Author Topic: CALLING: Calling Cues to Stagehands  (Read 115 times)

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CALLING: Calling Cues to Stagehands
« on: Oct 10, 2017, 10:49 am »
This may be a slightly weird question, but here it goes:

I'm doing a show in a 3 level globe-style theatre, and there are several points where stagehands need to move props/articles of scenery around the space or backstage. What is the proper cue to be called to signal stagehands to perform these actions?

Edited to add topic tag- Maribeth
« Last Edit: Oct 12, 2017, 01:19 pm by Maribeth »


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Re: Calling Cues to Stagehands
« Reply #1 on: Oct 10, 2017, 02:56 pm »
The "proper" cue to call is whatever works and clearly communicates your intent to the deckhands.  Do you have cue lights available?  If the shifts involve large pieces of scenery cue lights are often times the most practical solution.
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Re: Calling Cues to Stagehands
« Reply #2 on: Oct 12, 2017, 12:41 am »
KMC is right. It's really that simple. It's very specific to the space and the staff and the show. You'll know better than anyone how to call a shift in your theater.

I work in a house where I have direct communication via clear com. If you're relying on cue lights, then great paperwork containing all information delivered early is key. Cue lights can only say "standby" and "go."

If you picture yourself as that stagehand, you'll know, first, that you will want a good cue sheet for reference (you'll study it when you can, but it will live folded up in your back pocket and you may not be able to read it in the dark), and you will want quick recap before you're sent to do the thing.

As the SM, you'll want to help them do the thing well - by calling the position/job first, location second, action third, speed fourth, and lastly, if you need feedback from them.

Your first word is the position or the person's name. Flyrail, Stage Left Deck, Stage Right Deck, Sound, Lights, Followspot, etc.

Don't call actors by their real names or even their character names if there's a chance the stagehands won't know them. You can reference the tall blond man in the pinstriped suit on stage left in wing 2, but you can't call him Andrew unless you're sure everyone knows who the heck Andrew is.

In my current show, I'm calling, very simply: "Bob and Mike, on deck upstage center, stand by to strike tables. ... and table strike go."

If you're calling to a new crew for the first time, you need a lot more detail. "Bob and Mike, (or Deck 1 and Deck 2) stand by to strike upstage center tables to stage left, move trees to upstage center, and store tables. We have about 5 minutes for this shift. Please let me know when the shift is complete and the upstage doors are closed. ...and table strike go."

Other examples, "Stand by stage left wagon to move onstage to red spikes as quickly as you can. Wagon go." "Stand by deck on stage right to strike tea tray and shift coffee table to yellow spikes. Don't rush, but please move with purpose. Deck shift go."

I've used a generic to send several people into a rehearsed move: "Standby transition into storm scene." "Storm transition go." 

If they have a wait time between cues, I'll add a 5-minute warning before the move. "Bob and Mike, this is a 5 minute warning for the forest transition."

If your cues come very quickly, you can front load the instructions when you have time. "This is a warning for the tables to forest transition. I'll call sound, lights, and fog cues, followed by the onstage shift from tables to forest. Please let me know when the deck shift is complete. ... and LX & sound go, rail go, fog go, deck go." "Deck, we are waiting on your complete." On the deck complete (verbal or visual) signal, "Rail go. Sound and LX go." "Thank you, everyone."

Lastly, when you call a good shift, and they execute it well, thank them. If it's not perfect, thank them, and after the show ask them for honest advice on possible adjustments. Get creative. I've sometimes cued people by slapping their shoulder or pointing at them. We've also used flashlights. Sometimes all they need is strategically placed bits of glow tape. Whatever works!

Important note: If your shift could be in any way dangerous for cast or crew, build in a verbal or visual confirmation by a second person (usually an ASM, but it could be any second person who can confirm safety) before the scene continues. Do not allow an unsafe scene to continue without 2 confirmations. Double checks are always A Damn Good Idea. That's another thread entirely.

Give it a try and let is know what worked and what didn't work for you, and why....



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