Author Topic: JOB DESCRIPTION: Stage Manager's Job During Performances  (Read 7310 times)

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musicalssm

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Hi!  I wanted to ask some fellow stage managers for feedback on a situation I have recently run into.  I have a BFA in Theatre Arts (with emphasis on stage management and light design) and due to the lack of theatres in my area am currently stage managing my first production with the local Community theatre.  I hired an ASM to assist me downstairs during shows so that I could call the show and over see the production from the booth, as I have done on every show I have ever SM'd.  I feel this gives me a better chance to see problems and relay them to the ASM so that they can be solved.  The only view from back stage is from 1/4 in peepholes behind the audiences seats (it is theatre in the round).  We started dress rehearsals yesterday. I was informed that the SM does not call the show, the board ops take their own cues, I am to "call" the show by remaining backstage relying on people who have seen the show for 2 rehearsals to identify problems and call problems down to me.  "The SM basically becomes a runner once the show opens," according to my director.  I am responsible for seeing that actors are in their place to go on stage, when I have done none of this throughout rehearsals.  We have a good backstage crew and I feel totally useless backstage. I would appreciate any advice you can offer on this situation.  If this is appropriate for an SM I am more than willing to comply.  However, in some of my classes and books I've read they said to never allow yourself to be pushed into this position and stressed the importance of the SM calling the show and being able to oversee everything.

A very confused,

musicalssm

P.S.  This is not a musical, but a production of "A Man for All Seasons."  It is the first show I have stage managed that was not a musical or cabaret style performance.
« Last Edit: Jun 09, 2009, 12:00 am by PSMKay »

thehayworth

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #1 on: Nov 02, 2006, 02:57 pm »
Oh I hate that.  I always insist on doing it right.  Why did they hire me if not to SM?

The SM has seen the show and knows and has been practicing calling cues in rehearsal and has them marked in script.  The SM is the ideal person to call cues.  I have met a lot of board ops.  FEW - very few - were trustworthy enough to know where cues belong.
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Rebbe

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #2 on: Nov 03, 2006, 10:30 am »
Calling the show is usually one of the SM’s core functions.  If in this Community Theater “the SM basically becomes a runner once the show opens,” the producers really should have told you that when you were hired, since I don’t think it’s what someone applying for a stage management position would expect. 

Perhaps this group isn’t used to having an ASM backstage who can deal with the actors during the show, or have had bad experiences with SMs who called show badly.  Maybe they’re worried about hearing your calls, since you’re so close to the audience. 

In any case, try to set up a meeting with the producer and director outside of  rehearsal (don’t just spring this on them in a coffee break).  Explain to them that you took this job with the expectation that you would be calling the show, spell out the reasons you want to do it (you’ve seen it more than the board ops, you have a competent crew backstage), and find out what their specific concerns are with that scenario.  You may be able to convince them with something about this being how a professional company would be run, and that their troop is ready to move to the next level in this regard.
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)

musicalssm

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #3 on: Nov 03, 2006, 04:27 pm »
I've been informed that one of the reasons for me not to call the show is that the sound and light people are very territiorial.  I have talked to the sound designer and board op.  They are alright with my reasons for calling the show and understood that I'm not trying to step on anyone's toes or interfere.   I haven't talked to the lighting people.  I was told by those who know the board op that she is really tempermental about her space and people watching her.  The booth is more than large enough if I don't try to use her table and stand 10 feet back center from the window.  I should meet her this weekend sometime.  I thought I would talk to them since everything I have presented to the director has met with flat stubborness.  She has only done community theater and doesn't think that a community theatre can have anything in common with professional.  What seems to be working with the cast and crew is the explanation that I am gaining experience for future work and therefore need to practice how to run a show according to professional standards. 

I am open to further feedback or stories of similar experiences.  I'm trying to learn quickly when to accept "but it's always done this way here" and when to say I don't care (though of course more diplomatically).

Rebbe posted:
Calling the show is usually one of the SM’s core functions.  If in this Community Theater “the SM basically becomes a runner once the show opens,” the producers really should have told you that when you were hired, since I don’t think it’s what someone applying for a stage management position would expect.

Perhaps this group isn’t used to having an ASM backstage who can deal with the actors during the show, or have had bad experiences with SMs who called show badly.  Maybe they’re worried about hearing your calls, since you’re so close to the audience.


This is true.  Thank you for the reassurance that I wasn't being unreasonable in my expectations going into this job.  She talked like she wanted a real stage manager and then is not letting me do much of my job correctly.  She doesn't even allow me to give line notes though she said she wanted detailed ones taken.  I finally quit exhausting myself since I didn't have time after midnight to e-mail everyone their notes and she didn't care about even the most major errors.  I have given notes to those who cared or when a mistake is made more than two nights in a row.  Of course, with actors changing their own lines... *shakes head*  It is not wise, in my opinion, to cast your spouse as the lead in a show.

