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Looking for Faust and Getting Out by Marsha Norman

I wish I had more to contribute about taking  time off.
My market is very tiny for a "big city".  The idea of taking a season off to be with my new baby is a lovely dream but not a reality for me.  If I were to step away from my resident gig someone else would quickly come up to take it over and I would be SOL.  I try to take as much advantage as I can of my mornings and afternoons that I have to be with her.  Daycare is an interesting challenge as a Stage Manager, especially with an infant, for afternoon options don't exist except in the Nanny sphere.

If I were to take time off, it would probably truly be a career change, and one I might have to think about when she and hopeful future sibling are school age and I'm not able to get one on one time in the daytime hours.
Greetings Gang ~

Looking for RAGTIME and OUR TOWN

I don't think it's appropriate to have someone who's vomiting come in to run their track. No one benefits from having someone who is that sick come in. It would be different if you just had a cold. This is not the same thing. If I was in your position, I would have escalated matters to the production or company manager.

When I was younger, I worked through extreme illness a few times, and it honestly wasn't worth it. You know yourself, and you have to make a judgment call about if you're well enough to come in. Your health is more important, and in this case, it's the company's responsibility to figure out how to cover your track. As previously mentioned, no one should be "irreplaceable". It is smart to give as much notice as possible so that the company has as much lead time as possible to find a cover.

If you have a family emergency, you should talk with the person who hired you to work out a leave if needed. That situation is so dependent on the circumstances that it's hard to say exactly what should happen. But as the SM, if I had a crew person who had either a family or health emergency, I would work with the PM to come up with a backup plan.

As for coming in for an early call where there's not a lot to do, sometimes that's just the way it goes. I would try and find a way to make use of the time. Clean up your paperwork, make glo-dots for tech, prep prop tables, offer to be a light walker, etc. Bring a book or knitting if needed. No one likes to feel like their time is being wasted, so it's understandable to feel frustrated by it. If it's worth it to you to have a conversation with the production manager, you could. But my inclination would be to accept that sometimes there's some sitting around involved in the job. During tech, I sometimes come in early to sit in the room while other people are prepping for tech- it lets me see what is going on in the space, be available for questions, and do my own prep work.
Into the Woods*
Ghost the Musical

*edited: for Into the Woods, it would be great if anyone had access to the Fiasco version (current national tour).
I've met a lot of "ride or die" stage managers who really put their work first, but they've always only applied that to themselves and not the crew working for them.

My first thought reading your post was to question why the SM was treating an assistant that way. Now, in full disclosure, I did have an issue once with an ASM who was consistently late/absent throughout the rehearsal process, so when that same person called in "sick" for tech, we had to discuss whether he could/should continue with the show at all. That was more about dependability than any one specific day. My first instinct is to protect my ASMs, many of whom are interns or just started on this path, and any way I can guide them to avoid the pitfalls I encountered is something I strive for. Treating your assistants badly is just bad for the show, period, let alone a bad example as SM.

My second thought was concern that you were told to come in when you were vomiting. It's no longer a questions of just you being sick now, but possibly endangering the health of the entire company. You might be replaceable: the lead getting struck down during the show by illness is going to, for better or worse, be harder to replace. Risking both your own and everyone else's health is a bad idea if it can be avoided at all.

I mostly work in understaffed areas so I completely get the mentality of "I have to be there." I myself have worked shows not feeling great (or even feeling terrible), pushing through the pain. But there a comes a point when you have to decided what is going to help/hinder the production more. A sick ASM who gets progressively worse and infects the rest of the cast/crew is not a healthy situation, in any sense of the word. If at all possible, for the good everyone, I would recommend someone that sick to stay home and rest. That's where prop runsheet documentation is so important: getting someone in that you can teach to follow a specific tract is so much better than just flailing about saying "What will we do? What did they do?"

The truth is: we should be replaceable. The show should be able to go on without you. What if it wasn't just illness? What if you were hit on the head, or involved in a car accident? If you are so vital to the production that they literally can't do without you, there are problems. As I said, I've been there, and I understand it happens, but it is something we should strive to overcome rather than perpetuate out of a sense that nothing can be done.

Is there a producer/production manager you can discuss the situation with? It may be the theatre has policies in place that should have been applied in this scenario. If the theatre doesn't, I'd approach both the SM and any higher authority with "Hey, this happened, and I hope it doesn't happen again, but if it does, what should be done? What's the correct thing for me to do? How do we address this issue?" Try not to cast blame but show you're being proactive. After all, it might not just be you: what if someone else on the production team gets sick? How we they handle it?

