Author Topic: NEW WORKS: Producing New Plays  (Read 3089 times)

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NEW WORKS: Producing New Plays
« on: Dec 07, 2006, 01:27 pm »
Hello everyone. I have a particular dilemma. I am currently stage managing a production called Kin. This show is about the eugenics movement in the 1920s here in the United States. However, the director is having the playwright make changes to the script. This proves making my production script nearly impossible. We printed out a bunch of copies of the script a while ago, and there have been re-writes since then. I need to update all the scripts before Sunday, because we have our read-thru. Has anyone else gone through this? If you have, let me know any hints or tips. This is going to drive me crazy with all the constant changes. There are more changes anticipated as well. Thanks everyone!
« Last Edit: Jun 08, 2009, 11:58 pm by PSMKay »


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Re: Producing New Plays
« Reply #1 on: Dec 07, 2006, 02:00 pm »
I did a new work in college...and had 3 ASMs, so 1 was strictly responsible for keeping up with script changes, since much of it happened in rehearsal.  Whole scenes were cut or minimized because they realized the show was too long.  We started rehearsals with only part of Act I, which was mostly gone by the time we opened.  New pages showed up every day, so we'd have a scene to work on.

We kept large margins on everything, and I didn't write much on the backs of pages, in case I had to transfer it to completely new pages.

It was a pain.  Pagination is also a problem...revision dates on the script pages are important.  A few days before tech I had a whole new script printed out so me and the LD had it...didn't have any of the blocking in it, but at least I could figure out what came next.  And I had the scribbled out version to refer to if necessary.  But I didn't really need then, it just was what it was.

Good luck!


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Re: Producing New Plays
« Reply #2 on: Dec 07, 2006, 02:23 pm »
Oh yeah, I don't think you've truly experienced full throttle stress until you've been in a situation like this!  I've gone through this way more times than I'd like to remember, but here's some of the tricks I've picked up and developed along the way.

First off, start small.  Pull all of the changes together to form one *current for the moment* script.  This may take a few hours and some heavy cutting and pasting, but you will be much more focused once you have one base copy done.  This process is always made easier if you have an electronic version of the script.  If you don't have one, see if the playwright does.  Otherwise get out the scissors and glue!

When doing up this version, leave extra space.  Widen your margins a bit, space lines at 1.5 instead of single spacing.  What this does is leave room for write ins during the rehearsal process.

Once done, consider this your base.  It should be the cleanest, most up-to-date copy you could have at that moment.  Now here's where most non-SM people cringe - Copy it and send it out to everyone.  From that point on, when changes are made everyone has the same base to work off of (this logic works great on penny pinching PM's  ;) )  

As changes come there are many different techniques to keeping everyone updated.  I keep a notepad just for line changes that happen in rehearsal beside me.  I write the change in my book, then jot down the page number and note how many changes there were on that page.  At the end of rehearsal I have a chart for the frequent smallish line changes/tweaks.  Something like:

Pg    Original Line                                 Change
14    The prisoners are free.                   The hardened criminals escaped!
15    Wowezowie - I couldn't believe...     The speech is cut

I usually do up this chart in Excel and that way, common phrases pop up instead of me typing hundreds of 'the speech is cut.'  This chart is great for e-mailing out to production people, and printing off hard copies for everyone to put the changes in their base scripts.  For the actors call board, I print each day off in a different colour and post it.

For larger scale changes (ie. Scene 2 looks like the lines were put in a blender and set to frappe) if you have an electronic version you can go in and make those changes pretty easily and then copy and send out the new pages.  Once again, for the actors call board I do post them on coloured paper.  Make sure that you put the date on the new pages!  If there are that many changes happening, this will be a life saver in making sure everyone is as updated correctly as possible.  If you've had to cut and paste your script together because you don't have an e-version of it, type up the new scene.

This is where that base e-version of the show could come in very handy.  Keep updating it regularly.  You or an ASM can go in and update and save it as different versions so that if they decide a few weeks down the road to go back to what they had - you're set.  This is also great because at some point you may have to provide someone with a new/replacement script and you'd be set with an updated one on file.

It is tough and a lot of work when you do a show that is constantly changing.  The best you can do is know that this is happening and be prepared for it.  I'm sure you're going to get a lot of tips here, look them over and put together something that works for you and your company.  And best of luck with it all, and remember, you're not alone in this!


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Re: Producing New Plays
« Reply #3 on: Dec 07, 2006, 02:47 pm »
And my advice for the actual rehearsal process is to have ONE person in charge of keeping the up-to-date script.  Doesn't matter who it is, but the director and playwright must both know who it is.  This avoids multiple versions as the script progresses.  This person should also be in charge of getting changes/new pages to actors and staff.

And you need to talk to the director and playwright together ahead of time and make sure that the director doesn't change things w/o going through the playwright.  This may seem obvious/unlikely, but it has happened to me.  The playwright would be absent from a rehearsal, the director would change lines, the playwright would not like it and change it back or change it to something else.  Fine, but it makes learning lines a HUGE problem for actors.

And also it just makes me angry.....  which is the main problem.
"This time for sure."

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Re: Producing New Plays
« Reply #4 on: Dec 07, 2006, 02:55 pm »
Here is what I would do.

Ask them to "Freeze" the script for a moment to allow you to get everything up to speed.

Format the digital copy so that every line is double, maybe 2.5 spaced, number the lines on a page (I use the format page.line) and put easy to see page numbers in.

