Author Topic: Happy Stage Management Memories?  (Read 19314 times)

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PSMKay

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Happy Stage Management Memories?
« on: Jul 27, 2006, 09:02 pm »
It seems we spend a lot of time here discussing stuff that went wrong, misbehaving people and horror stories on this board.  As an alternative to all the grumping about, what are some stories from the job where everything went right?  Or when you and your team got a chance to really shine?  Go ahead and brag a bit. 

ddsherrer

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #1 on: Jul 28, 2006, 09:31 am »
Oh, Oh, Oh...I'll brag for a bit.  The Children's Theatre that I used to work for allowed me the opportunity to teach a stage management class to interested high schoolers. After completion of the class, the students were eligible to be an ASM with me. This experience lead to me having three straight years of some of the best ASMs I have ever had! One show in particular makes me brag on them the most.  We were doing Sideways Stories from Wayside School and I approached the Children's Theatre Director about letting Izzy and Laura have an even more active stage management role. He agreed.  At 16, both of these girls called a show in a professional theatre!  They were awesome! It also allowed me to take on some typical ASM duties backstage, I haven't done that in a while, so it was fun. There is, of course, more to SMing than calling a show, but they already had expierence in just about everything else. So, to tag the Ageism/Sexism Thread from earlier...Age will never dictate ability.  If you give a child the knowledge and tools to succeed, they will.

~Deb
If all the world's a stage, where's my stage manager?

j-la

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #2 on: Jul 31, 2006, 02:36 pm »
I have many happy memories- but one stands out in particular.
Several years ago, I stage managed a production of A Chorus Line. The show sold out it's entire run- with critical accolades all around. That alone made all the hard work worthwhile. At the closing night party- the cast serenaded me with a personalized 'ONE- singular Stage Manager". I was very touched.

kjdiehl

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #3 on: Aug 05, 2006, 10:59 am »
Bragging? I can do that!

Actually, it was a heinous show, a new, one-woman, work in progress, with a different script every night, which I would not receive till about 3 or 4 that afternoon. It was mostly all the scenes moved around,  (though with some edits too,) so I had to make my call script modular. So I created separate blocking pages which I also kept all my cues on. As soon as I'd receive that night's script, I'd begin an entire Prep-Week's worth of paperwork, plus a Tech Week's worth of cue sheets... to complete in just a few hours. I'd first churn out a quick scene order list with page numbers. Then I'd use that to put my blocking /cue pages in order. Then I'd insert the blocking pages in my new script for the evening. Then I'd use my scene order list to edit the page numbers on the scene-shift plot and sound-cue sheet. I'd resort both those spreadsheets by page number and go through each one manually to make any finer edits. I'd distribute those to the pertinent parties, as well as a scene order to the entire running crew. As if that weren't enough, the one-woman performer/producer/director/playwright insisted on re-teching each evening, which to her meant running through the entire show. No matter how I tried, she  could not understant that we didn't need to see her saying all the same words again, it was only the transitions which were new that mattered. So that process ate up tons of time. Then several times she'd send word to the booth at intermission that she wanted to make even further changes to scene orders- on the fly in the middle of the show! Crazy as it was, I held it together and kept the paperwork updated daily. I felt like a madman stage management machine. It was difficult, but strangely satisfying at the same time, to be utilizing my well-honed skills to their utmost speed and ability. And the best part was, after it all was over, I received several emails from the staff at the theatre thanking me for the work I did, and how I managed to hold it all together during a very trying experience, and their saying that I really demonstrated an impressive quality of stage management that they would do well to learn from. Moments like that are nice.
-Kris Diehl, AEA SM

"Somewhere in the city there's a stage manager waiting,
standing in the shadows with a clipboard in hand..."

BalletPSM

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #4 on: Aug 05, 2006, 12:13 pm »
I'm closing a show tonight that has turned out to be one of the best SM experiences of my career to date.  It was a show I absolutely expected to hate every minute of (Moby Dick! The Musical) and had never worked with any of the cast before, or the director, and I had major qualms about it going in. 

But everything completely surprised me -- the cast turned out to be fantastic, the director was awesome, and my production team was top-notch.   I have made some really good friends with the cast. I have not only enjoyed it in that aspect, but I have felt like I have really done a good job in terms of my work on the show, and at the same time was training an ASM to call three performances (which she did, and did fabulously at). 

