Fascinating. My first reaction is "how could and actor even think of doing such a thing" but there's a lot more to it.
Did the theater that was hiring the bailer know that he would be bailing on a show that would suffer greatly from his absence? If so, did they care?
Did he try to get accommodation? Or did he say nothing for fear of losing out?
Not making judgements; there's just a dimension missing from the story.
Performers in the art world no different than any other person who works for a living. Even for those starting out to learn the craft by working for a stipend or even nothing at all in order to gain experience so as to progress. Just like in the business world the arts world can be very ruthless where ethics are meaningless. Yes, an actor can bail but an actor can also be suddenly replaced when a more marketable actor with a greater box office draw comes along. It's unfortunate but it"s a dog eat dog world.
This article is frustrating, because it conflates a lot of different circumstances as if they were all equivalent. Dropping out of a show before rehearsals, or early in the rehearsal process, is entirely different than dropping out of a show that's in performance. I've had the latter happen to me as a director/producer, and it really sucks. Dropping out before things start, that's not only okay, it's respectful -- I'd much rather have an actor who didn't want to be in a show drop out at a point where I can pursue other options. But dropping out during the run of a show, that's a shitty thing to do.

The theaters we're talking about are usually losing money on every production until closing weekend. An actor bailing on a show in performance to take a bigger paycheck is putting his/her ambition above the well-being of the theater and above the artistic efforts of everyone else involved in the production (director, actors, designers, as well as the audience members who'd bought tickets).

Actors can do this -- no one in this situation has the money to sue anyone for breach of contract, and who wants to spend a chunk of their lives in court -- but I'm really astounded by actors who want to be free to do this but don't want to be called out about it. Who think that it's okay to break their word, but it's wrong for anyone to say "Hey, you broke your word."

Opportunities don't just "come knocking" -- actors have to seek them out. Actors have to choose to pursue an opportunity that, if they get it, will require them to break their commitment to a show that they're already in. Because by the time you're in performance, it's been a couple of months of pre-production and rehearsal. So this didn't just "happen" -- whoops! -- the actor sought it out with full knowledge. The actor made a choice. I understand that this choice comes out of fear of scarcity -- "If I don't grab for every possible opportunity, I'll never make it" -- and while I can sympathize with that, it's still a shitty thing to do to everyone else involved and I have no respect for it.
Mr. Fetzer and I have (what I hope is) a respectful difference of opinion, at least regarding some aspects of this issue. Yes, an actor bailing on a show in the middle of a run can create a significant hardship on a small theatre company lacking the financial resources to afford deal with such exigencies. And yes, it creates a moral dilemma for the actor, who is put in the equally unfortunate position of choosing between continuing to work on a production that, while it may engender a sense of artistic satisfaction, pays essentially nothing but good feelings, versus accepting a role that will conceivably bring in enough money to not only cover rent for the month, but provide them with quite literally a million times more exposure, and thus more opportunities for even more such work in the future. This is, quite simply put, the reality of what is commonly referred to as "show business", although many would prefer - not without reason - the more elevated term "the performing arts".

And while it's true the incidents cited in the article are not all equal in scope, they nevertheless represent a spectrum of situations that can and do occur in this business, one of which happens to be an extreme example, but far from unheard of, which is precisely why professional companies execute employment contracts with performers to enumerate mutual responsibilities, rights and obligations, and to clearly define the consequences to either party for breaching the agreement; and why they hire understudies to cover roles when these situations crop up, which itself illustrates how common these occurrences are.

An actor breaking their commitment to a show, for whatever reason, is always lamentable, and especially galling to a producer when more remunerative employment (the term used in contract language to describe such a situation) is involved, as it both emphasizes the paucity of their own remuneration, and unquestionably puts the production in a precarious, potentially money-losing situation. But anyone who works in this business KNOWS such opportunities are few and far between, particularly in our relatively small market, and that actors are ALWAYS seeking them out - that's why agents exist, and that's why actors engage their services. That being said, I can attest, both from prior experience, as well as my particular role within this industry, that while the performer in question could have anticipated their agent would submit them for an audition - that, after all is what they do - as well as contemplate the possibility they might beat out a score of other equally qualified actors to land the gig, or envision it might involve a direct conflict to the run of their production; these variables point to how much of a veritable crap-shoot the whole process is, and how luck, fate, serendipity, whatever one chooses to call it, is always a part of the equation that makes up an actor's career. So, you go to the audition your agent has arranged, but it's someone else's decision whether you get a call-back; and even if you do, it's still someone else who decides if they'll offer you the role; and if you make it that far, it's someone else who decides when the call date will be; these are all factors completely out of the actor's control. They have only ONE thing they are in control of: whether or not to take the job.