After that, track the changes closely. New plays usually evolve constantly, so chances are they will keep changing after the show is in rehearsal. Every day/week/period/major set of changes, hand out a "Changes sheet" - like mentioned by Canuck, however I would format it like so:

Before 14.1 add 14.0.5 "ACTOR: talks about stuff"
Change 14.5 to "ACTOR: talks about stuff"
Remove 14.7
Remove 14.9.5->15.1 etc

I also track the number of changes made to each page, and after 5 or 10 changes, I will distribute a new copy to everyone.

Another important thing is to keep the pages the same. What is on page 14 should stay on page 14, and should not contain anything from page 15 etc.  That means you may end up with a 14A etc.

Keep the digital copy updated, however rename after every change (ie every day, update the script, then save as Script-2006-10-8.doc).

When the script is getting to the point where it is nearly impossible to keep track of due to sub lines, sub pages and massive jumps in page numbers, along with page switches, it is time to think about re-numbering everything and printing out a fresh copy. If you are doing that, ask again that they freeze any script changes for a few days.


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Re: Producing New Plays
« Reply #5 on: Dec 07, 2006, 03:06 pm »
I've stage managed the past 3 seasons for a company of playwrights - everything we do is a new work!  I know it can seem like hell sometimes.  All of the tips given so far are great - I have just a few others.

First off, along with my prompt book, I keep a giant binder which is just the progression of the script. I put the original version in first and then just add copies of any changes made (I use dividers to separate each date). Often, the director or playwright will come to you two weeks after making a change and say "I like what we used to have, do you know what it is?"  This way, you can just flip to that date in your binder and find it easily.  (I use a form similar to what was suggested above w/Original line and new line).  At the end of the show, I typically give the binder to the playwright - it's nice for them to have that process documented.

Also, as much as possible, when formatting the script (if you are the one doing it - which I recommend!) - insert as many section breaks as possible between scenes.  This way, if pages are deleted from one scene - especially early in the script - you can keep the other page #s the same (it may seem weird to have a script with missing pages, but I've found this easier in the end).  If pages are added to one scene - you can use letters (page 10a) so again, the rest of the script keeps the same numbers - this way you can save on the amount of the script you actually have to reprint.  This of course, is for large changes that can't easily e written in.

Most importantly, I've learned that it's so important to make sure all actors have changes before rehearsal.  There's nothing more frustrating than running a scene and having to stop to give line changes.  Talk to the director about taking 5-10 minutes to give changes at the end or start of each rehearsal.  I've learned that if you do it right, this shouldn't really take very long.  The way I say changes is something like this:

"Page 53, halfway down.  Lucy's line "It's so cold outside tonight". Change 'so cold' to 'freezing' and 'tonight' to 'this evening'.  Cut 'outside'. It should read 'It's freezing this evening'."

A silly example because the line's so short, but you get the point. It gives everyone a chance to write the changes and hear how it should sound so they can make sure they got it.  This way you won't have to stop to clarify as often.

I hope some of this is useful - good luck!  Have fun - it's exciting to work on a new script!


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Re: Producing New Plays
« Reply #6 on: Dec 07, 2006, 11:48 pm »
New plays can be crazy, but I find them challenging in a good way, and really like being involved in the full page-to-stage process.  A big key to making the process run smoothly is getting everyone to start, literally, on the same page.
I'd tell the playwright, producer, director, and anyone else who needs to know, that you will be the distributor of the script from this point forward, and all future changes should go through you so they can be tracked properly, and new pages issues as needed.  The playwright can still re-writes at home, but should then send them to you for formatting.   

I’d echo what others have said about getting an electronic version of the script.  The easiest way to do this is to through the playwright, but I’ve also been in situations where the theater can request one from the publisher. I’ve even been told that you could take a book or printout to a Kinkos and they can create an editable, electronic version for you.  If all else fails, strongly consider retyping the script yourself.

If you have the First Rehearsal script electronically, also print it out and review it for weird page breaks, lines or words that start on one page and end on another, lack of page numbers, that sort of thing.  When you think you’re finished tweaking on the computer, print it out again (it’s worth the paper) and proof read to make sure your changes haven’t caused other format problems.  Always SAVE AS when you make changes, so you maintain previous versions.   

During rehearsals, I’d keep a “Cut List” to track script changes as they occur.  I’ve posted an example of the one I use in the Forms Forum.  If a large chunk of text changes, you can go into the electronic version of the script, update, and re-print just the pages you need.  I usually insert a text box at the top of the page saying “Updated on xx/xx,” and where possible I bold the text that has changed, as well.  Another good practice is to maintain an up-to-date Master Script (other than your call book, which has tons of extra notes in it) that lives in the rehearsal room.  Sure, you’ll have the electronic version, but sometimes making a photocopy of an hard copy is more expedient than getting on a computer and printing it out. 

In your situation, I’d figure out how much time you need to create an electronic version of the script and make copies of them for everyone.  Then let the director and playwright know that you’re going to prepare First Rehearsal scripts on X date and time, and if they make additional changes after that, you will issue cut lists and new individual pages to reflect those changes.

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Re: Producing New Plays
« Reply #7 on: Dec 08, 2006, 01:10 am »
Most of my main methods for dealing with new work have been mentioned already, but there's one thing that I do that I find helpful that I don't think I've seen yet.  In addition to making sure all pages have an accurate date on them, I encourage you to keep a chart with all of the page numbers on it, and next to each the date that is on the current version of each.  I'd also suggest keeping the rehearsal process hashed together script till tech (aka, you have the exact same pages as the actors...if handwritten changes have been given out, that's what you've got, if a new page is given out, that's what you've got).  It's tempting to have a clean copy, but I've found it incredibly more valuable in answering questions to have the exact same pages as the actors.  Of course, once I get to tech, I switch to a clean copy.


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