I will be said to see it end...it's shows like this that always make me lament the transient nature of our profession!
Stage managing is getting to do everything your mom told you not to do - read in the dark, sit too close to the TV, and play with the light switches!

nmno

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #5 on: Aug 27, 2006, 03:46 am »
Just opened a show that definitely has it's share of horror stories I could share...  But one of the things that has made it all workable has been the fact that the director has contantly shown his appreciation to stage management.  And what's more, besides the nightly "thank you for your work today", he made a point at the actor note sessions (at our last rehearsal before moving to the stage, at our last night of tech and before opening) to thank stage management and the crew for all their hard work...  It was not only nice to hear his thanks, but to also help establish for the actors how much we do, recognizing how much we are part of the process... 

It really is amazing how just someone saying "thank you" can give you a second wind.

Mac Calder

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #6 on: Aug 27, 2006, 06:05 am »
Here! Here! @ nmmo

I don't think any SM is in it for the glory - because there is very little glory involved, but even one or two people recognising the work put into a show by stage management and crew always lifts my heart. Sadly, Stage Managers tend to become part of the "Institution" - and as such become a fixture - what we do is expected. And frankly, crew are often lucky if the cast know their names.

However that is enough of my favorite rant - Onto my favorite stage management memory.

We were doing a show about suburban life in Australia, in a black box theatre. The actors were allowed to mingle with the audience during interval, the audience was not alowed to stay in the theatre as we did the scene change which took the ASM and I the entire interval to complete (OH&S reasons). Basically, it was dismantling an entire set so that it would fit into the store room, then putting up a completely new set - judicious use of a drill with a screwdriver bit was involved. Anyway, half way through the run, the entire cast came in and assisted us with the change (so it only took 5 mins) and threw us a mini "Thankyou party" complete with cake. It was a really nice gesture. However my happiest memory was when I got to destroy that bastard of a set using a sledge hammer.

sarahdk

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #7 on: Aug 27, 2006, 08:17 pm »
Last winter I was having a reallyh hard time with a show... none of the designers, producers, TD, etc. were communicating, the set was a disaster, it felt like nothing was going right. It was a nightmare! My cast, however, was a huge support to me... they would take me out for drinks after the show and gave wonderful words of encouragement.

One horrid weekend in particular, it was hard to keep my cast motivated and enthusiastic since I wasn't motivated or enthusiastic and I was too tired from everything to fake it. So we started "Move Of The Night"... every show the actors would come up with a move... something discreet that they would have to try to work into a scene at least once while staying in character...  It made me laugh and kept me focused on the show... watching for the Move Of The Night... it wasn't too hard to sneak it in, since it was a musical... but they helped to make the show fun again.

Tigerrr

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #8 on: Aug 31, 2006, 01:19 pm »
Excellent topic.  I'll throw my 2 cents in.....

A few years ago a director friend of mine offered me a gig to SM a hip-hop musical that she had been coordinating with youth at risk over the past 8 months.  The non-profit organization that was behind it had been around for several years and dealt primarily with kids who were pretty much at the end of the line.  Drugs, prostution, homelessness.  These were part of their daily lives.  The organization, called "ihuman", set up an art studio/walk-in centre for kids to express themselves in a more positive, creative way, while counselors were available to offer help in getting them off the streets/drugs.  This musical was created collectively through improv exercises and games.

Some of the hilights of the gig include:
- casting a girl who was getting out of jail because the original cast member had just gone in (and wasn't getting out for a while)
- asking a 16 year old girl what crystal meth looked like
- telling an 18 year old gang member that, no, he CAN'T bring his gun from home to use in the play
- seeing a couple of our 15 year old cast members getting into a john's car after rehearsal
- having another couple of 15 year old girls steal the producer's car for a joy ride

Anyway, you get the picture.  Of course, after 8 months of working with the director, here I come in and suddenly I'm the authority figure (all 5' 2", 130 lbs of me!).  You can imagine how well THAT went over.  It took me almost all of the six week contract to finally win them over.

Tech was a nightmare.  The show was 3 1/2 hours long, with 8 lav mics being mixed live, a couple of wireless mics, scene changes from hell, a cast of 16, and sound and lx cues coming out of the yin-yang.  The kids also wrote all of their own music and lyrics, so naturally we didn't have it all by the time we got to tech :)  Needless to say, it wasn't the smoothest tech I've ever ran.  But we got through it.

