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Messages - Michelle R. Wood

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Introductions / Re: Hello
« on: Aug 26, 2019, 06:22 pm »
Welcome from just south of Raleigh: best wishes on your studies. Do you work in any of the area theatres?

Employment / Time Off
« on: Aug 16, 2019, 10:38 pm »
Just curious to know how different theatres handle time off for a regular staff position rather than someone hired per contract. Despite the fulltime label, we often have irregular hours, with tech week of course requiring far more work than others, and some times not as busy during lulls between shows or easier shows. Because of that we rarely get an actual "weekend." Fulltime staff also have theatrical duties not specifically show related, requring hours in addition to rehearsal and shows.

Are days off usually specified in your contract? Or are there flex time arrangements where more time is granted during less busy periods? Are you allowed to request time off even during a busy time, or would that be unthinkable? Would your producer ever consider having someone fill in for you on a show if you really needed it? In your opinion, what would be an acceptable reason?

Should fulltime staff at theatres have dedicated day off regardless of Equity status? Does size of theatre/budget change your opinion?

The Green Room / Re: Production Haikus
« on: Jul 25, 2019, 11:51 am »
If actors report
a blocking issue to you
please listen to them.

Framing it as theirs'
to solve makes me question what
your purpose here is.

Agree so much about the feeling alone and not able to talk about things: it can become a bad cycle of "This is bad, well fix it, wait, this is bad, well fix it," on and on with no apparent escape. Your many hats sound earily familiar, though fortunatley someone else handles the build and lighting around here. Props, on the other hand, has kept me quite busy, which is part of the extra help we're looking to ad hoc hire in the new season.

The article in question is called "High Achiever Burnout." While the whole thing (a short page skim) is worth a read, the part that really grabbed my attention was in the first 2 paragraphs:

Essentially they expand the scope of their job by assuming others’ responsibilities. In the short run this isn’t a problem. Their intent and resulting outcome is good. However, it’s rarely a one-off situation. It can easily become a habit and create what we call the “stage manager” syndrome—when things are going well no one notices your contributions, but when things aren’t, you end up holding the bag.

Coming from my background in low/no budget small regional theatre, I have a tendency to just step in and make things happen, knowing there's often no other recourse. It's so easy to get caught up in the "show must go on" mentality and just make it work. But as the author points out, this attitude can be quite destructive in the long term.

More personally: this year was my first time serving a full season as a resident stage manager rather than freelancing around. We're a small staff, and we all wear a lot of hats. Some of the structure of my job was inherited, other parts happened due to staff changes, show needs, and schedule requirements. What became very apparent by the last mainstage show was that I'd been spinning too many plates for too long with little to no break.

While I named all the reasons why the job ballooned beyond simply "stage manager," talking through things with a friend and then later my AD during an evaluation helped me identify that part of the problem was myself. I didn't come to my AD when things first started getting overwhelming; even when I reached out for help on occassion to other staff, it felt like I was admitting I couldn't do my job. Which, in essence, was true: but the question became how much of my work should be my job.

We've identified a place in the budget where we may be able to hire additional help for me on a part time basis, and working with the music director on larger productions to take some of the load off me in rehearsal in terms of running tracks and keeping the sound cues straight in prep for tech with our board op (we don't use orchestras). This new season doesn't have any overlapping shows either, so my spring will be much better in terms of having time between shows to prep rather than this past one (where it felt like I was jumping from tech to opening to tech for a while).

Having just recently done some research on it for a project, it's astonishing how much of burnout's description and characteristics you personally recognize working in theatre.

I was doing personal research earlier this year due to a stressful spring of overlapping shows, and was quite disheartened to see a term called the "stage manager syndrome" in a businsess manager help article. It made me really step back and think about what I consider my job, and what I should consider my job. My AD and I have worked through some new processes that will hopefully decrease the stress in our next season. Reaching out and clearly articulating when you need help is difficult, but vital.

Looking for "Band Geeks," "Oliver," and/or "Mamma Mia!"

Congrats on surviving some major craziness, and break legs with your run (and best wishes for your actor's recovery). I'm constantly amazed at how willing audianes are to accept a script in hand: if the actor is professional about it, the performance really can shine through despite the obvious prop. Hope you have time to recover from this misadventure and that the rest of the run is smooth sailing.

Tools of the Trade / Stage Write software
« on: Jan 31, 2019, 12:31 pm »
Just ready about Stage Write software today and am curious if anyone on the board uses it/has used it? I'm all for moving to a more digital means of working, but 2 things specifically stand out to me: it appears on first glance to be an Apple only product (iPad, Macs), and is a hosted service (which means your digital assets are at the mercy of someone else's server, and is an ongoing expense).

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Re: Minor?
« on: Nov 19, 2018, 01:52 pm »
I'm a double major, and can attest that expanding your studies beyond the theatre is an asset for stage management. Personally, I find my technical writing certificate to be one of the most valuable tools in my arsenal. Even if you minor in a different field, I'd highly recommend you to Business Communication. In particular, my training in writing "bad news messages" has proven to be very useful.

The Green Room / Re: Production Haikus
« on: Nov 03, 2018, 10:59 pm »
On VIP night,
cascading frights: sound, cues, and
video, oh my!

The Hardline / Re: Joining AEA!
« on: Oct 15, 2018, 02:07 pm »
Congrats! I think the number one thing I didn't know is that when you have a question, it's totally okay to call your AEA rep!

This statement is very true and not just for those getting their card, but for those managing Equity actors on Special Appearance or Guest Artist contracts. The first time I reached out to the office I was intimidated, but they were super helpful and efficient with helping me work through a weird situation.

Students and Novice Stage Managers / Re: Writing a new script
« on: Oct 15, 2018, 02:04 pm »
I second KMC's suggestion: it's the same method I've used when keep track of changes in a script as the rehearsal process went on. Correct page numbers are not just important for actors but the entire production team, especially during tech.

Alternatively, if you don't want to type the whole thing up and have access to a photocopier, you can cut the script in pieces and write page numbers on them, then run it off on 8.5x11 paper.

Who has been in charge of the build and gotten the set together? That would be the first person to speak to regarding what needs to be loaded in, and where I'd start the conversation. I'd also get your producer/Artistic Director involved (whoever is in charge) involved in this conversation to keep the communication channel clear to someone who can not make executive decisions, even if it's only an email to summarize the conversations.

Is there a crew for tech? If so, they need to be told when to come for load-in, and you will need to know how many you'll need. It's tempting to say "as many as possible" but depending on the skill level needed to assemble or the strength level needed to lift you may need to be more specific in your call. So far as estimating how long load-in will need, that's outside of what I've usually done, and it will depend a lot on who your crew is and how much experience they have.

For tech have a conversation with your designers and director: go over a plan of attack with them. Does the LD need full costume or not? What does sound need? Where will your tech table be? Are you going by Equity rules (breaks)? When will you eat? Do you need to order anything? Will you papertech later?

We use tracks at this theatre rather than a live orchestra, and get them all at the start of rehearsal to practice with. Sometimes actors request to "check out" (download) these tracks to practice with on their own time. I've been told we used to have a permission form to go along with this access, something where the actor promised to only use them for rehearsal and not in other performances, but can not find it paper or digital format.

Putting aside how difficult it is to enforce such a policy, has anyone else used such a form/system, and does anyone have a template (that I couldn't find with some quick googling)?

Edited to add topic tag - Maribeth

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