Author Topic: Comparing rep, touring and opera  (Read 6505 times)

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baaaldwin

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Comparing rep, touring and opera
« on: Jan 02, 2007, 11:15 am »
Hi there,

I have some ideas of my own to answer this question, but not having any first-hand experience of Opera is proving rather difficult.

What are the similarities and differences in ASM duties for repertory, touring and opera productions?

I have thought about the standard duties and how some might apply and others not, however, I can't seem to find many sources of information in my books or on the internet.

Does anyone know any good links or book that might give me more information on this? Also, if anyone has their own ideas or opinions it would be very much appreciated.

Happy New Year, and I hope to hear from you soon!

Modified to remove homework - BayAreaSM
« Last Edit: Mar 27, 2011, 01:36 pm by BayAreaSM »

Mac Calder

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Re: Comparing rep, touring and opera
« Reply #1 on: Jan 02, 2007, 03:54 pm »
What may be a good idea, is for you to tell us what you do know, and then we can expand upon your thoughts, and point out avenues to investigate.

centaura

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Re: Comparing rep, touring and opera
« Reply #2 on: Jan 04, 2007, 08:18 pm »
I know from a touring perspective, the ASM is very much an expendible position.  In a lot of the smaller and medium scale tours the duties of the ASM are farmed out into the cast, as the emphasis is putting the least amount of paid bodies on the road as possible.  They end up having very little traditional in-rehearsal duties - like errand running, etc.  When I had actor-ASMs they basically were in charge of some vital item or action backstage that would not be easy to explain to some local to do, and that they were offstage at the correct time to take care of.  So there would be as many 'ASM's as there were needed tasks that couldn't be devloved onto locals.

At the road house that I work at, I only see ASMs on the big broadway tours, they are often setting up callboards and other more typical stuff.  They usually have their time split between helping keep the actors up to speed on current information, and instructing local crew on job roles.  I've spent the day trying to think what I've seen ASMs do, but so few shows even come through with SMs that its hard to think what I've seen them do.  Concerts certainly don't have SMs touring with them - which is most of our business.

I would say that most of the job roles between a stationary ASM and a touring ASM, when they have one, are similar.  I would say that the amount and type of information dealt with is the main issue.  Not only do you have daily calls, etc., but there's itinerary changes, hotel information, driving days, mail, errands, etc.  Its much more oriented into having control of more of the actor's life, not just their time at the theatre, but practically their lives every minute of the day.

I'm less knowledgable about operas, but I do know that operas do a lot more with calling singers into places, which I believe that the ASM helps with.  Hopefully some of our opera folks will wander by this thread and put in their two cents.

Got to get back to work, hopefully others will stop by with more comparisons.

