Kelley Abbey has a wealth of experience in the entertainment industry as performer, choreographer and director. Her credits include being the principal performer and choreographer in the Oscar winning box office smash Happy Feet, leading roles in Sweet Charity and Fame the Musical, starring in television soapie E-Street, and choreographing various pop and movie stars.
Despite all the accolades and achievements, Kelley Abbey is well aware of the challenges within the industry. It’s why she has taken on the role of Director for the one-night only event, Out From Under.
Abbey admits she has reached the age where a performer has to realise the mortality of her own body.
“No one talks about aging performers and what happens at the end of the career,” explained Abbey. Many dancers get to a stage where they go away for a few years to have a mental break down and then return to teach pilates classes.”
Professional sporting leagues help to transition their full time players into other careers upon retirement, but there is very little out there for performers in the entertainment industry. Finally, there is a conversation starting around mental health needs for those working in this industry.
Entertainment Assist, in partnership with Victoria University, conducted a world-first research project, to study all sectors of the entertainment industry, including performers, backstage crews, technicians, camera crews, producers and directors.
The world-first research project “Pride, Passion & Pitfalls: Working in the Australian Entertainment Industry” identified the following:
- 44% of industry workers have moderate to severe anxiety. This is ten times higher than the general population.
- The levels of depression symptoms are five times higher than general population scores.
- 56.1% feel they either cannot get help or only sometimes receive help from friends, family, neighbours and colleagues when in need.
- Suicide attempts for Australian Entertainment Industry workers are more than double that of the general population.
- In the last year Road Crew members experienced suicide ideation almost 9 times more than general population.
- In the last year Australian Entertainment Industry Workers experience suicide ideation from 5-7 times more than the general population and 2-3 times more over a lifetime.
- Suicide planning for Australian Entertainment Industry workers is 4-5 times more than general population.
Last year, the inaugural Out From Under event was held in Melbourne. The evening was aimed at removing the stigma surrounding mental health within the entertainment industry by bringing it out of the shadows. The event was a great success.
This year it will be Sydney’s turn to experience Out From Under. Artists include: Debra Byrne, Silvie Paladino, Rob Mills, Lucy Durack, Amy Campbell, Ben Abraham, Casey Donovan, Ainsley Melham, Loren Hunter, Monique Montez, Troy Sussman, Rob Tripolino, Adam-Jon Fiorentino, Michael James Scott, Heather Mitchell, Rachael Beck, Simon Phillips, Damien Leith, The Idea of North, The Tap Pack and DrummerQueens. The evening will be hosted by Gorgi Coghlan, with Kelley Abbey as Director and Luke Hunter as Musical Director.
However, the aim of the evening is more than to simply provide a night of quality entertainment. More importantly, it is about providing education and awareness.
“There really is nothing like it,” said Abbey.
Joining the performers will be psychologists and leading experts in mental health. They will discuss how to recognise some of the warning signs and symptoms of mental health issues and how people can assist.
Abbey is hoping more backstage crew from film and television will attend the evening. She knows they are often paid low wages and working long or late hours that keep them away from their families; without any of the adulation and applause.
Abbey has discovered first-hand that the Resident Director of any show also tends to take on the role of “Resident Counsellor”. She said that while some people are naturally able to handle the rigour of an eight-show week, for others it’s like a form of torture.
This year’s Out From Under programme will see some aerial performance included, to highlight and acknowledge the circus performers within the entertainment industry.
Members of the general public are most welcome to attend, to not only experience the quality entertainment, but also to understand this industry is not just all razzle-dazzle.
While Kelley Abbey knows directing this one-off event is a massive task, she is very aware of the importance of the event.
“It’s important to get the message out there and get the conversation started.”
Out From Under is a unique event not to be missed.
Out From Under
Monday 21st November
Funds raised from this event will help Entertainment Assist support the mental health of Australian entertainment industry workers.