Knowing the places I've worked, that kind of conversation might still not bring about a solution, but it could potentially get the ball rolling. Sometimes, alas, the only thing to do is to strive to work elsewhere.
In regards to keeping skills sharp: I've worried about that as well, but I do think there are some things that, like the proverbial bike, come back to you. My latest tech/opening was Beauty and the Beast, which is of course very cue heavy. I realized approaching it that I hadn't done such a cue heavy tech in nearly a year and half, having served as deck chief or backstage help more often, or serving as stage manager for smaller/less cue heavy shows. I was rather nervous: would I be able to keep up with the LD? Would I be able to keep things moving? Would I remember how to successfully get my book together in short order?

I won't say there was nothing to worry about, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I found myself slipping into crazy tech mode with very little adjustment on my part. I had tried to prep as well as I knew how, but also found myself instinctually doing things I knew needed doing without much extra effort. Calling this show has been a learning curve, but not the steep cliff I was dreading, rather an incremental stepping up of my previous shows.

Per taking time off: julie's point regarding a place you haven't worked in 2-3 years is well taken, as things can change a lot in that amount of time. There's also leaving a geographic area: I'm farther away than my previous home base now, so I'm not able to pop in to quick tech day bursts like I used to be able to do just to keep myself present and "in the know." Not being in the mix, and being more caught up in my fulltime duties at the theatre, I'm not hearing about things I used to know more in advance, or keeping my ear open for opportunities as I previously would, which concerns me as I do eventually think I'll go back to freelancing.

I'm hoping now that this show is open and we have a breather before summer camps start that I'll be able to mingle a bit more in the local community.
Hey guys,

I was recently interning (unpaid) as an ASM for a production where I got really terrible food poisoning a few hours before call time and I couldn't even leave my bathroom without feeling like I was going to hurl. I called my stage manager and said that I was really ill and didn't think I was able to do the show that night. They told me to come in anyway and that I'd feel better later. I obliged and said ok I'll give it a go. When it came closer to the call time and needed to leave I still felt the same and was vomiting at least every 10 minutes. I called the stage manager again and said I really didn't think it was a great idea to come in and she told me just to come so they could see my 'condition'. It ended with me having to somehow drag myself to the theatre only to get there and be told by the stage manager - "you need to learn that as stage managers you need to just do the job even when you are sick, the only exceptions are when you need to go to hospital or have had an accident." At this point, I was in tears because I thought I was being weak for not being able to pull myself together, but at the same time I was certainly in no state to work. I felt like the stage manager didn't trust me when I told her I was ill and that really upset me that this is how they thought of me. The director and company manager happened to be there that night and I got sent home by them anyway as they could see I could hardly stand up.

I put a lot of thought into whether I could afford to miss the show and in the end I could justify it as I only had 2 things in my ASM plot, being to open and close curtains, and this could easily be done by one of the stand by staging or lighting crew. The show also had no props and my only job was to sweep the stage and put the first aid kit side stage.

The stage manager only had a couple years more experience than me (in terms of uni graduation) and whilst I did (try to) respect their authority the whole time, there were many times during the production where she would call me in very early in the mornings when there was nothing to do and when I asked they said, "Me (and the lighting/sound crew) have to be here so you should be too." I didn't want to say anything but it felt like a waste of manpower to call everyone in when it wasn't necessary and also felt like I was being taken advantage of since it was unpaid. But would like to know what everyone thinks of this too?

This is one of my first experiences in the industry and it honestly wasn't a great one. Throughout university, the lecturers always told us that our health came first. I've met a lot of "ride or die" stage managers who really put their work first, but they've always only applied that to themselves and not the crew working for them.

So I guess what I am asking is if anyone has had any experience like this? And also whether you have the right to say no to coming in when you are ill or have some kind of family emergency?

Thanks for listening to my vent everyone...
I think it might mean that not a lot of SMs on this board take time off and come back to stage management....much more likely that folks slide into related careers like production management that have more family-friendly hours.
Don't get hung up on having control.  Honestly, and I don't intend this to sound curt, reading your first post gave me the impression you're primarily interested in having control and you've presented it through the lens of doing your job.  If you approach it from that angle it will be transparent that your interest is being "in charge" rather than deliver a high quality product to the patrons.  This is a mistake many managers make early in their careers - lord knows I was guilty of it.  I shudder when I look back at how I handled some situations in my early 20s.

If he is a resident director and on the board then like it or not he does have the authority to make pre-show speeches every night, some nights, or not at all.  If it's a regular occurrence and the other board members haven't stopped it, then it's an accepted aspect of that company.  You don't have to like it, but if you want to work for them you do need to deal with it.

Maribeth (as usual!) has some great suggestions.  I would also suggest you do your best to plan for the pre-show speeches.  I think you're certainly appropriate to have a conversation with him about it, but consider expressing that you need a heads up so you can make him and the rest of the company look good (this is hard for you to do if you don't what's going to happen).  Maybe work with the LD to design a pre-show special or have a bump button ready that can be hit by the board op regardless of what cue you're in, or have a follow-spot on the ready to hit him.  If you spin the conversation to be about how you can make him look better I think you'll be surprised by the level of cooperation.
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