Author Topic: TEACHING: What basics should actors know about tech?  (Read 8638 times)

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J

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Re: What basics should actors know about tech?
« Reply #15 on: Feb 26, 2009, 10:19 pm »
I really have to agree with Ruth on this one. It's not or responsibility, or job, to make it a rule that actors cannot ask character/blocking/etc. questions during tech. It's the director's choice whether to respond to them at that time or not, or to ask the actor to wait until another time for the discussion. 

ScooterSM

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Re: What basics should actors know about tech?
« Reply #16 on: Feb 27, 2009, 11:54 am »
I would also have to agree with Ruth and J on this.  As long as you establish with director at the start of the cue to cue or tech that he is welcome to talk to the actors when everything is stopped (ie fixing a light cue or resetting for a big shift) but as soon as you are ready to move on you can say so and the director will stop and return his attention back to tech.  I have found that actors are much less unruly/talkative/etc if they have something to keep them occupied during these times.  Also, if you allow them to use the spaces in between when they are needed for tech to figure out some of these issues, it makes things go faster on the other end, which is nice especially when rehearsal time is at a premium.
“I've never been paid a lot, but the theatre has kept me, and for that I shall be eternally grateful.” Tony Church

Tigerrr

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Re: What basics should actors know about tech?
« Reply #17 on: Feb 27, 2009, 12:34 pm »
Perhaps I'm not being clear in what I'm saying.

I never said "no" to acting questions. Nor did I say that I would put a stop to that sort of discussion if it cropped up. Nor did I ever say that it was a "rule" I imposed on cue to cue. I was talking about stopping in the middle of a cue sequence to ask an acting question, for instance. Or insisting on a lengthy discussion unrelated to the task at hand. Questions like "I really don't know what I'm doing in this scene" or "Why does my character do x" are the kinds of things I'm looking to discourage. Long, open-ended questions about motivation and intent that have very little to do with the work going on.

As much as it is our job to support and encourage, we also have a responsibility to the theatre company to stick to the production schedule so as not to incur overtime costs. Letting too much time be spent working out non-technical related questions while technicians are being paid to be there for other reasons is irresponsible.

As long as you establish with director at the start of the cue to cue or tech that he is welcome to talk to the actors when everything is stopped (ie fixing a light cue or resetting for a big shift) but as soon as you are ready to move on you can say so and the director will stop and return his attention back to tech.

I absolutely agree, and that's pretty standard.

Because I'm working with almost a dozen actors who have NEVER been through a cue to cue before, I need to be very clear with them. Not to mention we've got an Equity actor and are working in an IA house. I wouldn't even consider having this discussion with an actor who's experienced even one tech week. But all of this is going to be brand new to them and I want to give them a heads up.

MatthewShiner

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Re: What basics should actors know about tech?
« Reply #18 on: Feb 27, 2009, 03:33 pm »
"we also have a responsibility to the theatre company to stick to the production schedule so as not to incur overtime costs. Letting too much time be spent working out non-technical related questions while technicians are being paid to be there for other reasons is irresponsible."

I know this topic has strayed a bit from the original subject – but I feel compelled to respond to the above.  I think the above position is one type of stage management – but not my personal style.  I think it sets up a “technicians” versus “artistic” rumble.  Yes, I agree you don’t want to waste tech time, but there are many things that need to be worked out during tech week – and for whatever reason, there still maybe acting questions, artistic questions that need to be solved – and let’s not forget that technical elements might start adding new acting questions – especially as staging is changed for LX, Sound, Props, Scenic or whatever new reasons are thrown at the actor.

Since this original conversation came out of the concept of a Q-2-Q tech, which I am EXTREMELY opposed to, I think the best way to handle this, as mentioned before,  is to talk to the director and make sure you have the ground rules laid before starting.  (My problem with Q-2-Q is you don’t actually start integrating the acting into the process.  How often have you Q-2-Q a show, then when you start adding in the scenes, have a director change a blocking that results in an exit being in a different place, which means a quick change needs to change location, which adds a new cross, which means the sound cue wants to be longer, etc, etc.)

