Theatre professor joins Behind The Scenes mental health initiative

Mike Murphy

Marshall University’s Mike Murphy, a professor of scene design and technology in the School of Theatre and Dance, has been working on a national task force to develop a mental health and substance abuse support mechanism for the Behind The Scenes charity foundation.

The foundation supports safety and health initiatives in the nation’s entertainment and technology industry. The task force in which Murphy has been assisting is the Behind The Scenes mental health initiative. He serves as a representative of the Safety and Health Commission of the stagehands’ union (IATSE), in which he is actively involved, as well as being a  founding member of Stages Of Sobriety (SOS), providing peer support to entertainment professionals within the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) who are in recovery from drugs and/or alcohol.

Murphy’s work in recovery is even more extensive. He also has chaired “Career Recovery In Recovery” panels, which provide options available to people trying to rebuild their careers after suffering the adverse effects of substance abuse. He also is authorized to teach OSHA General Entertainment Safety, an alliance curriculum developed by USITT and IATSE in collaboration with OSHA. He is a member of IATSE Local 369 of Huntington.

“The entertainment industry relies on artists and craftspeople from diverse disciples to produce a product that is greater than the sum of its parts,” Murphy said. “The support and encouragement of my professional colleagues have made me a beneficiary of that same collaborative effort in my own recovery.”

The Behind The Scenes mental health initiative also benefits from the help of a staff psychologist from The Entertainer’s Fund (formerly the Actor’s Fund of Actor’s Equity); a board member from Entertainment Technician Certification Program (ETCP); the vice president of ETC Lighting representing the Entertainment Equipment Manufacturer’s Association; and the director of The Road To Recovery, an organization that provides life coaches and addiction counselors that travel with music industry road shows. All are certified in mental health first aid.

The group has launched a website that addresses substance use and alcoholism in the entertainment industry and will be hosting a series of webinars that examine the challenges of substance use and alcoholism in professional work environments, including an informational webinar by the Substance Use Task Force. It will include a question-and-answer period and take place at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 17. Register at For more information, visit Behind the Scenes online at