Author Topic: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process  (Read 9166 times)

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juliec

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #15 on: Oct 15, 2012, 05:31 am »
Oooh, this is such an interesting topic to me too, Maribeth!  I've thoroughly enjoyed this thread - such great perspectives!

I fall into the camp that technology is ONLY a tool.  Don't get me wrong: I spent a decade working in technology companies immersed in the technological revolution, and am a huge proponent of technology...  when it makes sense.  I think the most important thing to know is how you and your cohorts function, and then use it if it helps more than hinders.  As clever and responsible people, our job is to assess the situation, choose our tools, and understand the trade-offs.

Pyromnt, in the near future, I think we will go paper-less, but we won't go paperless.  Until there's a day that we can have virtual callboards, or all theaters are equipped with monitors and doors to post the running orders of each show that inhabits it - or the invention of "virtual paper", paper is essential.  Once upon a time, paper was a new invention too - it was a major, major technology with many advantages, including being a very lightweight, versatile, compressable 2-dimensional surface for the representation of information.  There are some things about paper that modern devices don't compete with (e.g., foldable, inexpensive, ultra-lightweight).  And of course, there are also things it does not do as well as modern devices (e.g., distribution, legibility, a flashlight or timer in a pinch).  Still, I don't see paper becoming obsolete any time soon - economically, it's too cheap and universally accessible.  Paper has been around for eons because it's a great technological choice, and I just don't see that changing in the blink of an eye.

Some trade-offs of paper are hard to see:  My awesome mentor is so super old school, she doesn't even use Post-Its!  She writes everything directly into her score.  She manually erases and rewrites changed cues in tech, and it's tedious.  Really you would think Post-Its are a great invention.  Well but her system is not all bad - she isn't not limited by the size of Post-Its or stickers!  She writes directly above the music where she starts her call, so her calling is impeccably consistent from show to show - it's just so easy, she doesn't even need to think.

Things I use paper for: I have never worked on a show that does not require a score.  A search feature is not as useful when people sing the reference.  I like to be mobile in case I need to cue an entrance (common in opera), and I like having a portable score that I can take into the wings or (if I am assistant-less) to the other side of the stage.  (If someone invented an extra-large touch-screen kindle, I might like that, but that seems to be going in the opposite direction of the trend.)  I also like carrying around a clipboard for notes more than a device - it's not a big deal if I drop it or have to put it down, and it's faster for me to write on the surface because I don't need to press any buttons to turn the screen on or to navigate to the right app.  (Context switching actually has huge costs.)

For me, the most useful part of modern technology is: a) distribution, and b) collaboration.  Distribution: I find that multiple versions of documents are confusing.  So I use Google Docs so that I have one link that is always updated.  The cast especially likes this for the schedule because they always know where to find their latest calls.  I don't need folders for my paperwork because I haven't needed to create more than 10 different documents (usually the number is closer to 6).  Collaboration: when I am creating new paperwork to share, I make my documents editable by others.  I'm a proponent of transparency, so I always share my paperwork with whomever wants to see it.

In terms of etiquette, I often use a laptop but I keep angled away from me or closed when I am not typing, to signal that my attention is focused on the stage.  I try to only use it for rehearsal notes or things that are important to the moment.  I consider unrelated paperwork (run lists and the like) to be homework because, although I have my laptop, my job is to be focused on what's going on now.

Also, I don't know how much of this is generational.  My first manager wanted me to make all these binders of creative concept images, and my first thoughts were: we're in the digital age!  we work at a cutting-edge technology company!  I thought she was hip, but also SO old-school (that was 10 years ago; she was in her 30s and I thought she was a dinosaur).  But nowadays, I want my binder!  I want to be able to take things out of it and give them to people.  I want to be able to pass out cheat sheets of crew assignments.  I want to be able to look at images side-by-side without needing to scroll or tab between pages.  I want to be able to share whole, unshrunken images of what the Costume Designer's inspiration, in all their 17" x 24" glory!  For me, it's a functional decision.  The creative human mind likes to spread out;  mobile devices just don't have enough screen real estate for me.  I personally feel that the current generation of devices limits my ability to grasp creativity, but I didn't have a full enough view of the world to understand that 10 years ago.

More on the limits of technology:  I am wired.  I have a smart phone with a data plan and a laptop (that I spend way more time on than I should).  I know my hotkeys and can manipulate a spreadsheet like no one's business.  I live in California, own a hybrid car, and am super into green.  I am going to continue to use new technology.  But I still print out the schedule and cast phone numbers - it's just easier to reference and foolproof.  Sometimes we need tactile or kinesthetic information because that is just how our brain works and we are human beings, after all - not robots or pixels.  We inhabit the world through all of our senses - not just the visual and aural ones.  There is something about analog life that engages people's gut and soul - and at the end of the day, that's what motivates and moves us.  Or maybe that belief is just why I moved into theater...

