Author Topic: Is there such a thing as picking the wrong show?  (Read 1937 times)

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Is there such a thing as picking the wrong show?
« on: Mar 17, 2012, 11:50 am »

     I am an AEA stage manager with experience in LORT theaters.  I have recently (two weeks ago) moved to New York. I moved with the understanding that it would take time to network and get sm jobs, but after only a week I was offered two showcases and an asm gig which I had to turn down because of a conflict. Although they pay a very small stipend, I was excited that this all happened so fast, I'm making connections! But now that the pixie dust has settled, I question whether I should have thought a little more about my choices after having to turn down the one show. How do you know what jobs you should do for "free" and which should you pass on? My first reaction to my own question was, "a show is a show", but the reality is not all shows are equal and some will ultimately be more rewarding than others. I love stage managing, but want to make this my career and ultimately make a living doing this. I'm just not sure how to decipher the 'non-paying' shows that will help me grow as a stage manager and help advance my career and the ones that I will simply just do? 
Lindsay M. Stringfellow



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Re: Is there such a thing as picking the wrong show?
« Reply #1 on: Mar 17, 2012, 01:55 pm »
My advice . . . volunteering to do a show for no/little pay seems odd?

Do waiters wait tables for free?

Do bankers pick up hours for free?

Once you take a job for free (or very low pay) - be careful it brands you.  You want to use them to make connections, great - but what you did was make connections with people who don't pay stage managers with a theater company that once you put on your resume says, oh, this SM is at this level in NYC - she'll work for 100.00 a week, why pay her 1,000.00

The showcases are sort of an endless trap here in NYC, and should be banished - but they do give a chance for actors to continue to ply their trade.  And SM's as well, but given you have LORT experience, do you think volunteer for a no-budget/low-budget show is going to help take you to the next level - or do you need to work on your skills of how to work in a frustrating work environment?  ;-)

And, now that you are attached to a showcase, are you going to be able to drop everything if a paid gig is offered to you, or will you want to honor your commitment to the production?  (Which leads to the questions what is you level of commitment to a low/no paying volunteer stage management opportunity?)

Because the market in NYC is flooded, young SMs are desperate to get a gig, any gig - and you have to be honest with yourself about what the benefits versus the liabilities of any project.  Is it better the PSM for no pay, or be a PA for some pay?  This show may have legs, so let's get in on the ground floor?  I have a friend who is directing and this is a personal favor on the four weeks between gigs.  Do I need more ASM credits, or should I push forward on SM.  What do I want to get branded as.

As someone who just rant thru 20 vetted resumes and interviews, you want to be able to stand out . . . when ever I am considering a career move (not just a job, but the next step in my career - hell, sometimes even a job), I open my resume, add the gig and look at the whole picture - does this help me, does this hurt me - look at it from a business proposition.  How will this help me in the future.

Also, you need to be careful in taking lower paying jobs as it might screw with your unemployment. 

Yes, there such a thing as a wrong show or wrong theater company or a wrong gig - but what is wrong for me, may not be wrong for you.  Ultimately, you are always going to know your situation best - so you have to trust your gut.   

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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.



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Re: Is there such a thing as picking the wrong show?
« Reply #2 on: Mar 17, 2012, 02:17 pm »
First: a welcome to NYC!

Second: I think if any of us had the foresight to know which gig will benefit us most none of us would sit in turmoil in an effort to make it to broadway. It's just one of those things everyone in the business goes through. There's no way to know which gig will benefit you the most.

For example: I stayed with a showcase as PSM because they were paying me actually very well, and turned down another showcase because it was a low paying ASM job. Two months later the showcase I stayed with was long forgotten and the Low paying ASM gig transferred to Broadway. Thus became a nice high paying gig.

Is that upsetting? Absolutely. But without that happening I would never get the national touring gig, met some life long friends, and had a million experiences I cherish. So it may have been for the best.

I made it my own rule that from the business point of view I'd rather be paid for my services than donate my time to someone who will want full effort for free. You get what you pay for. And if you weren't paying me, you got what you paid for. It may be detrimental to say that, but I'm pretty much out of stage managing now and I know from conversations ive had that there are others out there who feel that way but won't want to say it (understandably so). When I was transitioning out, I was just getting to the point of picking and choosing my gigs. I could pick what interested me vs what was paying me.

But again I suppose the long and short of it is there is no right answer and there is no wrong answer. You could get hired onto a job that was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber and think its a guarantee that you're going to broadway but it ends up getting scrapped. Meanwhile some little west end indie show about peeing kills at the Fringe and boom! Broadway.

« Last Edit: Mar 17, 2012, 02:36 pm by nick_tochelli »



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Re: Is there such a thing as picking the wrong show?
« Reply #3 on: Mar 18, 2012, 03:44 pm »
I've never been in NYC, but I found out something about myself that I'd like to share in the context of this post.  Some regulars may have heard this story before, so I'll try to keep it short.

Right after I got my AEA card, I took a job on a low-tier contract that only had under 30 hours of rehearsal per week, and I (fresh out of grad school) decided that I would only work the hours I was getting paid for.  The result was the worst opening night of my life, and I spent about ten hours the next day re-writing my book and running sound cues with the operator until the second performance was back on the road to half-way decent. 

Now I know that I have to commit myself to the show, and do whatever I can in order to make it be as good as it can be, and what I get paid for that is irrelevant to the amount of work I put in.  Otherwise I go crazy.  And that means that I have to be comfortable with what I'm getting paid, so that my life can continue during and after the show, and my family can continue to have a home and to eat.  I'm glad I've graduated out of those low-tier contracts, but at this point in my life, if I were to fall back down into the low-tiers, I'd have to find a different line of work to support my family.

This is all a long way of saying, know your value and get paid what you need to do the work well.  That amount can be anything from $0 to infinity, you just need to know what it is for yourself.
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Re: Is there such a thing as picking the wrong show?
« Reply #4 on: Mar 19, 2012, 08:58 am »
I agree with everyone has said.

Not to sound cheesy, but you have to listen to your inner "Yoda".  There is no right path when it comes to having a career in stage management.


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Re: Is there such a thing as picking the wrong show?
« Reply #5 on: Mar 19, 2012, 07:08 pm »
I would add that these first shows you do in NYC will most definitely help you to learn a lot about which kind of shows might be the 'wrong' kind of shows to work for little pay.  Learning from experience...


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