Author Topic: RUNNING: Joining a production as a replacement  (Read 2646 times)

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LisaS

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RUNNING: Joining a production as a replacement
« on: May 03, 2016, 03:24 pm »
I've been hired as a replacement PSM for a show (the original PSM can't stay for the extension).  I've never replaced before and I was wondering if anyone has any advice before I go in to learn to call the show.  (I've also subbed deck tracks before, but never learned to call a show from someone else.)


Edited to add topic tag- Maribeth
« Last Edit: May 19, 2016, 02:33 pm by Maribeth »

RuthNY

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Re: Joining a production as a replacement
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2016, 10:39 am »
I've always found it helpful to rewrite the calling script in my own style, as all our writing of cues differ from one another. If it's a musical, know the music cold, prior to your days of training.  Know WHY you are calling each cue, just as you would have if you'd been the SM who originally teched the show.

But, if you are taking over as PSM, meaning you are the SM in charge, calling the show is not the only thing you have to learn.  You have to learn everything about the company and theatre, about how to submit notes and reports, the individual personality of each actor and creative, and what each performance onstage should look like at every performance, and much more.  Calling the show is only a fraction of what you'll have to learn, if the Producer has designated you the Stage Manager "in charge" for the remainder of the run.

Calling the show. whether you are the original or a replacement PSM, is only a tiny piece of the job.


I've been hired as a replacement PSM for a show (the original PSM can't stay for the extension).  I've never replaced before and I was wondering if anyone has any advice before I go in to learn to call the show.  (I've also subbed deck tracks before, but never learned to call a show from someone else.)
"Be fair with others, but then keep after them until they're fair with you."
--Alan Alda

Maribeth

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Re: Joining a production as a replacement
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2016, 03:49 pm »
Ask lots of questions- not just of the stage manager, but of other folks on the crew. Making an effort to learn names, and chatting with each person for a minute can got a long with towards having a good rapport with the ASM and crew. The corollary to asking lots of questions is: Take lots of notes! In my experience, I usually get 1 or 2 days of shadowing the SM, then 1 or 2 days of calling the show with the current SM shadowing me and giving notes. Then I'm on my own. The more notes I have the better off I am when I'm on my own.

I usually try to keep things consistent for the actors and the crew by recreating the previous SM's way of doing things, particularly if I'm just subbing in for just a day or a week. If they are used to getting the places call at X minutes before curtain, I'll do it the same way. If I'm taking over after opening and calling the entire run, I'm more likely to do things my own way.

If there's a tricky sequence to call, see if there's an opportunity to do a dry run before doing it in front of the audience. I've lucked out before and was able to call a put-in rehearsal in the afternoon, before calling the show in the evening. Sometimes it's possible to run a sequence with just the crew right before the house opens. I also like to come in early if I can, and practice calling anything tricky on my own, especially if it's a sequence with cue lights that involves hand-eye coordination.

What Ruth said about knowing the show is really important. Understanding the "why" will make you much better prepared to run the show on your own. It also will let you better project confidence- the cast and crew has to trust you and to know the show is safe in your hands. I always ask the current SM if there's anything they want me to look out for/keep an eye on. (This actor usually runs late, curtain has to go up by 5 after or the orchestra goes into overtime, a certain prop preset has to be triple-checked, etc).
« Last Edit: May 14, 2016, 11:45 am by Maribeth »

Aerial

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Re: Joining a production as a replacement
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2016, 11:40 pm »
I've always found it helpful to rewrite the calling script in my own style, as all our writing of cues differ from one another. If it's a musical, know the music cold, prior to your days of training.  Know WHY you are calling each cue, just as you would have if you'd been the SM who originally teched the show.


Piggybacking on this, when I have more than one day to shadow the SM I am taking over the call from, on the first day, I like to follow with a photocopy of their call script to learn the overview, then rewrite it in my format and follow with that the second day.  I find it really helps me mark it up in the way that makes the most sense to me, after I know a lot of the why...and then I get to see if it works, if not not I tweak further before the next step, which is usually calling it with them shadowing me.


leastlikely

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Re: Joining a production as a replacement
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2016, 02:26 pm »
Try to watch from the audience at least once before shadowing. Be familiar with the content and the shape of the show before you focus on the fiddly details of the calling script. Get a feel for the show beyond just cues - get copies of the report templates, learn about any strong personalities in the cast, lockup procedures, anything else you might need to know.

Observe the call first for at least one performance, and then switch (you call the show and the PSM observes you) so you can ask questions and get guidance as you go. I've done a show where the takeover PSM called for, I believe, a full week with the original PSM in the booth. For the first few performances he handed it off to the original PSM for a particularly complicated sequence until he got the hang of it. But you might not have the luxury of that kind of time.

Practice with the archival video if you can.

NJ.JerrySmith

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Re: Joining a production as a replacement
« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2016, 01:54 pm »
I just recently had this experience as an ASM for an opera production of the Barber of Seville. I had worked on the show before (with another director on another set), so I was familiar with the music but was not familiar with anything else. Looking back, I was happy with how my work turned out. If the situation presents itself again however, I'd do some things the same, and definitely do some things differently.

I found that making a score in my style was probably the best choice I could have made, trying to call the show from the old assistants score would have been a challenge at best, and updating the paperwork would have proved next to impossible. Because of the timeline I was under (I was called in after the Final Room Run and before the first day of tech) I didn't have a chance to see any of the show, however I had a video which was "close enough", and very much regret making the choice not to watch it before we got to stage. I leaned heavily on the other ASM and the PSM during the load-in to pick up what nicknames the props had gotten (i.e the "purple note") which had made their way to my paperwork, and super heavily on my props crew (who I have a great working relationship with) to run the show for the first time, and man was that piano tech a doozy.

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