is open on time and because of good marketing and kindness of audience they come to performance in memoriam of their favorite actor.  And the theater has database of qualified actors and well connection with those people, so once the devastating accidence happens, you can find a saviour to put out a fire. 

There is a saying “hope for the best, and prepare for the worst”, the best situation described above occurs only if you prepare for the worst in the daily life.


About yaoge2016

Yaoge Wang is an emerging arts administrator dedicated to arts, culture, and nonprofit sector. With Accounting and Arts Management backgrounds and a special mix of “right brain/left brain” balance, she brings strong analytical skills and judgment as well as creativity to complex problems. She has extensive professional experience in the U.S. and China. She hopes to apply this international perspective to make the arts more visible to the public.

4 comments on “Chicago Theater Community Suffered for Two of Its Stars Gone

  1. benjamendouglas
    September 10, 2014

    Yaoge, Molly was a friend of several friends and even though I didn’t know her, I’ve watched the outpouring of love and shock on my friends’ Facebook pages. I can tell you the first step that was taken was to allow everyone a chance to mourn, and acknowledge the shock. The theaters dimmed their lights a few nights ago in honor of Molly.

    The second thing is that both of these actors were working for very well-respected companies. Not to diminish the loss, but there’s no shortage of good actors in Chicago. Right now, if you want to do movies/tv, you go to LA; Broadway, to NY; and theatre, to Chicago. I would be willing to bet money that both of these actors had understudies, who went on in those roles within a few days.

    We have a saying in show business, “the show must go on.” And it will. It always does.

    • yaoge2016
      September 11, 2014

      The comment is really helpful! The system to guarantee a show works better than I thought. “the show must go on” sounds cruel but reasonable.

  2. dianalfreeberg
    September 12, 2014

    I’m not incredibly familiar with their stage work, but I believe Bernie Yvon was rehearsing a musical when he passed away. Most musicals use something called a “swing”. Similar to an understudy, swings step in when an actor is unable to perform a role. There’s usually a male and female swing for every show, occasionally two of each if the show contains a lot of dancing. What makes a swing different from an understudy is that a male swing will learn every male role in the show, and the same for the female. Since the show he was working on was still in rehearsals I’m sure they will be able to find a replacement.

    “The show must go on” is a harsh statement, but most artists believe in it. Such a tragic event to have happened, but very important to discuss as arts managers.

  3. amyjoforeman
    September 12, 2014

    Thanks for the post, Yogurt! Similar articles flooded my Facebook newsfeed after this happened and, although I was sad, I didn’t even wonder what I would do had I been an involved arts manager.

    Yes, there may have been an understudy or a swing. If there hadn’t you could always hire someone to come in who is already familiar with the role, postpone opening so they have time to learn the role, etc. There are lots of options when an actor is unable to perform – probably a financial burden, but doable.

    However, I can only imagine how things change when an actor dies. As an arts manager how do you manage your personal grief while supporting the fellow actors and your creative team? You can certainly replace a dead actor, but can you afford to replace an entire, emotionally devastated cast? Can you afford to watch them struggle through a role, onstage, in front of an audience? How do we manage to represent the theatre in the best way possible? Because we still have to put the organization first, right?

    This tragedy reminds me of another. I’ll tell what I know b/c I think there’s possibility to learn from it. In a middle-of-nowhere canyon in Texas, a company puts on “Texas!” the musical. It’s a huge, outdoor production w/ 60+ people, live horses, pyrotechnics, stunts, etc. During one performance there was a HUGE storm and the conductor called the show when there were just 12 seconds left. The cast was disgruntled that they didn’t get to finish the last 12 seconds. Later, after a company picnic, a car of 5 was driving home, when they lost control of the car. Four were killed, one injured critically. Heart wrenchingly sad. Although some left early, the majority of the cast decided to finish the last few shows stating they would not be robbed of “the last 12 seconds.” Those four words became a rallying anthem for them. They finished the season losing little to know shows. The management team could only support the cast’s desire to finish the season for their friends.

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