Author Topic: NEW WORKS: new play!  (Read 5284 times)

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Debo123

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NEW WORKS: new play!
« on: May 02, 2005, 09:32 am »
Hello out there in stagemanagement land,

I felt like this topic was somewhat broached in another thread at one point, but I searched and I couldnt find it. So, to get some fresh answers before I start my summer work...

I will be stagemanging a new play for a first time playwright who is also directing the show. (Dont know if it's the first show he's directed, though probably not). Advice? Rewrites and how to keep track of them? What should I be aware of since he's also directing it?

Anything anyone can offer would be greatly appreciated!
Thanks!
« Last Edit: Jun 08, 2009, 10:23 pm by PSMKay »

smejs

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new play!
« Reply #1 on: May 02, 2005, 05:28 pm »
Well, first of all, good luck.  Having a director with any other hat as well always has its challenges!

As for rewrites...I'd find out if you are to be the one in charge of keeping the script updated, or if he or someone else is (though it's more work, I'd be tempted take it on in the stage mgmt dept, so you're sure it's getting done).  I do several things in my script...any time there's a change that you write in, write a date in the margins so if there's a question you can say when it happened.  And if it's reinstated (cut once, but then decided to put it back in), I write that too, and both dates.  Keep a separate script handy that is the master script with all changes, so you can make copies if needed for someone, or someone else can grab and see if they got them all, etc.  And best one to prompt from if you have an assistant, etc.  

I also keep an Excel file table going of script changes, particularly little oneliners.  It often gets frustrating (both for those doing it, as well as those receiving) to make new script pages for every single script change...you can then pass out or post or email this chart to folks, who can fill in their own changes in scripts.  And if it's major, of course new pages are good...I often end up with something like "Page 75B" if your new stuff is bigger than the old one.  And of course put the date on any new page, for clarification.  As for the Excel file, I'll list columns of page number, change (with words like cut, add, substitute, or change order in this column to describe what's happening differently), and then the line, starting with the character's name in all caps.  If something is cut, I'll use the strikethrough font feature, if it's added or changed I'll both underline and bold it.  I used to have a separate column for character who said the line, but if you just put it in the line section, it's easier to use when you change the order of several characters' lines.  I can email you a version for clarification if you like.  OH, and if you don't know about the shortcut in Excel, if you hold down "Alt" while you hit "Enter", you can add a hard paragraph break within a cell.  Very handy.  I know there's something similar for Macs...

If you have sign interpreters, don't forget to give them the information too!

Hope this helps,
Erin

hbelden

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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2005, 10:48 am »
Page Numbering is the most difficult thing to understand if you're the one controlling the distribution of script changes.  Like Erin said, if you've added text so that it doesn't fit on the page anymore, don't change the margins, let the bottom of the page flow over to a page with the same number and a letter.  If you add an entire scene between pages 30 and 31, for example, number the new pages 30A, 30B, 30C.  I also put the date of the new page right next to the page number.

IF YOU CUT PAGES: Say the playwright decides that a four-page scene , pp. 21, 22, 23, and 24 in your script, is slowing the pace of the show, and deletes it.  Don't just pull the four pages out of the master script.  Go back and change p. 20 to "Page 20-24" with the date of the cut.

I try to think of page numbers as not representing the physical paper in your hand, they represent the information between and including the first line and the last line.  So 30A, 30B, 30C are not individual pages, they're extensions of page 30.

Avoid the temptation to repaginate and "clean" the script.  If that work happens at any point before opening, you defeat your purpose and confusion and chaos reign throughout the company.  I speak from (horrible, embarassing) experience.

I could probably think of more to say, but I'm out of time right now.  Hope this helps.
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Heath Belden

"I'm not good, I'm not nice, I'm just right." - Sondheim
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ORTaurean

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new play!
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2005, 03:22 pm »
I just opened a new play.  The playwright was in residence during the entire rehearsal process...Whew!  The hardest part was keeping up with script changes and the suggestions already posted are excellent.  I included in my excell sheet a colum that indicated the approval of the playwright, just to ensure that everyone knew I had spoken to her and everyone was on the same page.  I found that having an assistant to work on this project during rehearsal got me out of the rehearsal space at a decent hour.  May you be so lucky...

The other tricky thing was that the playwright had the tendency to slow down rehearsal by sharing her wisdom about the beautiful play she had written and the life experience she has.  Try to gauge a fine line that we use with directors and know when you have to move on.
Also remember that the playwright may be a valuable resource!

PAGE NUMBERS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO NEVER FORGET ABOUT.  If you screw up your page numbers, then everyone is lost.
Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly.
-Rosiland Russell

Mac Calder

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new play!
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2005, 09:44 pm »
The playwrites approval does not matter - once the playwrite has written it, their job is done.  They need to understand that - and as a stage manager, it is your job to lay out the law before hand.

