Author Topic: BLOCKING: Ensemble Blocking Taking Systems  (Read 3794 times)

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PSMAK

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BLOCKING: Ensemble Blocking Taking Systems
« on: Jun 05, 2015, 01:47 pm »
Hi All,

Next month I'm about to do a show with 40 cast members. Three quarters of them are ensemble. It's Beauty and the Beast Jr.

I've scoured the threads, but not finding good answer to my question. Does anybody have a good method that they would be willing to share for taking down blocking for a big ensemble? Especially for big group scenes. I'll have 2 ASMs.

Thanks a bunch!

mkristinect

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Re: BLOCKING: Ensemble Blocking Taking Systems
« Reply #1 on: Jun 05, 2015, 02:23 pm »
I have not had to deal yet with an ensemble that large, but I worked on a play recently with a cast of 14 and they were all on stage pretty much the whole time.  The blocking was very fluid.  Because a couple of the characters spent a good deal of the time monologuing I notated everything in pictures.  I didn't even bother with complete set diagrams (although might help if your set is complex).  I just drew little boxes in the margins and drew in "looks" that the director wanted.  How the actors got there was their own business unless there was a specific beat they needed to hit in between.  I feel like a similar technique would work for large musical casts where it's more about groupings than specific paths of motion.

Maribeth

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Re: BLOCKING: Ensemble Blocking Taking Systems
« Reply #2 on: Jun 05, 2015, 03:39 pm »
A couple of strategies I've used before:

1. Make "full-page" groundplans. If the ensemble ever has moments where they have to hit certain positions, draw those groupings onto the full-page GPs. Having these "landmarks" notated can go a long way.

2. Often in big group scenes, the ensemble is broken down into smaller groups, and each of those groups is doing something. So, rather than writing down "Millie, Joe, Brian, James stack hay bales" you can say "Group 1 stack hay bales, Group 2 unroll tablecloth" etc. (Just note down who is in each group).

3. Since you have 2 ASMs, use "zone defense" - have each of you take a certain section of the stage. ASM 1 covers SR ensemble, ASM 2 covers SL ensemble, and you cover principals. I have done this a lot in opera. In a big chorus staging rehearsal, when the chorus is in their first position, the SMs (with clipboard in hand) jump up and write down as much as they can on a fullpage GP. Mark that page as "position 1- top of page 3", and then when they hit the next position, make a new page.

4. Nametags! Make the names as big as possible so you can read them from far away. You can colorcode them according to voice part (sopranos pink, tenors yellow, etc)- that way you can tell at a glance if the different voice parts are evenly distributed across the stage.
« Last Edit: Jun 05, 2015, 04:55 pm by Maribeth »

Beatr79

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Re: BLOCKING: Ensemble Blocking Taking Systems
« Reply #3 on: Jun 06, 2015, 12:19 am »
A strategy worth considering:

Assign everyone in the cast a number and use that, instead of cast names or initials, in your blocking book.  So F1, F2, F3...etc for female, and M1, M2, M3...for men.   These assignments can be based on whatever makes the most sense:  I've seen them done simply alphabetically, or in obvious casting (putting the principals as the 1,2,3, and lesser characters further down.  Or clumping cast members you know will be staged in the same scenes numerically close - for example: you know there are featured tumblers for the big dance number - so assign them M7-M12). 

Then make a cheat sheet for yourself and your team, and, after a day or two of blocking, the numbers will be second nature. I've used cast numbers for a few large-ensemble shows, though admittedly, I haven't done it in a while, and found it really helpful during huge staging sessions.

These numbers can then be tracked through into the tech process, and given to costume, sound, spots, for easy ID & labeling of costume pieces, tracking, mics.  This is a very common technique on tours, where crew changes every week.   


PSMAK

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Re: BLOCKING: Ensemble Blocking Taking Systems
« Reply #4 on: Jun 08, 2015, 08:48 am »
Ah, some good stuff here! Thank you all!

Quote
Assign everyone in the cast a number and use that, instead of cast names or initials, in your blocking book.  So F1, F2, F3...etc for female, and M1, M2, M3...for men.   These assignments can be based on whatever makes the most sense:  I've seen them done simply alphabetically, or in obvious casting (putting the principals as the 1,2,3, and lesser characters further down.  Or clumping cast members you know will be staged in the same scenes numerically close - for example: you know there are featured tumblers for the big dance number - so assign them M7-M12). 

I like this a lot.

Quote
1. Make "full-page" groundplans. If the ensemble ever has moments where they have to hit certain positions, draw those groupings onto the full-page GPs. Having these "landmarks" notated can go a long way.

I thought I remember I'd done this before, and then I realized I had, in college for a show.

Quote
3. Since you have 2 ASMs, use "zone defense" - have each of you take a certain section of the stage. ASM 1 covers SR ensemble, ASM 2 covers SL ensemble, and you cover principals. I have done this a lot in opera. In a big chorus staging rehearsal, when the chorus is in their first position, the SMs (with clipboard in hand) jump up and write down as much as they can on a fullpage GP. Mark that page as "position 1- top of page 3", and then when they hit the next position, make a new page.

Yes. Great idea!

Quote
4. Nametags! Make the names as big as possible so you can read them from far away. You can colorcode them according to voice part (sopranos pink, tenors yellow, etc)- that way you can tell at a glance if the different voice parts are evenly distributed across the stage.

LOL. If I can get them to keep them on. They all range from grade school to high school.

Thank you all! Some good strategies here that I can use together! Much appreciated!

NJ.JerrySmith

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Re: BLOCKING: Ensemble Blocking Taking Systems
« Reply #5 on: Jun 08, 2015, 11:22 pm »
Similar to Beatr79's system. I've both seen used and used the initials of ensemble (chorus, supers, what have you) members to take blocking. Doubling of initials tends to occur and is generally remedied by adding another letter to the pairing (ie NMa for Nate Mattingly and NMi for Nate Milson).

I also exclusively use a system of circled letters for principal actors. It is based off their character name as opposed to their actual name, with a similar system as above in case of doubling.

I then combine these on a full page minis (for chorus scenes) and smaller half page minis for principal only scenes.

PSMAK

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Re: BLOCKING: Ensemble Blocking Taking Systems
« Reply #6 on: Jun 10, 2015, 01:57 pm »
Thanks Jerry!

Tags: blocking 
 

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