Anyway, I got sidetracked.  Back to calling the show.  They are not used to having any ASMs at all and some of the actors (who are also Board members) do not see the necessity of an SM in community theatre at all.  It is collaborative art and doesn't need that kind of structure.

stagemonkey

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #4 on: Nov 04, 2006, 01:00 am »
They are not used to having any ASMs at all and some of the actors (who are also Board members) do not see the necessity of an SM in community theatre at all.  It is collaborative art and doesn't need that kind of structure.


LOL that just made me laugh.  I see it that all theatre is a collaborative art and the SM is the one there to help make sure everyone is collaborating on the project to reach the same collective outcome.

In college I did a community theatre show.  Ultimately I would think they would have the expectations of what you would do at the start of your work.  From my experience the people of the community theatre didnt know what to expect form an SM.  When I did it I did all my normal things and everyone thought it was so amazingly good.  When it came to a performance I ultimately was more of a floor manager than a stage manager and just coordinated the scene changes.  There wasnt much for sound besides a few hanging mics to help amplify the sound so there was no need to call sound cues, and ultimately by the time the company brought the LD in I would have had like a day to figure out placement so I was ultimately like "look if you know where they go I'll just give you a standby for when the end of the scene is coming and you can change the lights as you want, just follow your script."  And in the end it worked.  Was it done how I would have liked, no, but it got done and taught me to ask at the start what is expected of me as SM when I work with these not so professional companies. 

I also hate when people use the "but it's always done this way here."  Makes me want to just respond back, " just cause its always done that way doesnt mean thats the right way."  Trick is to find a way to have them understand that you know they always do it that way but to convince them to try something different.  Often times people are so stuck in their routine they dont want to try anything new.  It maybe they have never worked with someone with your skill level so they dont know how much smoother things would be. 

I'd say try your best to introduce them to your way but if they arent receptive remember it is community theatre and they (and anyplace really) has their own way of doing things and one of the key abilities of an SM (in my opinion) is the ability to be adaptable.   Do things there way the best way that you can offering helpful suggestions where they will be taken, hopefully you will be able to improve their ways even a little bit.  And then in the end you know not to work with them again.

Best of luck to you.

PencilQueen

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #5 on: Nov 04, 2006, 05:57 pm »
Quote
They are not used to having any ASMs at all and some of the actors (who are also Board members) do not see the necessity of an SM in community theatre at all.  It is collaborative art and doesn't need that kind of structure.

This just blows me away.  I live in a theatre-rich town---no resident professional theatre groups in our smallish suburb, but the university theatre department puts on a full season every year (Shakespeare to contemporary), there are no fewer than four youth theatre groups each of which puts on a major production each year (3 are blockbluster musicals), and we have a youth opera company, a resident community theatre group (putting on a full season of everything from revue & farce to serious drama), and two high schools that mount ambitious shows each year.  *ALL* of them use a stage manager.  All.  Heck, even the barbershoppers hire an SM for their annual show!  I am flabberghasted that a community theatre group would put on a show without an SM.  I can't even imagine how it would work without one.  [shaking head] 

You sound like you're going about educating your group in a diplomatic, careful way, musicalssm.  Good approach, and I think one which might just result in success. Best wishes to you.


PencilQueen

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #6 on: Nov 04, 2006, 06:30 pm »
Quote
...each of which puts on a major production each year (3 are blockbluster musicals

LOL!  "Blockbluster"...  a little Freudian slip there, methinks.  Can you tell I've worked on a few of them???   (Actually, in all fairness, I've been really impressed with the calibre of each of them)

Aerial

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #7 on: Nov 04, 2006, 11:23 pm »
I encountered some of the same when I did community theatre.  When I first started with the community theatre, I was in high school, and truly didn't know what was expected of me as an SM.  I learned as I went.  I read an awful lot and SMed for the high school and community college. The second summer I took on more.  As I started college, I took on more.  After the summer following my sophomore year, I decided that I'd outgrown community theatre.  I'd accomplished as much change as they were willing to accept, but a lot of that, I found was due to a lack of interest in that particular theatre.  Whereas first summer I was just there while my board ops took their own cues, the last summer I did it, I was op-ing both.  Though I must say, given the choice between one or the other, I'd rather op both.

