Author Topic: Help with a research paper  (Read 6186 times)

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Help with a research paper
« on: Jan 03, 2007, 12:09 am »
Hi Everyone,
I am doing an independent research paper comparing stage management in an academic setting versus a professional setting. I would be extremely grateful for any an all thoughts on the matter. A couple possible questions would be:
-What are the major differences between SMing in an academic setting versus a professional setting?
-What kind of role do unions play in these differences?
-Any frustrations with either union or academic rules that limit what you can do?
Thanks everyone


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Re: Help with a research paper
« Reply #1 on: Jan 03, 2007, 08:41 am »
Personally, the biggest difference to me is that academic theatre is supposed to prepare you for professional theatre, but sometimes it doesn't. Academic theatre is not as regulated as far as rules and guidelines, at least in my experience.  There is also the key difference that academic theatre is limited to students who also have work, classes, and other things.  Therefore, the rehearsal schedules are very different. Although there are rules in both academic and professional theatre about when you can rehearse, they are different.  Some professional companies rehearse 8 hour days, in 1 1/2 hour blocks with breaks; others do not.  I have worked in professional companies where the rehearsal schedules are the same as academic theatre, so it all just depends.  In academic theatre, you can usually only rehearse at night for a few hours and then maybe weekends depending on what school you go to. 

 Union plays a large role in these differences, because there are things that Stage Managers are expected to do in professional settings that academic theatre bypasses. I also think that sometimes the Stage Manager is taken less seriously in academic theatre, which is frustrating.  You are working with your peers - some do not even know what a Stage Manager is until you explain the job - and sometimes it is difficult to do your job when people are not really taking you seriously.  In professional theatre, more people know the responsibilities and jobs of a Stage Manager and know how large their contribution is to the production.  I was definitely more appreciated in my first professional job than in any of my academic experiences, and it was quite startling to me how much people really respected me and my job. 

I think another key difference is that in academic theatre, you are mostly working with teachers/professors who are directing, which could make some people quite nervous.  As a Stage Manager, you don't want to overstep your bounds, especially if the director is also one of your professors and you are worried about your grade in their class or what they say about you in general, etc.  In professional theatre, sometimes you don't even know the director or musical director, and although that can make some people nervous or uncomfortable, sometimes it can also make you quite confident. I think that having a professor as a director can be quite nervewracking, and it is a huge difference between academic and professional theatre.

I would recommend that you get a copy of the Equity handbook and read the responsibilities of a Stage Manager, and then compare/contrast it to your experience in academic theatre. ( I am assuming here that you are a Stage Manager and are SMing in an academic setting.)  I think that everyone's situation in academic or professional theatre is going to vary, so you are probably going to get a variety of different answers.  These are just some of the things that I've noticed in my experience, so I hope it helps. Best of Luck on your paper  :)
"Perhaps, therefore, Stage Managers not only need to be calm and meticulous professionals who know their craft, but masochists who feel pride in rising above impossible odds."


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Re: Help with a research paper
« Reply #2 on: Jan 07, 2007, 11:38 am »
Every university theatre program is different, and every professional theatre is different. For the most part, academic theatre and professional theatre are worlds apart.

But if you go from your theatre club to a community theatre (non-union), you might find that things aren't all that different. People are still costuming the show from their closets and the local halloween store, you might still work 12-hour shifts, and there might still be a lot of MacGyver theatrecraft going on ("if we bolt some PVC pipes together as a frame and used a trash bag, George could pull a string and the snow would drop..."). The doing-it-for-the-love attitude most students adopt goes a long way in community theatre where without funding or professional resources, love is often the only thing that brings a successful show to the stage. On the other hand, you might find that your theatre department had a lot of luxuries - a prop storage, costume stock, rehearsal space availability - that you won't find as easily (or cheaply) in the real world.

Unions change everything. Not better or worse, just different. It depends on your style of SMing and your personal goals, etc, whether union regulations feel liberating and validating or stifling and frustrating. I felt, as KC did, a new level of respect and awareness from the other company members when I entered the professional arena of SMing. I felt like people finally understood that I was here to do a lot more than bug them about call times. However, working with unions means that you can't do some of the things you did in academia. For example, in an IA house you can't run onstage and move props/furniture. The first time most SMs coming from an non-union world encounter this, it throws them for a loop; It feels like you can't have the get-it-done attitude you had before. If you were a workaholic-style SM where your theatre valued you because you would prop the show, check the dimmers, and mend the costumes in addition to calling the show each night, you might feel like half your job was just taken away. But really your emphasis is just more concentrated. Now you can pour all your energy into SMing and do that job better than ever.

This could turn into a pretty long paper for you, because there are so many differences, and yet no two theatres or academic programs are the same. Everyone's personal experience will be different - including your own. You might want to see if you can meet some local professioanl PSMs on site and talk about their typical duties. There are so many subtleties you might never have thought about. Even after writing an A+ paper, the real answers to your questions will only come once you yourself have transitioned from academia to the professional world. Best of luck (on your paper and all the rest)!!


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Re: Help with a research paper
« Reply #3 on: Jan 13, 2007, 02:17 pm »
Thank you both so much, I appreciate the help alot.  :)


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Re: Help with a research paper
« Reply #4 on: Aug 05, 2010, 01:15 am »
I am also thinking that the difference is that in academic theater, you are mostly working with teachers or professors who are directing. That is the reason why other people quite nervous. Good luck to your research paper.


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