Now, one could argue the actor should choose to not take the other gig (or just not do the audition in the first place); that they could forego the higher pay, the greater exposure, and the potential doors of opportunity that might open as a result, and instead stay with the show to which they've previously committed. But that has its own panoply of consequences: their agent is going to lose income, not to mention face with the producer who made the offer of employment to the actor, thus jeopardizing future opportunities to get their talent in that particular door; this in turn is going to seriously sour their relationship with the actor, who, ironically, will be perceived as uncooperative and unreliable; and the producer will most likely not consider them for future roles for much the same reason. Thus, the actor faces a double-bladed dilemma: risking public excoriation at the hands of a disgruntled theatrical producer, and garnering a reputation within that community for letting ambition take precedence over artistic integrity; or risking losing their means of actually earning a living, marginal as it may be, not to mention any chance of real career advancement in a highly competitive industry where the odds of success are already heavily against them. Weighing these two options, the actor is presented with essentially a no-win scenario: the loss of valued reputation on the one hand, and the loss of badly needed income and career exposure on the other.

Faced with a similar set of choices, I don't begrudge anyone making whichever choice they do; it's lose-lose either way, and personally I see no value in passing judgement if someone makes a choice different from the one I might make, even if I felt even remotely qualified or justified in doing so, which I most definitely don't.
Opportunities don't just "come knocking" -- actors have to seek them out. Actors have to choose to pursue an opportunity that, if they get it, will require them to break their commitment to a show that they're already in.

While your comment is correct, I hope you're not implying actors routinely seek out opportunities to break current agreements. You must remember serious actors are always looking for work and once obtained, take such work seriously. 24/7. In 1989 alone I had 32 separate W-2's to file with my return(s). Not a civilian job among them. Thirty-Two. (And I'm not including 1099-MISC's.) Theatre, voice-over and a piddling of film work. More importantly, I had to actually 'audition' for less than a fifth of them. They sought out my services. (Bully for me.)

These were offers - some of them actual years in the making - all due to past relationships, past contracts (work begets work in this business, as you well know) by individuals, agencies, organizations specifically seeking my labors. I have had to decline several offers, over the years, because of prior commitment(s). It's the same reason why I'm still a full-dues paying member of SAG-AFTRA, haven't declared my Beck Rights and gone FiCore, pricing myself out of the VO/Gaming world altogether, in the process. I now I live in the Right-To-Fire-Your-Sorry-Ass-For-Any-Damned-Reason-I-Feel state of Georgia. But that's another story.

Any job offer I accept has been thoroughly considered and vetted - for the simple and practical reason I will not shit where I eat. In 40 years, I have broken two contracts: one for health; one for ethical reasons. Yet had a subjectively determined quantum advance to my career or finances presented themselves in that period, I might well have burned a bridge or two.

Every actor is a migrant worker. We go were the crops are, and when the season's over, we move on. It's a financial merry-go-round of arts subsidy through low-wages. In such a dervish, we can't be surprised, and should be loathe to judge, when one of the migrants reaches out and grabs a golden ring.
@4 The corollary to that is that theatres should let actors out of their commitments if a truly amazing opportunity comes up.
I have been working as a professional theater artist for 30 years. I have only left one production during a run - during closing week my mother was dying in another city and I risked never seeing her alive again if I didn't go. I let the theater know and they gave me their blessing and it was a blessing that they did because it was indeed the last time I saw her alive. It was the best possible decision. I left another after one rehearsal - also after open and respectful discussions with the director and producer. It was a drag but not a big one.

Look - a commitment is to be honored. Period. There is no ethical grey area there. If you sign a contract saying you're going to do something - and outlining what is expected of you - then you should do it. That's not to say that nuance can't and doesn't exist in these circumstances. I agree strongly with Mr. Fetzer that there are a myriad of different situations that call for myriad responses from both the performer and the producing company. And every contract, in theory, can be negotiated. If a performer intends to continue to pursue opportunities that may conflict with the current job to which they are under contract, they should be up front about that. Not letting a theater know that is, ultimately a lie of omission when they sign the contract - and it's kind of cowardly, too. Sure the theater might not want to hire them - that's exactly what the actor should be weighing, anyway - but that's what negotiations are for. Maybe they want the performer enough that they're willing to take the risk - and have the opportunity to have an understudy, just in case. And, no, it should not be assumed and an unspoken agreement in all cases that after a performer commits to a show that they will continue to pursue other work that may conflict. If there is an agent in the picture applying pressure, that's an issue between the performer and their agent but it's certainly not just "show business."

But there are still other exceptions. In some places - LA for example, where the majority of actors are seeking on-camera work that pays well and may conflict - it may be an unspoken assumption that an actor will leave if that "run of the picture" role gets offered mid-way through a run. In that market it happens often and it is expected and theaters often prepare for the possibility. I've known actors who've done that and I know it can be rough. It also can be a career changer. But adults deal with it like adults - openly and with integrity. So there's that.

It's not difficult to be up-front with the people you're going to work with, it's only respectful. Adults understand that every choice or commitment you make means not choosing something else. Any other approach is, frankly, childish bullshit. Mr. Ballard has clearly dealt with these issues honestly and openly as they've come up over a full career and it seems to have worked out.

Circumstances are all sorts of shades and tones and they dictate much of the way in which these situations arise and are handled. But, commitments are commitments - there should be no question about that.

@2 The dimension missing is money, and just how little actors are paid, if they are paid at all. This is only an issue because there is little to no money involved.

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