Author Topic: Updating a Production mid-run  (Read 3300 times)

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Updating a Production mid-run
« on: May 25, 2007, 01:39 am »
Hi everyone! I'm new to this forum. I'm a relatively new stage manager in my third year out of college, and I just started working in Chicago as a freelance SM.

So here's the question: I am the SM of a musical revue/sketch comedy show in an open-ended run at a non equity repertory theatre. We've been going for about 2 months. As part of my job it was understood that I would SM a separate version of the show to travel to a festival in another country for one week in May, after which we would return and continue running the show for about a month until my contract ran out and a new SM would take over. The festival version of the show has a lot of the same material, but it is in a different order with some segments cut and about 6 new songs/scenes.

We had a lighting designer during tech that did all our electrics work and design, and I have been making small repairs to the lights since then. For the festival version of the show we didn't really know what we'd be dealing with, so I ended up hanging a light plot and designing the lights from scratch for that week of shows - that was not something I expected to be doing but we were in another country performing in a theatre none of us had seen before so it just had to be done. Thankfully it worked wonderfully, but that was my first time doing an entire electrics job on my own.

We have now returned home and the director mentioned to me that he would like to perform the festival version of the show one time here in order to make an archival video tape - he wanted to know if that would be technically possible. I told him that it would take some work on my end to deal with the lighting problems. I took an afternoon to write new light cues in for the new segments of the show and I stored them on our light board at the end of the cue list (we run in rep and the old lightboard has a bit of a shady disk drive so we keep all the shows stored together in separate cue ranges). I know it's not the best way, but I was looking to make it work for one night. It requires me to jump around the cue list a lot, back and forth between scenes in order to patch it all together in the right order.

The director has just told me that he would like to permanently change the show to run the festival version from now on.

My question is - I feel like I've gone far beyond my job description dealing with lighting needs already. I don't want to have to jump around the cue list every night, and I definitely don't want my replacement to have to deal with it. I feel it is not my job to add new lighting into the show, and I don't particularly know how to reorganize our cues in the lightboard to run the new version of the show without jumping around.

Would it be too much to suggest they hire a lighting designer to handle these issues? Would it be too extreme if I refuse to keep running the show if they do not hire a lighting designer to streamline the cues?

I've just never really had to deal with a production revamp this late into the run. If only our director was not IN the show, I could escape his constant changes!!



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Re: Updating a Production mid-run
« Reply #1 on: May 25, 2007, 10:04 am »
Oh, yes, you have definitely gone beyond the job description (and the job description for stage manager--especially in non-Equity theatres--is pretty broad...)

You might ask your director to hire a freelance/hourly Master Electrician to do any equipment updating and help with programming and writing cues.  Cheaper than hiring a designer, and probably more helpful.

What it really boils down to is--do you think this director is going to do other projects that you might be hired for, and would you really want to work with him again?

I don't think this is something worth quitting over (and you should NEVER quit in anger), but you ought to make it clear that you're out of your depth.

Believe me, I know where you're coming from.  I did a long-running show in NYC (no names, please, I still get hives), where the General Manager was the lead performer.  I was always doing little rapair jobs for costumes, electrics and set, and it was QUITE disfunctional...

Best of luck,

Joe Millett
« Last Edit: May 25, 2007, 10:05 am by jmillbran »
Joseph Millett
Resident Stage Manager
Clarence Brown Theater


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Re: Updating a Production mid-run
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2007, 07:49 pm »
As long as the program has the name of the original lighting designer, say no!  You said this is an open run - did that person get royalties in his or her contract?  Even if not, it's such an insult to that person for your director to just want to dump the design on this show.  Think of it this way; the designer left the show in your hands, that you would faithfully execute the design they created.  Now are you going to let the director stab that person in the back?

If there's no problem with the original lighting designer, figure out how much money you want for your first lighting design, and ask the producer for that much to re-vamp the show.  Say no if they don't give you the money.  If no amount of money would be worth the time and trouble, just say no to the whole job, as it's completely separate from the job you were hired to do, and they'll have to hire a separate person to re-design the lights.
Heath Belden

"I'm not good, I'm not nice, I'm just right." - Sondheim


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Re: Updating a Production mid-run
« Reply #3 on: Jun 20, 2007, 05:38 am »
Here's what happened:

I basically caved in and asked a fellow SM at this theatre how one would reorganize the cue list in the lightboard. It ended up not being all that difficult. SO, I ended up doing a lot of extra lighting work for this theatre and not getting paid for it. However, I should have made it clear to them that I would not be executing an entire hang/focus/lighting design for the festival version of the show without getting paid a designer's fee. Once I did that, I set a bad precedent.

This particular theatre has no production staff and has a history of preying on the generosity of others - I've seen Directors organize all their own marketing and fundraising, costumers pay for their costumes out of pocket and never get reimbursed, actors never paid for their final week of performances, composers given fraudulent ticket sales breakdowns and cheated in royalties, health inspectors lied to, audience members bleeding in the lobby with no house staff on duty, loads of bounced checks or checks with double or triple tax withholding for no apparent reason, dangerous working conditions, and the list just goes on.

Needless to say, I think I'll be more careful about sticking to my employment agreements from now on, and refusing to do favors. And I would not ever work for this company again, nor would I recommend it to anyone.


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