-Centaura

ljh007

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Re: Comparing rep, touring and opera
« Reply #3 on: Jan 05, 2007, 12:22 pm »
ASM duties vary a lot in opera depending on the size of the company (just like in theater), but here's a quick idea of what an ASM might encounter on a typical opera production:
- ASMs participate in pre-show planning, where they create their book, generate paperwork, and ready the rehearsal hall. Like in theatre, we photocopy the score and create act/scene/aria tabs if you use those; we get working documents going for the prop and wardrobe run sheets, WWW, etc; we tape the floor and set up prop tables in the hall. But we also make sure the piano is in tune, set out water and lozenges, and provide music stands. When preparing the score, we also take timings (you can find discussions of opera timings in other discussions within this "other" forum), carefully including all cuts. Other rehearsal room differences in opera include: the maestro podium and music stand set-up, chorus chair set-up & nametags (if you do that), and a separate table area for the principal artists (stars), who indeed are usually handled with special care.
- Opera SMs and ASMs work on the deck, almost never from a booth. If there are two ASMs, one will be assigned to each side of the stage and will handle all aspects of that side - props, entrances/exits, attendance, etc.
- Depending again on the theatre, ASMs may or may not take blocking during a rehearsal. If there is an AD, the ASM probably won't take blocking, but will record entrances and exits, prop movement, and crew actions. Depending on the PSM, sometimes ASMs are assigned to be the liason to a specific production department. For example, one ASM will handle all props coordination and the other will handle costumes (this is a somewhat common scenario). When it comes to performance, both ASMs will deal with their sides of the stage, but during rehearsals, it's helpful to have one person who acts as the "official" liason between stage management and other departments.
- PSMs in opera call over intercom for places (usually at 5-minute warnings), and ASMs are usually checking off attendance lists for their sides of the stage. When you're coming up on a big chorus entrance, this can be quite a chore. It can also be a little tense as you search for the big star to come backstage for their dressing room - and ASMs give the assurance over headset that the diva is present. SMs in opera often actually give entrance cues individually to principals and to the chorus, so that entrances are always perfectly timed to the music.
- Because the PSM is usually stuck at the console constantly calling complex cues, ASMs are generally pretty active backstage.  Whereas on tours, as centaura says, ASMs are sort of lackeys, in opera they are very valuable and work hard. Yes, you post on the call board and make coffee, but you also carry a lot of responsibility during a performance.
- ASMs must read music to work in opera. As you work in bigger opera houses, you'll find that everyone reads music, even the lighting designer and the TD. You don't need to speak a foreign language (though it can help), but you must be able to follow the score perfectly, even under the pressure of a complex scene change. ASMs in AGMA houses will be on AGMA contracts. It is also helpful to be familiar with other union rules, as your stagehands will be IATSE, your musicians AFM, and chorus/principals/directors will be AGMA.

Again, all this varies a lot depending on the company and the people involved. In my experience, I've found these to be generally standard practice.

smejs

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Re: Comparing rep, touring and opera
« Reply #4 on: Jan 05, 2007, 02:10 pm »
Quote
Whereas on tours, as centaura says, ASMs are sort of lackeys, in opera they are very valuable and work hard.

Not the bigger tours, of course.  As ASM on bigger shows, I also rotate into the calling position, as well as have intense cue-heavy tracks on the sides of the stage (cueing, and being traffic cop).  But it depends on the show and staff...my boyfriend is IATSE at a roadhouse and is often telling me of the ASMs who don't do very much.

Erin

centaura

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Re: Comparing rep, touring and opera
« Reply #5 on: Jan 05, 2007, 05:33 pm »
I think one of the major differences with a tour is that usually a considerable amount
of effort has gone into refining a show's tech needs, and trying to work out ways to simplify things backstage.  Not only to keep the paid tour staff number down, but to keep load-in times shorter, keep the reliance on the local crew doing complex chores down, save room on the trucks, etc.  I didn't mean to imply that a tour ASM was not a hard working individual - in addition to their job they supervise a crew that's never done the show before at each and every venue, dealing with all the best and worst that a local crew can throw at you.  That right there is a challenge in and of itself - you can't rely on the fact that 'Joe' will always be there with the right platform - you need to be on your toes to make sure that that day's local has kept up with their cue sheet and is in the correct spot ready to go.  It all depends on the show.  I was just mentioning that it is a position that is often worked out of the crew count, mainly for financial reasons.  The responsibilities then devolve onto another indivudual in the crew (or cast) - as the job still needs to get done, but by someone who has had it added to their 'titled' position.

-Centaura

centaura

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Re: Comparing rep, touring and opera
« Reply #6 on: Jan 09, 2007, 12:55 pm »
One thing that I didn't mention, that is a job difference - there's a lot more need for maintenance on tours that in a standard, shorter-run production.  I've recently learned that the original poster is a Brit - so that is even more apprapos.  British ASMs are the equivalent of US props people - when I was on tour over there as an ASM there were afternoon calls everyweek just for repair and maintenance work on things.

-Centaura

Candy0081

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Re: Comparing rep, touring and opera
« Reply #7 on: Mar 21, 2007, 12:09 am »
I work in a rep theatre and the asm duties here are very light.  During tech the asm if the gopher/ glow tape person  and then in performance the asm isn't around at all, but needs to know the show call, just in case. 

Hope that helps.

Candy

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