Author Topic: Newbie! SM for a Circus performance  (Read 7082 times)

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alexmcneice

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Newbie! SM for a Circus performance
« on: Sep 14, 2006, 05:10 am »
Hiya,

I'm new here and quite new to SM-ing. I've done some Stage management in Uni but this is my first time professionaly. My first show is a performance by a Circus School, and I just wondered is there anything that i would need to know that is very specific to circus performances, as with regards to stage managing. We never covered circus performances in Uni   ;D

Just wanted to ask you all since you are all so knowledgable!

Alex

ChaCha

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Re: Newbie! SM for a Circus performance
« Reply #1 on: Sep 14, 2006, 10:21 am »
Hi Alex, and welcome to SM Network,

I am by no means a circus expert but I have worked a couple of circus shows in the last few years - they were shows by students at a circus school attached to a university, but the creative team were all industry professionals brought in on contracts, so they had ambitious production values. Coming to circus without any background I found a few differences from stage managing say opera or  theatre which I list here in no particular order;

1. there are a lot of hours required of 'training', which is completely different to 'rehearsing' - even if they are training a performance sequence they are concentrating on achieving the 'tricks' (technical achievements in their area for example : juggling 12 clubs whilst skipping, etc) and their trainer rather than the director is in charge (in fact the director probably wont be there and you probably dont need to be either though its interesting and a good way to start to learn the act/understand circus). Its a bit like the difference between a conductor and the director in the rehearsal room of an opera or musical.

2. even after the show opens they may need a training schedule ON THE SET. It is also likely that there will be an extensive warm up schedule before every show, which means negotiating set up times/setting up around 25 people standing on their heads

3. there may also be a warm down scheduled after each show, and again, depending on what spaces you have available, it might need to be onstage. (lots of warm up activities need mats, which need space)

4. you need to have a great relationship with the trainers as  they are bad people to have as enemies! They may have very close relationships with the students they train and it will make your life easier if you can rely on them to back you up in your dealings with the students. Also, they can explain many circus mysteries to you! Help with scheduling training, tell you when the students are asking for unreasonable or unnecessary things, etc, etc

5. RIGGERS are another key to getting on in circus. Obviously safety is a huge issue with lots of circus acts and the riggers may be the ones with overall responsibility in this area. So they may well be entitled to overule you on lots of backstage matters. Again, I'd suggest going to your head rigger on day one and saying you know nothing about circus processes but you are keen to work closely with the riggers to make it all happen in the most safe and efficient fashion. He or she will probably love it that you aren't just trying to be the big boss who knows all and will give you lots of helpful information.

6. During tech week you have some extra things to fit in - especially the Safeties or safety rehearsals. These come after LX plotting but before the tech. The rehearsal is really controlled by the riggers and/or trainers but it can be very useful for stage management as a chance to see each act and check through placement of props etc . However the purpose of the rehearsal is to make sure each performer is secure with every movement/light/item of equipment they use. So normally they would walk through the routine for spacing/equipment, then see each LX cue and check that the lights dont interfere with the routine (LX in the eyes do not help juggling or cloudswing, etc etc). Once they are happy you move on to the next act. It can be extremely slow. If you use recorded music it unlikely that it will be used at all during safeties, though occasionally its needed.

7. Lots of extra terminology to grasp - (ring)mats (and how to roll them and store them),spanish web, german wheel, russian bar, adagio(the one where they stand on one anothers heads, and hold the partner up with one foot, etc - looks like a recipe for injury)  and so on. Just ask questions....

8. If you want REHEARSAL to start at 10am make sure you have specified that people have to be WARMED UP ready to go, otherwise expect to start with warm up

9. Expect performers to be much more interested in things you may consider props than say actors. To them a set of metal bowls for bowl kicking are vital personal equipment. It is likely that they will personally own such items and you may have to negotiate if you want to pack them for touring or keep them in  the building during the run of the show. It is possible they might want to take them home to practise during the day. Take comfort in the fact that they are equally much more likely to remember to bring them back than an actor would be....

