Author Topic: PEOPLE: A Difficult Designer  (Read 2656 times)

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AidenKentSM

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PEOPLE: A Difficult Designer
« on: Jan 30, 2013, 11:09 pm »
Hello,

I am currently stage managing a straight play at a local community theatre. My lighting designer tends to complain about his work and situation a lot, so please keep this in mind. We have about 2 weeks until tech, and he has been occupied with another show, so he has not had time to come to rehearsals. The way our schedule was created, we would not have a full run through until a week before tech. I recently sent out a report, asking when he was planning on meeting with the director, and coming to rehearsals, and he sends me the following reply:

"I haven't had a chance to call (the director) yet.  I will in the next few days. The way the schedule is laid out, there is no way I will be able to see the entire show, until full dress rehearsals during tech week, and I am not happy. It seems like it is asking an awful lot of the actors to not put it all together until the very end. Tech week is for the integration of the technical elements into the show, and not trying to remember blocking you learned three or five weeks ago and haven't revisited since."

How do I respond in a professional tone, considering 1) the schedule was not my making 2) we can't change the schedule at this point and 3) He does tend to complain a lot, and I have heard no complaints regarding the schedule from my cast ?

I don't want to put him on the defensive, but I also want him to realize that it is his responsibility to be flexible and work under restricted time constraints based on our place in the process.

Any help would be much appreciated!

Thank you.

Edit to add topic tag. - Maribeth
« Last Edit: Feb 11, 2013, 08:12 pm by Maribeth »

nick_tochelli

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Re: A Difficult Designer
« Reply #1 on: Jan 31, 2013, 09:23 am »
Well, I'd say first of all it's not his "responsibility" to be flexible. Would it be nice? of course. But that's creating a confrontational situation which isn't going to end well. Our job is to facilitate the art and environment of a production and it's members, not dictate. 

Now regardless of that,  you're two weeks out from tech. I'm not exactly sure why a schedule change can't be made. Is it space constraints? Actor conflicts? Director conflicts? Can you drop a rehearsal day somewhere, but pick up a rehearsal on a scheduled off day which might allow for your LD to make it to a run?

There also appears to be a breakdown in communication somewhere. If you're having planned run throughs the week before tech, but he's saying they aren't getting full run throughs until tech, there needs to be a clarification there.

In your response, don't push blame. That's not going to help. If you have the free time and you and he can get together perhaps you can propose a dry tech where you go over the blocking movements and he can mentally prepare for the design. Open the possibility of him offering a compromise that might allow him to see the show, but still fit it into his schedule. Could one of your tech days be a spacing rehearsal on stage with him working over top of the cast as they figure out the staging in the space?

SMrose

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Re: A Difficult Designer
« Reply #2 on: Jan 31, 2013, 09:42 am »
Is there a time when the designer can see the show in parts? (even if on book) i.e. Act one on Monday, Act two on Tuesday.  As a sometimes designer, I often see the show in parts over a course of a couple of days.
Did the designer bring up his conflicts when the schedule was first distributed?



"I haven't had a chance to call (the director) yet.  I will in the next few days. The way the schedule is laid out, there is no way I will be able to see the entire show, until full dress rehearsals during tech week,

If it was me (as stage manager) I don't see where a response to the designer is necessary as he's answered you.  I would just let the director know that the designer will be contacting him about schedule conflicts and what those conflicts are as he has described to you (can't attend till full dress rehearsals).  I would not address the comments about actors.

 Perhaps the director should be pro-active and contact the designer as it sounds like the two of them need to work out the scheduling conflicts. Then the director can inform you when the designer will be there.

KMC

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Re: A Difficult Designer
« Reply #3 on: Jan 31, 2013, 09:56 am »
"Difficult designer" - is there another kind?  I say that tongue firmly planted in cheek. 

He's not necessarily asking you a question or making a request, so responding to him in detail is going to cause you to start chasing things down rabbit holes, which isn't productive or beneficial to anyone.  I'd respond simply that you understand his concerns regarding scheduling conflicts and they've been relayed to the director, you're looking forward to a solution that works for all, and leave it at that.  I'd leave out the "fair to the actors" bits in your email to the director though as it would likely come off as an indirect criticism of the current schedule.   

SMRose's suggestion about getting the two in contact with each other is the way to go, in my opinion.  The LD has some legitimate concerns, but my guess is once the two talk it'll be resolved with little fanfare. 
« Last Edit: Jan 31, 2013, 09:59 am by kmc307 »
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loebtmc

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Re: A Difficult Designer
« Reply #4 on: Jan 31, 2013, 12:27 pm »
May I humbly suggest you plan a designer run - this is a stumble thru but gives all designers an idea of staging and is a vital element for all designers. This is usually done before the light plot is due, so they can design around specific ideas. It also allows notes to include things like "on p. 7, X is now entering thru the USL doorway instead of the DR vom" and know the LD has a reference point from their notes. The LD shd be able to give you a date to attend a designer run - or at the least, as noted above, an run for each act.

It sounds like the LD and director have not sat down and discussed concepts. This is kinda vital and needs to happen asap. But that's on their schedule. Either way, this is an classic excuse for a paper tech w the LD, director and you talking thru the play prior to tech and outside of rehearsal hours, whether in a coffee shop or at the theater, uninterrupted for 2-3 hours as the director explains his/her vision while the LD asks qqs and rough places cues.

Your response shd be to initiate a conversation w the director. You can help find time for those two links to connect, and to collect options for a designer run and a paper tech. Then, as SM, email your entire design team to inform them that these are happening, here are suggested dates for a designer run, please state preferences or offer options so it can be scheduled in enough time for the designers to do their work.

And ......good luck.

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missliz

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Re: A Difficult Designer
« Reply #5 on: Jan 31, 2013, 12:59 pm »
I agree with everyone's suggestions. Could you also build in more runthroughs before tech, perhaps on days where you've already scheduled most of the cast? Check with the designers (and specifically the LD) to see when would work for them. I'm sure the actors would appreciate multiple runthroughs before tech as well.
I personally would like to bring a tortoise onto the stage, turn it into a racehorse, then into a hat, a song, a dragon and a fountain of water. One can dare anything in the theatre and it is the place where one dares the least. -Ionesco

On_Headset

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Re: A Difficult Designer
« Reply #6 on: Jan 31, 2013, 08:37 pm »
Quote
How do I respond in a professional tone, considering 1) the schedule was not my making 2) we can't change the schedule at this point and 3) He does tend to complain a lot, and I have heard no complaints regarding the schedule from my cast ?
Insofar as he's whining or being petulant, don't respond at all. You're running a theatre, not a Finishing School for Proper Young Ladies And Gentlemen. It's not your job to set him straight or "fix" his rude outbursts, and no good will come of assuming the responsibility.

Insofar as he's asked for additional information, provide it the same as you would anyone else.

Insfoar as he has valid complaints which go over your head (about the schedule or otherwise), those ought to be referred to the person responsible. (Producer? PM? Director?)

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