Author Topic: ASMS: ASM supervising backstage  (Read 1918 times)

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ASMS: ASM supervising backstage
« on: Apr 01, 2014, 01:30 pm »
I'm not sure where I had gotten into this habit, but it has always worked for me very well, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.  I have always instilled a lot of responsibility and autonomy into my ASM's.  I have also been very lucky to have very competent ASM's who appreciate the responsibility.  I have always delegated to my ASMs to track props, create the prop table, make sure props get back, and have also handled changes.  This of course is when I don't have a designated props and dresser backstage.  I have also assigned the backstage crew as their responsibility to direct.  Some stage managers have frowned at me in the past when during production I will be backstage to make sure everyone signed in, everyone is present, communicate that house is open and then I will go up to the tech booth.  While I am in the tech booth I communicate with my ASM to give calls and places.  Instead of me being backstage or speaking over the loud speaker.  I often view my ASM as a Co-Stage Manager and I have them take care of interpersonal situations backstage along with making sure everyone is where they need to be and then communicating with me if there's a situation I need to be involved in.  This has always worked very well for me and I always feel my ASMs enjoy working with me because I do give them responsibility and don't have to micro manage every aspect. Do you use your ASMs in a similar way?  Am I giving them too much responsibility?

Edited to add topic tag.- Maribeth
« Last Edit: Apr 30, 2014, 09:48 am by Maribeth »



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Re: ASM supervising backstage
« Reply #1 on: Apr 02, 2014, 01:39 am »
I believe what you are practicing is standard. As the SM, it is my job to call the show, while my ASMs manage SR and SL. For the scale/demand of productions that I am doing, there isn't time for me to manage props, crew, etc while calling. For ballet, I call from backstage right, but I do let my assistants make the calls until places, as they enjoy doing it.

There have been several instances during tech or a performance where the show Steward (I work with IATSE crews), on-call doctor, house manager or musician rep will want to speak with me while I am calling the show. I always redirect them to my ASM or PA, as I need to focus on the show. I train my assistants to be representatives of the SM team, and therefore represent me to others.

Another reason that I have SM team members on both SR and SL is that they are there for the performers. If someone has an issue on SL and I am on SR, I won't know and can't help them. My ASM on SL can tend to their needs, inform me of what is going on, and she can resolve the situation. The same goes for my PA on SR. If I am in a busy sequence and a performer is hurt/needs attention, she can radio house staff for the doctor and can tend to the performer while the show continues.

You have to be able to trust your team to handle the stage and the performers. If you do micro manage everything, your assistants won't be able to learn how to do the job correctly and you'll hinder yourself, and potentially, the production. Every SM's style is different, and the needs of each production/theater company can vary. Personally, when I have called from a booth, I do make a point to stay backstage making calls either in person or over the PA (depending on what's available) until the 15 minute call. After that call, I need to focus and get myself ready, and head to the booth. (I will check sign-in sheets at the half hour call, as my assistants are usually busy making sure the stage is set at that time.) I see nothing wrong with your "habit", as long as the show is running smoothly and your performers are safe and happy. 



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Re: ASM supervising backstage
« Reply #2 on: Apr 09, 2014, 12:55 am »
As an ASM I totally appreciate this approach to management. I work with a resident stage manager, and we have been together for just over a full season now, so we really have a rhythm when we work together, and although our specific division of duties changes a little bit due to the needs of each individual show (we have worked on everything from one man shows to musicals to farce and drama) we work well as a team.

I think it is important to look at this from the ASM point of view as well- when I begin rehearsals (and even prep) for a show I try to step up to the plate and take on responsibilities without being asked. Now that I have been working for several years and really know how to anticipate the needs of a production, I take steps to do things before being asked. This has always been a good way for me to kind of forge a position for myself on the stage management team and show that I can work independently.

I like the idea of being a "Co-Stage Manager" as you had said, but this doesn't mean that I still don't get coffee and lunch for my boss a good deal of the time- there is a hierarchy- but we know where our strengths and weaknesses compliment each other so we can do an effective job.



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Re: ASMS: ASM supervising backstage
« Reply #3 on: Jun 11, 2014, 11:39 am »
I agree completely and do the same thing with my team. I usually work with 2 ASM's. I assign each a side of the stage and they are fully responsible for everything on their side (Props, quick changes, set changes, etc.) I usually let one be the lead ASM and tell the cast to go to that person 1st, before coming to me. This A) helps me focus on the actual production and calling of the show & B) helps the cast know that someone is still there to answer questions or deal with problems.
Every ASM I work with I sit and discuss responsibilities prior to tech starting so they know that as soon as tech starts...They're on!
I've had great feedback from the ASM's as they've all said it's helped them and they've actually learned a bit. They always know I have their back and I am just a headset click away!



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