10. the performers will quite possibly expect to help with scene changes etc. Do expect to direct them and write up  scene change lists etc for them. If you dont have time, tell them early on  to write up their own runnning list and keep on top of changes...make it their responsibility and remind them often. Its also good to post a list of the acts in running order on walls everywhere once the director starts shaping the show (like a list of 'numbers' in a musical)

11. My experience is that even circus shows with some sort of narrative thread are essentially made up of a series of acts (" cloudswing, spinning bowls, double trapeze, chinese poles, ensemble juggling" ) possibly with linking sequences devised by the director. This means that it is eay to rehearse segments. It also means that the ORDER of the acts can CHANGE. For example if someone has an injury you might not do trapeze at all one night! So the stage manager has to be ready for constant changes and have a good grip on what they will mean for scene changes, cue sequences, etc. There are some sound software programmes for circus which make it possible to just  shift whole acts about in the sequence...

12. You also need to know the house policy on missed tricks - does the performer try again if they knock over the hoops whilst diving through them - how many times? - what will happen with the music? is there plenty of spare music on the track? What if they fall off the cloudswing? Will they go back up or is there special music to cover the abrupt end to the act? etc etc etc

12a. They will want to video everything, all the time, so they can review their work. (I believe this happens even at Cirque de Soleil level - they record every performance)

13. Depending on the emphasis the school places on performance versus skills training they they may not have much performance experience. The trainers may not think its important. You may have to do a lot of educating people about your expectations for people to arrive for a 'half hour call' or to listen to the stage manager. But don't worry, if they didn't value you at the beginning they will by the end.

14. Think of it more as a dance show when you start putting a prompt copy together.

Hope it helps a bit. And have fun, i did (mostly!!)

ChaCha
« Last Edit: Sep 14, 2006, 11:07 pm by ChaCha »
ChaCha

alexmcneice

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Re: Newbie! SM for a Circus performance
« Reply #2 on: Oct 02, 2006, 07:14 am »
Thank you loads!

You've really helped me!!

THANK YOU!!!!!  ;D

ChaCha

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Re: Newbie! SM for a Circus performance
« Reply #3 on: Oct 02, 2006, 10:30 am »
entirely my pleasure. I hadn't meant to write such a long post but it just seemed to get longer and longer. Let us know how you get on- whether you love it and circus is your new thing, or whether you can't wait to get back to a bit of Ibsen!
ChaCha

alexmcneice

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Re: Newbie! SM for a Circus performance
« Reply #4 on: Oct 27, 2006, 04:15 pm »
oh its gone so bad at some points...i even got told today at one point "that's not how the last stage manager did it."

oh great....thanks....i must be awful then...

 :'(

does anyone have a little teary moment when they get a bit stressed out?

ChaCha

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Re: Newbie! SM for a Circus performance
« Reply #5 on: Oct 27, 2006, 11:11 pm »
Personally I have sworn (several times) never to cry over work again...

Don't let the bastards get you down!!!! Follow any thread on the board and it will be obvious that there as many ways to stage manage as there are stage managers -obviously that little fact hasn't registered with the circus folk. I am sorry that your first job isnt giving you more joy.

Are there any specific problems that the people on the board can help with?
ChaCha

alexmcneice

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Re: Newbie! SM for a Circus performance
« Reply #6 on: Oct 29, 2006, 06:17 pm »
oh its alright now. they were wondering why i wasnt backstage and I told them it was because i needed to see it...(sooooo many visual cues) there was then some general mumbling of getting a video link but it never came about (knew it wouldnt) the basically wanted me backstage to wrangle the kids and make sure they got on in time...hello!!!! they should know their bloody cues by now!!!(they do now by the way....)

i had some help from my brother since he is the lighting designer on this one....(he sort of pimped me....he had his job and the circus mentioned they had no SM and my bro said "my sister is an SM....so i got a job!!!) yeah so he made me see they were being stressed out themselves. so now we have done 4shows....2 good...one 'meh' and one AWFUL....1st show incidentally...the shows have got better. there have been quite a few mistakes and drops but thats to be expected when its children performing.

the adults in it are great. there is a gorgeous silks act!!!

anyway...its all fandabbydosey now!

thanks anway chacha!

alex.

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Re: Newbie! SM for a Circus performance
« Reply #7 on: Nov 01, 2006, 09:40 am »
ah yes, the 'we're stressed, let's spread it around' technique. Glad to hear things are looking up!
ChaCha

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