And, yes, it is our responsibility to move tech along, but don’t forget that the director also bears the responsibility to have us complete tech in a timely manner.  (And ultimately, the show rest’s on the director’s soliders)  Hell, if it wasn’t for the pesky director, I could tech a show in a day.  There reason it takes longer is a director is trying to integrate all aspects of tech, design and acting to make an unified product.  I have spent my entire career trying to put together a style that allows the director to continue their work right up until opening, and being as flexible and prepared (and having the crew being flexible and prepared) that no matter what tech deals us, we can all get out job doing, including the actors and the director.

Stage managing styles are not one size fits all – and although I know my tolerance of “artistic” interests will often upset the crew working on the show, they also know that I will turn to a director and say “we need to do this for the crew”, and stand up for their interests when need be.  (But, in my world, I have some very certain givens, well-staffed and experience crews, more the adequate tech time – 6 full days, plus 5 days during previews, and I tend to work on classical, text driven texts.)
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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.

MatthewShiner

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Re: What basics should actors know about tech?
« Reply #19 on: Feb 27, 2009, 03:37 pm »
To get back on topic . . .

I think a stage manager should meet with the director, production manager and designers and form a plan for tech - every show will be different - and if there are special circumstances that the actors need to be notified about, they should be in a timely manner.

I think this especially important with a director is working at a theatre for the first time, it's the director and SM's first time working together, or there are a lot of new actors to the theatre's tech process. 

Every theatre runs their tech a little different, and it's good to have everyone have the same expectations. 
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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.

Tigerrr

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Re: What basics should actors know about tech?
« Reply #20 on: Mar 01, 2009, 12:06 am »
Matthew - thanks for your input.

I think I'm just a little wiggy over this one because it's been a while since I've worked with students. Also in this particular case:
- the cast is comprised of 11 people which includes 1 Equity member, 1 professional actor, and 9 student actors
- only 2 of the student actors even knows what a cue to cue is, let alone understands what is required of them (this was the intent of my original question - what do actors need to know about tech)
- the play is 2 1/2 hours (before intermission) with 25 scenes, all with transitions in between (meaning cue sequences of varying lengths) as well as several major scene changes
- we're going to be rehearsing the scene changes in the proper lighting before we do the cue sequence, which will eat up time during cue to cue, but is necessary for safety's sake
- most of the show has a sound scape, so we'll need to run through the entire thing for levels, meaning it won't be as much of a start-and-stop as a regular Q2Q.
- we have 2 tech runs, 1 dress rehearsal and 1 preview, all of which have to occur within 4-hour calls (3 1/2 of which will be used by the half-hour/prep, show and break). I simply cannot let cue to cue last beyond the 8-hour call that is scheduled.

This means that we get 3 runs before we see an audience, and that's IF I get cue to cue finished in time. I'm not trying to deny the actors/director any acting-work time. What I'm trying to ensure is that they get the proper runs allowed them in the schedule.

I believe this approach speaks to your comment about being flexible and prepared. And ultimately, I need to be a "time nazi" precisely so that the actors and director can get the work in that they need. If I don't get the kinks ironed out during Q2Q, then precious run time is going to be wasted because we'd have to re-do a cue during a tech run. I think I already mentioned this, but I will be at all the level sessions with the designers, as well as having a paper tech the night before Q2Q so I know as much about the intent of the designs as possible, as well as what the director's looking for.

(And ultimately, the show rest’s on the director’s soliders)

Yes it does, but the company is going to be looking at me if we have to incur overtime, not the director. At the very least, I'm going to be the first one the GM goes to if there are extra labour costs. I'm the one who has to tell the company that the Q2Q ran long - the GM isn't going to care if it's because there was a really important discussion that had to happen, or if it was because a projector broke. The point is that it ran long and now we have to pay. (Besides, in my experience, the GM would be a lot more forgiving of having to pay OT due to a broken projector as opposed to a lengthy discussion.)

MatthewShiner

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Re: What basics should actors know about tech?
« Reply #21 on: Mar 01, 2009, 09:12 am »
The only point that I won't to make it our work is not independent of the work the actor/director does, and any director who allows the tech to go determinately behind schedule is not really doing their job.  As a SM, we need to have an ear on these conversations and be able to make the snap judgment - is this a conversation that just start to fill the time while the sound deisgner took time to rewrite the cue?  is this a conversation that is going to wrap up when I announce we are ready to take it back?  or is this a conversation that is going to go on for a bit?  At that point, I need to make a decision - does this conversation need to go on?  or should I get us to move on?