In one of the scenes, I had to call a gunshot cue.  (Man, I hate those!)  With professional actors, you just make sure you have a visual cue to go off of, and everything works out fine.  Well, the guy pulling the trigger wanted to make it a surprise for the audience, so naturally it had to be a surprise for me.  On the last night (it was only a 3 day run) I finally got it right.  (A little background on this kid: he'd been abused by his mother and his sisters treated him like crap.  He was, however, devoted to his older brother, a gang member.  He wasn't a big fan of women, to say the least.  He was also 6' 4" and big as a house.)  More on him later.

I'll never forget the last performance though.  When they came out for the curtain call, they all ran on stage, screaming and yelling, hugging each other and cheering each other on.  The audience wouldn't stop applauding.  The cast screamed for me to come down from the booth, and for the asm's to come out from backstage.  We all went up and as soon as I hit the deck, the kid with the gun came running up to me, hugging me and spinning me around yelling "The f*cking gun shot worked!!" over and over.

For the run, organizations like the Boys and Girls club would bring their own clients who were at risk youth.  One runaway told her councellor after the show that she wanted to call her mom after not speaking to her for 3 or 4 years.  During the curtain call one night, a group of boys who'd come with their councellor kept shouting "F*ckin' A".  Tons of stuff like that happened.

It was absolutely the most rewarding show I've ever worked on in my life.  A few of the kids even got off the street after that and cleaned up, going on to college or finishing high school.  I will never forget it as long as I live.

Mac Calder

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #9 on: Aug 31, 2006, 04:54 pm »
Wow! I got Warm and Fuzzies just reading it!

SMJorge

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #10 on: Sep 05, 2006, 04:49 pm »
I was doing You Can't Take it With You when suddenly in the middle of the show the audience started pointing at the ceiling (it was in the round) and yelling. One of our lights had an old three-fer that wasn't plugged in correctly and had caught on fire and was melting in the middle of a show. So one of the actors grabbed a fire extinguisher and put the fire out. Someone had pulled the fire alarm so we had to evacuate and no one could be in the building because the powder from the extinguisher went everywhere and it is an irritant. Once everyone was outside we told them we were going to finish the show in the front (there were about 20 minutes left). The audience went to the front and we asked them to clear some space for the actors to perform and they cleared some room. It was very interesting to see the actors go from round to proscenium in a bout 30 seconds. So, right as they were going to continue, the Fire Deparment shows up and  they were a little confused why there were so many people gathered around outside. After a little while one of the actors asked them to turn off the engine so they could finish. And they did. The patrons were the best audience we had and as they were leaving they said things like you've got the hottest show in town. It was kind of a nightmare since it was my first time stopping a show, but the audience and the actors and the FD really pulled through and made it happen.

ChaCha

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #11 on: Sep 08, 2006, 07:08 am »
I love the idea of recounting happy SMT memories - nice idea Kay. we do spend a lot of time on the horror stories (though of course behind every horror story is a stage management success story)

I was the stage manager for a 1000 voice choir which had been put together specifically to sing at the opening ceremony of an international arts festival. Really, everything about the gig was great, except possibly the 20 seconds I had when I could have maybe stopped them singing Amazing Grace as a completely undiscussed and unrehearsed encore (you can imagine the amount of thought and time devoted to deciding their repetoire for the event - amazing grace REALLY wasn't on the list!)...

they were to sing on a specially constructed series of scaffolding steps outside the concert hall and be accompanied by a series of slides projected onto the neighbouring wall...
So there we are at the start of the tech/dress rehearsal and the three conductors look at me and say " so, can you please arrange the choir onto the stands in vocal groups?" and passed me the radio mic...

I looked around at the milling masses and took a deep breath...

The next 20 minutes are a slight blur but I am told I was a woman  possessed...and the festival's publicist (ex special armed services) told me later ( as I danced all alone on the festival club dance floor all night) that I looked like I had been mainlining adreneline! It was amazing experience.

the next day we had the choir in the concert hall stalls and and the conductors and I stood on the stage as they warmed up. It was an incredible sound. Then I made a small speech thanking all these volunteers for putting in the time and reaching such an incredibly high standard, they all went beserk applauding themselves and the festival for making it happen. Just waves of sound...

then we went out there and the scissor lift refused to work for the conductors (we had a back up luckily), etc, etc, etc... but they sang like angels.

three years later  I still have people coming  up to me in public places and  telling me what a fantastic experience they had in the 1000 voice choir - definately a career highlight.

And it IS great to take the time to reflect on the highlights.