The playwrite is a valuable resource. Sure. But they sit up the back and observe and should really only inject their 'wisdom' in the first few rehearsals - ie informing the cast of the motive behind each of their charactors etc.

The production I just finished had the playwrite working as tech director on the show, it went supurbly well because she knew her place was no longer in the creative area - although both her and I were disapointed that one scene was cut - a scene involving the combustion of a donkey piniata (they would not even let us do it off stage with lights and sounds :-( - but we made up for that in the after party... poor prop donkey burnt for an hour... Damn risk asessments.

ORTaurean

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new play!
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2005, 02:32 pm »
I think that the playwright does have some input during the creation of a new play.  And you're right, usually reserved for the tablework time.  I encouraged the actors to speak with the writer during downtime when they had questions after our tablework.  However, when the director is extremely collaberative with the playwright, as in my circumstance, keeping them in their "place" is not as black and white as it seems.

Thankfully, the creative process was not squelched and out schedule was not delayed or postponed due to the collaberative nature of the entire ensemble (actors, director, playwright and SM's) and the ability of the play to live on its own; having only minor revisions and amazingly two major cuts.

Our ability as stage managers to adapt to new and different situations created by our working environment is ongoing and paramount.  I am thankfull for the experience and wisdom shared here that continuously reveals the ever-changing nature of stage managing; even when situations appear to be similar.
Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly.
-Rosiland Russell

jenk

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new play!
« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2005, 07:16 pm »
Bring your sense of humor to every rehearsal, and know that you are sitting next to a very vulnerable and passionate person, who has the potential to take things as 10 times larger and more important that you do. Keep your cool, and remember that the actors will take their tone and attitude from you for the most part, and if you stay rational, light and flexible, remeberng that we're all here because we love the work, they will tend to as well, and the playwright/director may be more able to roll with the punches, and you get a more creative product.
And, yes, I'm right there with the page numbers. We once got an entirely new opening sequence on the afternoon of the first preview, and we had 3 hours to redesign/reblock/retech/rememorize pages 1f-3g.  If we all hadn't been using the page number/letter system so anally, it would have been chaos. As it was, we had a great time, and even 1/2 hour to spare. :)

Aerial

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new play!
« Reply #7 on: Jul 22, 2005, 03:13 pm »
I've done predominantly new plays in the last year, and I think they're one of the best challenges for a stage manager.  I love them.  My last 5 have all had the playwright in residence for the rehearsal process, and one thing I've noticed is that its always different.  Sometimes it can be very trying, especially when it becomes a situation where the director is letting the playwright have so much control that there are essentially two directors in the room.  Sadly, I've found this more common. I had one really great experience recently where the playwright was more or less a silent observer, occasionally calling the director over to discuss a potential change.  

The most important thing I find wit  rewrites to to keep the information clear.  I always format text changes the same way in my rehearsal reports, and put the changes in order by page number regardless of where they came in the rehearsal day.  My format is:
Pg. #, Character, ACTION(change, cut, add, etc), "old words" to "new words".  
If it is a very small word change, I follow that with "  so that the line reads "new complete line"  "

ORTaurean

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new play!
« Reply #8 on: Jul 23, 2005, 09:17 am »
I also add a section for approval from the playwright, a Y or N box to  my format because sometimes the playwright wants to think about changing something.  That way I could track what the possibility was in case the playwright came back to me and asked what was said at the previous rehearsal.
Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly.
-Rosiland Russell

DeeCap

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new play!
« Reply #9 on: Jul 23, 2005, 11:06 am »
I just opened a new musical. If you think stage managing a new play is hard, try doing a new musical!
The writers used a program called "Final Draft". If is used in TV and Film; and I think it will eventually make its way into the theatre world. It was easier to have pgs 2A, 2B, 2C, etc......  Microsoft Word has problems with page numbers and letters. I was able to get "Final Draft" on my computer, so the writers just emailed me the changes and I would print and copy.
Having an organized assisant is esstenial; as well as having a "master script". It's a script that has all the updated changes. It's more updated than my script. So, if someone is missing a new page, you can go to the master and copy it instead of taking yours with all your blocking in it.
Also, if you have a designer run-thru, you can copy the master script and give it to your designers.

Aerial

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new play!
« Reply #10 on: Jul 23, 2005, 12:54 pm »
Yeah, new musicals are pretty crazy.   I've worked with a bunch of playwrights who use Final Draft, and it makes things much easier and keeps it all neater than using Word.  I always keep a master though, on any show I do(even if they're not new) because I don't like to copy my script.  Usually there's a ton of writing in it, and I don't trust our tempermental copy machine to not eat it.

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