But, since you are dealing with students, and some who have never been through the tech process, talking to the director and designer and fleshing out your concerns about time, and  giving your expectations for each tech period and see if you can get everyone on the same page with you.  (I do a lot, by end of day 1, I want to be at intermission, by end of day 2 I want to the get through all the fights in act 2 and everything but the last 3 scenes, by the end of day three, I wanted to finish the show, and then go back and work the dances, etc, etc, etc.)  If you take the time to spell out everything with your director and design team, before you get to tech, then they may be more open to you rushing them in tech.  (I HATE, HATE, HATE, HATE comments form directors who feel like I am pushing them - the directing process, including tech, is not something a lot of directors can do just on command - it's about creation, problem solving, is balancing text versus stage picture, etc, etc, etc).  Often, during this pre-tech conversation, there will say, I want to do three runs before we open, at that point, I would say, if we want three runs . . . then we need to finish q-2-q in 8 hours.  At that point, we have already laid the ground to your cracking the whip at keeping to schedule.  And if you find yourself being bogged down by conversations, you can pull the director aside and say "If we continue at this pace, we are not going to get to three runs through you wanted."  At which point, they may turn to you and say then I will only do two runs.

Again, if there are major issues to deal with acting-wise, then what is the point in having an additional run-thru of a play that is bad? 
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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.

Tigerrr

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Re: What basics should actors know about tech?
« Reply #22 on: Mar 03, 2009, 10:35 pm »
Thanks for all the advice in this thread! As each show is different, my approach needs to be different. This one is particularly unique and I value the insight everyone has made.

Here's an update tho: I've gotten my little package together, and the school wants to take it and use it as the basis for a mini "intro to tech" workshop that they'll integrate into the curriculum next year. Ultimately, it'll be necessary for the students to get a little bit of knowledge of how tech week works for when they do their productions. It's going to change because there are several SMs & designers & technicians who will consult on the project, but me and my lighting designer will probably run the workshop. I'm terribly excited by this.

I'm attaching the package I created. It's VERY show specific, but I wanted to share what you all helped me to create. Again, thank you all for your insight. Every comment helped me to build this package.

CTsometimeSM

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Re: What basics should actors know about tech?
« Reply #23 on: Mar 04, 2009, 11:11 am »
Seems very well put together.  I may just borrow bits of it (community theatre-many similar issues of not quite getting parts of tech).

KMC

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Re: What basics should actors know about tech?
« Reply #24 on: Mar 04, 2009, 12:21 pm »
I like the overall idea of the document.  It gives a comprehensive overview of what an actor should expect their first time through tech.

Looking at it from an actor's point of view though I would take issue with some of the language.  One suggestion I have is to take a less adversarial tone on a few points. 

i.e.:
Quote
You WILL get a bit confused on the stage. 

Will they get confused?  Maybe; I wouldn't even say definitely.  Actors aren't dumb!  But the harsh tone could create feelings of fear, anxiety or resentment.  Maybe something like "Tech rehearsal is the first time we bring all the elements of the production together.  If you get confused, it's okay.  One of the major objectives of tech is to work through the confusion that can arise from the transition to the stage and the addition of technical elements."  would serve your purpose better?

Quote
You’re going to feel discombobulated...

Same deal. 

Again I think you have the information you need, personally I just think you could help yourself improve the general dynamic of the cast by taking a more docile tone.  Don't confuse that with speaking to the actors like children, because that's even worse.

Cheers, and good luck.  Let us know how this document works for you!


edit:  rephrased a couple of sentences. -kmc307
« Last Edit: Mar 04, 2009, 11:40 pm by kmc307 »
Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

LCSM

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Re: What basics should actors know about tech?
« Reply #25 on: Mar 05, 2009, 07:16 pm »
Good idea. I like that it uides them through step by step and lets them know how layered the process is and how tight it is for eveyone. Good luck, let us know how it goes.

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