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Maribeth

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #16 on: Oct 15, 2012, 12:10 pm »
I'm enjoying the perspectives as well, Julie- thanks. Like others have mentioned, a lot of this depends on what kind of theatre you work at (High school, college, community theatre, regional theatre, etc). A lot also depends on the company you're working with at a particular moment- each is going to have different opinions about what they want in a hard copy. I can't see a physical callboard going away anytime soon at any of the places that I work, but in recent years, I have gone from making hard copies of rehearsal reports (in addition to emailing) to purely emailed reports. One theatre has a centralized, secure, website for posting reports- which has its own benefits and challenges.

I think that running lists are another piece of paperwork that needs to stay paper, from my perspective. I'm sure there are those who run shows off a tablet, but I think you'll run into the same issues that you do with a completely digital calling script- less reliability and security, increased chance of damage or last minute problem that prevents you from running the show. (I can see a huge potential plus to teching a show with the running list open on a tablet- easy to update in the moment! Less time that an ASM has to come in early or stay late to update paperwork after a long day of tech). But having paper copies for the crew is essential.

Curiosity question- how many of you use a rehearsal hotline for the daily schedule? (For those who don't have internet, or a smartphone, or for whatever reason can't access a digital schedule). I use one at just about every theatre I work at. (I can only think of one show in recent years where I didn't use one, and interestingly, it was at a university, with only one non-collegiate actor.)


loebtmc

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #17 on: Oct 15, 2012, 12:40 pm »
I have used a hotline for two companies - both in technically challenged areas. One in particular was in a small mountain town with minimal strength signals for cellphone service. The other used a lot of young folks, many in school or working at jobs where internet access during the day was limited or proscribed.

One other place paperwork may never disappear are the backstage song lists for musicals - incredibly valuable for complex shows and those with replacements/understudies.

ejsmith3130

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #18 on: Oct 15, 2012, 05:53 pm »
I am super interested in what everyone is saying here- this is great! I personally have clung to paper much more than a lot of the people that I worked with in college, (I wouldn't even have my laptop in rehearsal until my senior year) and it has served me well as I transistioned into the professional world.

My first professional job happened to be at an outdoor shakespeare festival in a small resort town, where we had unreliable wifi at our house and none at the outdoor rehearsal space. We didn't even have nearby electricity- had I not been able to put together all the paperwork in a binder and have an effective orginizational plan, it could have been bad. I would e-mail reports each night, but they would contain information from all of the days rehearsals. This experiance has probably shaped the way I approach the job even today. I want to have access to all of my information regardless of if I have power or an internet connection. I want my book to be available and full of anything I might need, right on hand.

Generally I do have my laptop with me at more traditional spaces, but less so if I'm just the asm. I really value being able to type up production/rehearsal notes as they happen, because this saves me time after rehearsal and when I'm really tired, I can just attach it to an email and send it out- two minutes and I'm out of the door. Technology is important, and I really like to integrate it into my work process, but I don't ever want to be 100% reliant on it- too many things can go wrong.

I also agree with juliec when it comes to opera... I don't see completly paperless technology translating to Opera stage management. When I am backstage throwing cues to actors, I consistantly have other actors asking me how long until their next cue- with a simple glance at my book, I can see the stickies on the side and let them know an aproxamate pagecout/time without missing the cue for the singer waiting to enter.

I aslo agee with running paperwork- I love to post it on the walls when I have actor-crews, or have paper copies for a straight tech crew. What happens when you drop the iPad with your running list during a scene change? A paper run sheet can be folded and shoved in a pocket or apron without ruining it. Also, what about lit screens backstage? This would upset certain lighting designers I know who are really concerned about light leakage from worklights alone. What happens when you add several handheld screens that cannot be gelled?

I am always excited when I encounter new technology that makes my job easier (dropbox for collaboration is my FAVORITE!) but I'm skeptical of going paperless just for the sake of it. I'm interested to see what comes in the future.




DCPSM2012

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #19 on: Oct 16, 2012, 03:45 am »
I find it a bit ironic that the members of the "next generation"- who are more likely to have smart phones, tablets, etc.- are the most likely candidates to misuse their tools. Most technology now being connected to the internet, the temptation to "just check this one thing" that has nothing to do with the job at hand, grows stronger when using said technology- doesn't it?

 I remember reading somewhere on smnetwork that sometimes it is best to pull your head out of the computer, take a pen and paper, and focus solely on the stage- keeping your eyes off the screen and on the people.

Quote
I still do the same paper work, but just being able to do it while at rehearsal and have it all on the same device makes it easier. Basically, I don't need to search for my paperwork. It is all in the same app and the easily accessible.

True, having the multi-functional applications to run blocking and sound and lighting and what-have-you is great. Amazing even. I'm jealous of the efficiency of it all, to be honest. But there is something to be said about manually writing out your notes. When you write something down, your body connects to the information, as well as your mind. Once you've written notes out, more of the details seem to stick. (Speaking for myself). The few times I've used a laptop to take notes and record blocking, I've found that the information simply becomes data. Keystrokes. Then when I have to answer a question about my computerized and "technologically up-to-date" notes, I have to return to the notes to find the answer. However, when I've physically marked out the information, I can usually recall it without referring back to the paperwork.

I can't condemn anyone for going paperless- in fact that's most likely the direction that the industry is heading- but maybe some things just deserve to be written down.
"You can grow old, but please, please, never grow up. Not all the way."

