Author Topic: MUSICALS: Question about musical blocking  (Read 6990 times)

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jpeery

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MUSICALS: Question about musical blocking
« on: Feb 21, 2007, 08:09 pm »
I am currently stage managing Evita at UNC-Chapel Hill and I was wondering about writing down blocking for musicals.  Since a lot of the "blocking" is dance, how do people out there make notations of the choreography?  Do you leave it out or do you write it all down?  If you do write it down, how much detail do you go into in your script?  Thanks so much!
« Last Edit: Jun 09, 2009, 12:30 am by PSMKay »

ljh007

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Re: Question about musical blocking
« Reply #1 on: Feb 22, 2007, 09:06 am »
Once I was blessed with a choreographer who turned in SM paperwork with step-by-step choreo notes with page/measure notation enclosed. I'm in love! But this is definitely not the norm.

I jot down as much detail as I can manage - sometimes stick figures end up in the margins. Usually shorthand is sufficient to remind the dancers of the sequence of steps. The dance in musicals is not usually so complicated as to require labanotation or anything really complex to make a movement record. If you aren't already familiar with dance terms, you should have a quick chat with the choreographer to learn basic dance language.

Here's an awesome musical dance trick - before rehearsal if possible, break the dance section into 8-count portions (you will have to be able to read music to do this; alternatively you could write down a chart to the side, though you'll have to be counting 8 instead of actually reading the music as you go through the sequence, which is not really ideal). Anyway, the first 8-count is A, the second is B, and so on. Now you can just jot down the series of moves that go in that sequence. Often dance in musicals matches an 8-count perfectly (where they'll shuffle 8 , turn and tap/walk 8 , kneel 4, etc) and you will be able to take all this down quickly because your score is already set up to absorb the dance notation quickly and accurately.

If I am working with professional dancers and/or if there is a dance captian assigned to the show, I might not take dance blocking specifically at all, except to note entrance/exits and general placement onstage. Usually shows like this are so big, I'm tracking principals and a huge chorus anyway, so the actual dance steps are well off my radar. This has never been a problem for me.

LiLz

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Re: Question about musical blocking
« Reply #2 on: Feb 22, 2007, 01:36 pm »
I have my own version of labnotation where I write out 12345678 -  22345678, etc .... going down a sheet of paper, creating the bars of music.   Usually I can make it to 82345678 twice on one sheet. I give myself enough space so I can write a little detail regarding the moves of the principle dancers and some basic movement for the chorus.  When it happens on a specific beat, I can draw a line from that number.  I leave the right hand margin clear in case I need to mark cues during a dance sequence.  Of course, I'm not a dancer, and I'm not about to jump onstage to fill in or to demonstrate the moves should someone forget something - that's why we have dance captains.  But it does come in handy from time to time during understudy rehearsals and it helps for visual cue calling.

Matt.L

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Re: Question about musical blocking
« Reply #3 on: Feb 23, 2007, 06:07 pm »
I work on dance shows a lot and am currently studying dance A level so end to place laban notation in my script for complex dance works, other wise i try to just find the vital movement sections or use music cues to find my way.

Mac Calder

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Re: Question about musical blocking
« Reply #4 on: Feb 25, 2007, 03:12 am »
Personally, I would avoid using 8-count notation as a lot of more complex musicals are not written in 4/4 and do not use 2 bar phrases (which tends to be the norm for the less complex ones). The two methods I have employed are to either go through and letter the sections based on 'feel' (which is good if a piece of dancing repeats, as you can end up with something like A B C C B C A in the score) or to use bar-beat notation (ie 1-4 is bar 1, beat 4). If I need to subdivide, I subdivide into 4 (ie 6-1.2) and then 4 again if necessary (6-1.2.2).

PS. That pink is retched and almost impossible to read on my PC...

LiLz

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Re: Question about musical blocking
« Reply #5 on: Feb 25, 2007, 01:50 pm »
Mac ... True confessions here - I don't know what in the heck you were talking about, but if I ever have the opportunity to meet you I hope you'll show me!  I guess that's what I get for doing way too much Rodgers and Hammerstein!

Lilz

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Re: Question about musical blocking
« Reply #6 on: Feb 26, 2007, 02:42 pm »
I know that this is completely off subject a bit and I apologize, but I want to come see Evita at UNC Chapel Hill! I go up there all the time because I have several friends there (I'm in Wilmington), so can you post the run times/dates?  Thanks!
"Perhaps, therefore, Stage Managers not only need to be calm and meticulous professionals who know their craft, but masochists who feel pride in rising above impossible odds."

jpeery

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Re: Question about musical blocking
« Reply #7 on: Feb 27, 2007, 10:27 am »
Hey KC_SM_0807,
Unfortunately Evita is not going to be happening.  We found out yesterday that we were not granted the rights to the show, so we can't do it.  We're meeting tonight to regroup and discuss our options and are most likely going to be performing Sunday in the Park with George.  Performance dates are still up in the air, but will most likely be the third week in April.  I hope you're still interested in coming out to see a show at UNC because we need all kinds of support now.  Moral is kind of low after the bomb was dropped last night...Thanks for your interest though.
 