Cheers
ChaCha
ChaCha

stagemonkey

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #12 on: Sep 08, 2006, 03:30 pm »
Happy memories are always good.  I was the production manager for a student run group whose purpose was to set up and staff campus events.  Mainly we worked with the Campus Activities Board (CAB) with their Fine Arts and Concert Series.  Well CAB had Hubbard Street Dance Company coming in and they did a marvelous job of scheduling that.  Originally it was scheduled for the opening night of the Dance Departments 25th anniversary Gala show (which i also happened to be stage managing in the theatre department).  So when they realized this problem they resheculed with Hubbard Street and moved the performance up a week.  Well great its no longer on opening night its now on the first day of Tech, but thats ok the head of the dance department was planning on postponing the first tech so that all the dancers could go see Hubbard Street.  Well the theatre CAB normal does show at had some problem (mainly us as a staff setting up CAB shows had issues with the staff there 1 person who knows nothing about running a theatre basically saying that me and my staff dont have enough experience this being when I was a senior in the Tech Theatre program and the technical supervisor at the theatre was a freshman in the tech theatre program.) Basically she (the person who ran the theatre) didnt like us cause we didnt do things the way the guy before my current boss did things, trust me that guy was a moron everyone hated working for him.  Anyway it was a shoddy theatre and it really wasnt convient to students to get there.  Well ultimately something broke on their fly system and we were able to get university legal to say we couldnt do shows there till someone inspected their rigging system (trust me it really needed it).  This was great news to use cause it didnt make us put our staff at risk in an unsafe venue.  ANyway that all happened over a month before the Hubbard Street show that was suppose to be there.  Well I became the production manager for the show like a week before it went up and no one even thought where to do the show.  Well through a lot of work and getting people to talk I was like well I know a place thats right on campus that just so happens will be set up for a dance show on that day.  So i arranged so that CAB could rent the Theatre Departments Theatre to do the Hubbard Street show.  We had to supply the theatre department with some more labor to help with the set up as we had a show strike sunday and had to have the theatre ready for Hubbard Street Thurs.  In the end everything came together splendidly.  I think part of what made it work was that I was the Stage Manager for hte Dance Departments show and the Production Manager for the Hubbard Street show, so ultimately I wouldnt let anything happen to the space that would jeopardize the Dance Departments show.  While the time leading up to the show date was hectic and crazy the day of the show everything was so smooth.  My boss got caught out of town as his car died and it was funny cause everyone in the office thought he was at the theatre, which i knew he wasnt but i had everything ran so smooth i was often standing around doing nothing.  And then what made it great was at the end of the show when the CAB representive got on stage to say thanks for coming and to thank a few people when they said thanks to the tech people for making it happen I (sitting in the back row of the theatre) hear "GO Shiv's" (a nickname of mine) from the front row where all my dancer friends from the dance department show were sitting. 

And even now my after graduating my former boss refers back to it as one of out most successful shows and that it never would have happened if it wasnt for me.  He never did want me to graduate cause he will never get someone to fill my shoes for a while. It's nice to know the quality of your work is missed.

stageman7

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #13 on: Sep 16, 2006, 03:47 pm »
Hi Kay-What a great idea for a posting topic. I just completed SM'ing the Hartford (CT) Gay Pride Festival, which took place on a rented travelling stage in downtown Hartford while the police closed off the streets around the Capitol.
We had twelve acts from 4PM to 10PM, including three "disco divas" such as Bonnie Pointer. We also had two local Gay Alliance performing troupes who had never been on a real stage before, and the local touring company of Rocky Horror Picture Show! It was a mix of amateur and professional entertainers, and with the help of some dedicated volunteers and a very patient sound company the event went up and ended on schedule. (We even had a thunderstorm blow through to make life interesting.) The point of the story is that sometimes the
most unusual combination of talent and the simplest of staging can be the high point of a stage manager's year. All the best- Rich

oso_te_great

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Re: Happy Stage Management Memories?
« Reply #14 on: Nov 16, 2006, 03:17 am »
My greatest memory, a high school cast (except for a couple of actors who are pretentious and stuck up and need to stop spending thier parent's money) helped with striking the set.  Now there job was to put away their costumes and props, and then go to the cast party.  No, they struck the whole thing, not stopping until 2 hours later (midnight), when it was completely done.

Aren't actors the greatest sometimes?
Malcolm Foster
Seattle Academy Class of 2007
University of Montana Class of 2011

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