musicalssm

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #8 on: Nov 06, 2006, 09:25 am »
Last night we finally ran a full tech and I got to meet the light board op.  I talked to her and the designer and we were able to work things out very easily.  Everything has gone as I told the director it would in regards to the tech crew.  They are wonderful people (and both wore blacks without being asked--it's a miracle).  I got to understand the light ops reactions and by respecting her position and giving her adequate space, her fears were relieved and I am now seated between the two with a perfect (and comfortable) view of the stage.  I really appreciate everyone's advice and support on this situation.  It is quite a shock to go from academic theatre to community theater.  I am able to watch the cues being prepped and taken and have a full cueing script with notes.  Though I conceded to not officially calling the show last night, I was able to clarify where cues were supposed to be taken and remind them when a cue was coming up if they were distracted by some other matter (like taking notes about the previous cue).  It's different, but I am much calmer.  The cast enjoys the teamwork from the SMs and was pleased to discover how many small problems were fixed as a result of this set up.  I was able to tell my ASM during a scene to prepare the hot glue gun when a cross fell of the necklace it was glued to and have her fix the curtain without being seen by the audience when it caught on a backstage stair handrail as an actor left the stage.  Its small steps, but I think overtime this little community theatre will come to see more and more the benefits of a strong stage management team.

The director will be backstage everynight to take a cue she particularly enjoys (cutting a head of cabbage with a cleaver) and I will be in the booth overseeing the show.  While it isn't 'ideal' in my opinion, it's bearable.  She was on headset last night giving a million more notes and complaints than she would ever being willing to give during Notes following the run.  Fortunately, we only have enough working headsets for the SMs and board ops.  She takes her own cue since she knows precisely how she wants it and can only blame herself for mistakes and the rest of us are a lot less stressed. 

Again, thank you.  I know this show will be a success despite the hang-ups.


~musicalssm

Scott

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #9 on: Nov 06, 2006, 10:10 am »
Your misadventures and triumphs in this situation reminds me of this oldie but goodie...

http://www.madstage.com/html/insult.html#Small

(This is the one that starts as follows:

Dear Sirs;

Last year I upgraded from Community Theater 5.0 to Small Professional Theater 1.0 and noticed that the new program began making unexpected changes. It installed something called Microsoft Stagemanager (TM) which it launches whenever rehearsal software is powered up...)


Likes:


musicalssm

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #10 on: Nov 06, 2006, 11:04 am »
Thank you.  I really enjoy that one.  I had read it years ago (before doing any community theatre) and had forgotten some of the specifics.  I'm still working on uninstalling Smoking-in-costume 7.5. ;)  and really like the command C:\DIRECTOR\SCATTERED DREAMER-SENSITIVE ARTIST\CAN'T FUNCTION WITHOUT YOU.  :D

musicalssm

PencilQueen

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #11 on: Nov 06, 2006, 12:44 pm »
Hurray!  Glad to hear things worked out to your satisfaction, musicalssm. 

Kudos to you.  In this world of egos and temperament and territories and fiefdoms, it can be a real challenge to cut through it all to change "things that have always been".  Way to go.

philimbesi

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #12 on: Nov 07, 2006, 03:46 pm »
It is amazing though what some peoples idea of what a stage manager is. 

One company I work with thinks a Stage Manager is someone who come in the Monday of tech week and then just sort of oversees things on stage.  Doesn't call cues, unless you mean saying "clear" to bring up lights during a blackout is calling cues.  No blocking notation, no contact sheets, no rehearsal schedules, no production binder, nothing. 

Luckily I'm working with a great Director who is letting me show them what a stage manager can do as opposed to should do.
« Last Edit: Nov 07, 2006, 03:49 pm by philimbesi »

musicalssm

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #13 on: Nov 08, 2006, 10:14 am »
Wow! Yeah, I can so relate to that right now.  :)  I have an ASM giving cues like that on the nights she can be there (3/4 shows per week).
Last night the cast finall got the type of notes I have been expecting for weeks.  Last night the director allowed a veteran in the theatre to watch the dress rehearsal and take notes.  We needed those a week ago.  She was even given permission to overwrite the director's decisions with regard to blocking and how a scene should be played.  She did so tactfully, but it was nice to see.  Some of the other techies and I have been talking about future shows.  I am hoping to get them accustomed to this quickly.  This means even considering directing a show and use an SM that I've trained to run backstage.  :D  Of course, I have at least a year to wait on that bid.  The next show I wanted to work on has an "traditional SM" for this theatre already hired.  The director (who is current sound op) is cosidering using me in spite of that and either crediting me under a different title or just letting me do it for the experience and then I can do lights for the show as well.  I'm not sure how that will work out, but I have my fingers crossed.  She is currently going back for a second bachelor's in Theatre Arts at one of my favorite universities--though not the one I ended up graduating from--so she knows what I have been taught and how well it can work and how useful a good SM is to a director.  Anyway,

musicalssm

carcrazy674

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Re: Stage Manager's Job During Performances
« Reply #14 on: Dec 19, 2006, 01:06 pm »
I no at my school are stage manager has the show the production night. my teacher/director has no say in it what so every. she is on head set but doesnt help its all me to call cues and if there are problems fix them if it big enough she will help. it comes down to its production night and its your show know body elses you run it everyone lisens to you

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