On_Headset

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #20 on: Oct 24, 2012, 08:55 pm »
I would also note that theatres aren't known for their reliable connectedness.

Any system which depends upon the availability of wifi or cellphone signals will need to contend with "Yeah, that doesn't work in the booth" and "Oh, you can only get a signal if you hold the antennae out the window" and "Try holding it upside-down" and "#$%$#, I had it just a second ago" and "Can you please move your ipad away from the headset? You're making it beep in everyone's ear" and...

NomieRae

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #21 on: Oct 24, 2012, 10:41 pm »
...and to play devil's advocate:

Today an actor was immeasurably grateful for his hard copies. A very connected guy here in the city, Iphone, iPad, etc can bring up the information I had e-mailed or offered through the dropbox account, but today he accidentally left his phone at home and traveled over an hour into manhattan before realizing it. It was our second day of rehearsal and he was relatively sure he could remember the address/cross-streets but having that info tucked into his binder was invaluable.

While I am very big on using Dropbox and email to distribute information, I think for the most part it should supplement hard copies, and not replace it.
--Naomi
"First, I honor life, and with it my life in theatre." -- Jacques Burdick

DeeCap

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #22 on: Oct 31, 2012, 02:20 pm »
I'm a mix of paperless/paper.  I don't think I can ever call a show from an i-pad, but I do appreciate having a Dropbox.

Unless everyone in the industry is up to date with technology, we'll have to have hard copies. I've worked with designers and actors who still use an AOL account as their main email. 

PSMKay

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #23 on: Oct 31, 2012, 02:57 pm »
... and this is why SMNet has to support browsers that the rest of the internet forgot. We will still render legibly in IE6 and Netscape to accommodate the poor souls on antiquated tech office computers.

I mentioned this to one of my friends who does fancy front end design for websites and she started crying at the concept of having to support browsers over a decade old.

But seriously, with so many theatres in their death throes these days, we have to be able to go without the latest and greatest.

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EFMcMullen

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #24 on: Oct 31, 2012, 06:14 pm »
I've worked with designers and actors who still use an AOL account as their main email.

Hey, hey, hey, no judging those of us who still have an AOL account.  Some of us have had AOL since the internet began (Yes, Virginia there was a time before internet). AOL links to Mail like any other e-mail account.  Doesn't mean we are surfing the web with it.   

;)
Now back on topic...

RuthNY

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #25 on: Oct 31, 2012, 11:20 pm »
I still use my AOL screen name/email address, chosen back in 1991 when there was no thought of ever being able to contact people outside the service. AOL works fine for me, but I do admit, if someone else didn't already have the name ruthny at gmail dot com, I would have switched over a couple of years ago. I've never had any trouble with AOL, and don't plan on switching now, unless I am forced to by technology, hackers, or AOL bad business practices.
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DeeCap

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #26 on: Nov 01, 2012, 02:48 pm »
I've had my aol account since 1995.  I find it interesting to see designers who do the bulk of their work on their fancy computer and they have an aol account.

MatthewShiner

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #27 on: Nov 01, 2012, 02:53 pm »
it's interesting to see people hold onto email accounts and cell phone numbers - afraid of losing contact with the hundreds of people we have worked with in the past.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

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omaira17

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #28 on: Nov 02, 2012, 11:08 am »
I am proud to say we use both sources at our theatre. I switched to electronic scripts last season. We upload electronic copies of the scripts and scores to DropBox & allow the cast and crew to print as they need. This way they can mark them up however they want and the original scripts/scores aren't damaged. Most of our Stage Managers don't record blocking as the director normally have their blocking notes separate and each actor is responsible for taking down their own blocking. In an actor's absence from a rehearsal we usually assign someone to notate the missing actor's blocking for them. I haven't had much luck in putting blocking directly on the electronic scripts (it's very time consuming & makes for sloppy or cramped scripts). However, the director we are working with for our next show is working on an electronic blocking copy of the script himself.
I am a list person myself so I spend a lot of time during rehearsals typing up notes for Lights, Set, Costumes, Props, Sound, etc. as well as our normal rehearsal reports. I upload the lists to Dropbox and the rehearsal reports are emailed out to the production staff. When we get to 2 weeks before tech week, I take all of my electronic lists and keep copies in my book, I usually then spend a good deal of time with the Production staff going over all of the lists and making sure they have everything they need. A fresh clean copy of the script is printed for the SM to use for writing in their calling cues.

I would love to integrate more digital technology but am still afraid of losing something, or computer freezing, so having the backup is a life saver for me. I also have a back up flashdrive of all the lists, reports, etc. in case one doesn't work or I need to reprint something on the fly.

GraceExperiences

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Re: ARTICLE: Stage Managers using a paperless process
« Reply #29 on: Jun 12, 2013, 01:23 pm »
Hi Guys,

This is all fascinating and so helpful to red about! Thanks guys!

My company is looking to go completely paperless with our scripts. We are thinking about using Kindles.

Any suggestions for what formats to put the scripts in? How can we edit them on a Kindle? How should we distribute them electronically?

Thanks everyone!!!
Grace

 

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