Our lives as private persons and as actors are often, sadly, interrupted by the unthinkable, the loss of a loved one. On of my young proteges just came face to face with that situation and he wrote me to ask what he should do. Should he continue in the show he is rehearsing or drop out? How can he possibly continue, he asks, when he has lost his greatest love?
The mysteries of life and death are impossible for us to understand. Why were we born? Why do people have to die? Why do the good die young? How can we go on without our loved ones? Some pastors are very good at answering such questions and I always recommend that an actor suffering a loss talk to his or her pastor.
As an actor, we have taken on an awesome responsibility when we accept a role in a play or film. We are promising we will be there when and as needed and that literally nothing is more important to us. I am quite sure, at the same time, that there are no producers or directors so unfeeling that they would not excuse an actor from a rehearsal or two so long as it does not weaken the show. Missing final dress rehearsal, for example, would be taking a great risk with the shows success.
Thankfully, there is often some time between the death of a loved one and the production date for one's show. Arrangements can be made to allow the actor to attend services. But the actor must be able to work through his grief.
One way of compensating for an actor's grief is for the actor to devote his performance to the lost loved one. This s a way of showing honor and respect. The general public does not need to know this. It is a bond between the actor and his lost loved one. The actor's determination to do this can actually strengthen his performance.
Without seeming callous, I hope that in all such instances, the producer, the director, the actor and the actor's family will remember that "The show must go on."
God bless, Doc