Didaskalos

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Re: Question about musical blocking
« Reply #8 on: Mar 13, 2007, 07:28 pm »
Most music scores have the bars numbered at the beginning of each scetion.  I would suggest a simple 5-column chart.  For each musical phrase or manageable section, make a separate line entry.

column 1: page in script
column 2: number of the first bar of that section of music--allows the conductor or accompanist to pick up the music for a section you want to go over again.
column 3: lyrics (if any) in that bar--helps the singers/actors reference where they are in the song since they won't have the music in front of them
column 4: description of movement of blocking
column 5: cues/tech notes--if you have cues to call during a musical number (light changes, set shifts, etc.) that your crew will need to reference in order to restore things.

When the director wants to go back and run that sequence again, you're ready with:
"Please begin bar 56;  Harry sings 'Roses blooming in the garden';  chorus on the US landing for the grape-vine sequence; lights restore cue 23, stand by for cue 24."
Then hand it over to the conductor.

You'll save a significant amount of time because you won't be waiting for everyone involved to compare notes and figure out if they are all starting from the same place.  Keeps a lid on  the frustrated cast chatter too.   Working with the choreographer on this can be invaluable--He or she can fill out columns 2, 3 & 4 for you which helps ensure that you are using the same names for the movements that the dancers are accustomed to hearing in rehearsal.
Do it right the first time;  do it right every time.

ljh007

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Re: Question about musical blocking
« Reply #9 on: Mar 14, 2007, 09:07 am »
Standard musical reference is given as: page/system (line/bar/stanza)/measure/beat (rarely used).
So this might be written as: 171/3/3 or more specifically 171/3/3/2.

When working an opera or musical where people know the music backwards and forwards, you can just shout out "171/3/3" and people will pick up where you're going from - yes, even when off-book. In shows I have worked on, chorus is expected to know where to be in this case, and dancers, principals, and orchestra need no additional pick up information. The SM must tell any tech departments (like tech or deck crew) where to reset and what to standby for. But mostly you can expect this level of musical awareness from a professional theatre.

Regarding the columns for the SM cheat-sheet, it sounds like a useful tool. But when you work with musicals a lot, you might not need this anymore. As you look at the pick up, you'll see blocking notes and can quickly scan your lights and other cues. This checking just becomes part of the SM running the tech rehearsal. This is always a moment of fluster, with everyone scrambling to find their place. It happens on the fly, but it's what we do. But when you know the show well, it's relatively simple to jump in right where everyone needs to be.

By the way, those numbers in the score that appear every now and then in boxes are rehearsal numbers. So your example would be referred to as "Rehearsal 56". This is different than page 56 or measure 56 - don't be confused! Rehearsal numbers are not used in musical placement notation - they're mostly used when rehearsing chorus and dancers, since the rehearsal numbers correspond to big sections of music. They are useful, but not terribly specific.

LisaEllis

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Re: Question about musical blocking
« Reply #10 on: Mar 14, 2007, 01:37 pm »
Rehearsal numbers are also used for the conductor (using a full orchestral score) and those using a piano-vocal (SM, pianist) to translate.  The conductor doesn't know what the top of page 173 is, but can find rehearsal 56.

In musicals, I've been blessed with choreographers who say it out loud, or will let me copy their notes after.  I use their terminology when writing it in.  If there is space, I write it between the systems of music.  If not, I use my regular blocking notation.

I hate not having a piano vocal version...I don't know how you can do it with just lyrics or counts.  And you can't do Sondheim without a piano vocal...too much going on.

Good luck!

Scaenicus

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Re: Question about musical blocking
« Reply #11 on: Jun 12, 2007, 08:05 pm »
Ask your choreographer!  All of the choreographers I have worked with have stage management backgrounds and can probably give you advice.

Our production of Evita just closed at the end of March.  Good luck with yours!
ASM - Scapino!, winter 2006/7
Spot Op - Evita, spring 2007
SM - Crawling Arnold, spring 2007
Sound Board Op - Romeo & Juliet, fall 2007
SM - The Beggar's Opera, winter 2007/8
SM - Wonderful World, spring 2008
SM - Macbeth, fall 2008
SM - Candide, 2

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