Author Topic: RUNNING: How do you maintain and note performances?  (Read 2731 times)

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MatthewShiner

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RUNNING: How do you maintain and note performances?
« on: Oct 11, 2012, 09:46 am »
For a wide variety of reasons, the topic of maintaining a show over a run (short and long) is something I have been talking about for a while.

There are a lot a challenges in maintaining a show, but most of the time it is part of our job.  I have been changing the way I tech and note performances with an eye of working out the muscles of being more assertive in the way I note shows, but I am interested in hearing more takes about how you maintain a show.  And I am especially interested in those who have had to maintain a performance, where for whatever reason, they were weren't privy to the director's notes to the actors.

Thoughts?  Ideas?

Edit to subject line-Rebbe
« Last Edit: Nov 04, 2012, 01:13 pm by Rebbe »
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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

Maribeth

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Re: NOTING A PERFORMANCE: How do you maintain a show?
« Reply #1 on: Oct 14, 2012, 03:55 pm »
Great topic. I was in this position this summer- where I was responsible for maintaining two shows that I hadn't teched or rehearsed. (Almost all previous shows I had taken over I had been involved in the rehearsal process in some way). The shows that I did this summer were radically different in terms of how they needed to be maintained. One was a very technically specific show- sharp light bumps and sounds at precise movements/exact words, with a larger cast, and very consistent in terms of pace and blocking. In general very little variance in any aspect of the show. Show maintenance mostly had to do with keeping it in line with the very precise way it had been staged.

The second was a more emotional based show, with more general lighting looks, a two-person cast and less specific blocking. It varied a lot more from performance to performance- and the director was okay with that. (In fact, he encouraged a lot of growth from the actors, as long as the growth didn't affect the tech). Maintaining the show involved frequent conversations with the actors about the show and keeping the show balanced.

I like to start by asking a lot of questions- starting with the SM I'm taking over for, the director (if they are available), my ASMs- anyone who I can learn something from about the show. I also try to engage the actors in conversation about the show- even if it's just noticing something about the show out loud, and using that to spark a conversation. My goal is to find out a little bit about why a moment is the way it is. Obviously I can't do that for every moment in the show, but if I can learn something like "The moment where the fight breaks out is really the first time that James loses control," I can use that information to maintain the integrity of what has been developed.

For me (and I would imagine, for most SMs) it's easier to give a technical note "You're a little out of your light in the final moment- if you take one step left you will hit it exactly" or "Can you wait one more second for the transition sound to finish before making your entrance? We're losing the beginning of your line" than it is give a more "artistic" note- especially if you're new to the show.

I think the most important part of maintaining a show comes from awareness. Whether you have a full rehearsal process to learn the show or just a few days, being aware of what already exists is the first step in show maintenance. Keeping an open flow of communication with the actors is key, which is harder when you're jumping on to a show that you didn't rehearse, but if you can engage the actors sooner rather than later, it will be easier to have the conversations about show notes.

hbelden

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Re: NOTING A PERFORMANCE: How do you maintain a show?
« Reply #2 on: Oct 14, 2012, 09:07 pm »
I think the one item I'm working on improving is going out of my way to compliment actors' choices early in the process, when I can be specific and honest about the observation.  These kind of positive notes early really help actors believe that I'm involved in the process and supportive of their work, which really pays off late in the run when I need to get their cooperation in adjusting their performance.
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loebtmc

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Re: NOTING A PERFORMANCE: How do you maintain a show?
« Reply #3 on: Oct 14, 2012, 09:37 pm »
I think this is a specific area where an SM from the acting side sometimes has an advantage, just as those from the tech side have advantages in other aspects. More than anything else, when taking over a running show we have to earn the trust of the cast. It takes a moment to learn to read them and identify how they work and what their intentions are and a feel for their beats.

Much of my early career was taking over shows. As Heath mentions, I started by mentioning and complementing choices as well as taking time to get to know them a bit outside the theater. Usually, there's the opportunity of an early observation that shows I'd been paying attention to the actors' work and know when they were doing it and when they aren't, and I've had the chance to say something that made sense on those occasions. That was the point where trust happened, and meant from that point forward I was a full and equal member of that show.

PSMKay

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Re: NOTING A PERFORMANCE: How do you maintain a show?
« Reply #4 on: Oct 15, 2012, 03:46 am »
Related question: If you were "stage manager zero" on a show that went on to a long run, how would you feel about a new SM on the gig calling you a few years down the road for pointers? Would you be willing to talk about it? Would you expect to be paid for the consultation? How about if you left the show under less-than-favorable circumstances, would you feel the same way?

On_Headset

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Re: NOTING A PERFORMANCE: How do you maintain a show?
« Reply #5 on: Oct 15, 2012, 04:41 am »
Quote
how would you feel about a new SM on the gig calling you a few years down the road for pointers? Would you be willing to talk about it? Would you expect to be paid for the consultation? How about if you left the show under less-than-favorable circumstances, would you feel the same way?
It would not surprise me to learn that this sort of discussion (if uncompensated) would constitute an Equity violation. It may also violate a contract you have with another company. (At the very least, while the clauses aren't common, I've definitely seen contracts which expressly forbade certain employees from working/consulting on/assisting with other shows for the duration of the contract.)

In terms of non-Equity shows, this has happened to me 2-3 times so far. (Once with a show I'd left, twice with shows which were being revived without my involvement.) The method I've worked out:
1) You're going to comp me a ticket or let me attend a run-through rehearsal, depending on which stage you're in. I will be taking notes.
2) We will then have a working meal, ideally take-out at someone's place. (So we can get out the books and go over notes and really get into the meat of it.)
3) I will claim the whole exercise as a tax deduction. (Maintaining good contacts and excellent interpersonal relationships, especially with companies for whom I have previously worked, is absolutely essential to my future employability. This dinner-and-a-show [but we won't call it that, now will we!] is a networking opportunity, will keep me in good standing with a previous employer, and might also include mentorship or industry-service opportunities. In short, it counts as work.)

As to whether you should do it, yes: you should. I'm not being entirely dishonest about everything I've said above: this is an opportunity to make some contacts, see how a piece you've worked on has developed and grown, do a little mentorship and industry service, and it will also make you look good to a previous employer. (Who is, of course, the likeliest person to employ you in future.)

As to whether you must do it, no: you don't have to. If you're morally opposed (working for free?! NEVAR!!!!!1!) or genuinely too busy or you left for damn good reasons, you're certainly under no obligation.

MatthewShiner

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Re: NOTING A PERFORMANCE: How do you maintain a show?
« Reply #6 on: Oct 15, 2012, 08:18 am »
Quote
Related question: If you were "stage manager zero" on a show that went on to a long run, how would you feel about a new SM on the gig calling you a few years down the road for pointers? Would you be willing to talk about it? Would you expect to be paid for the consultation? How about if you left the show under less-than-favorable circumstances, would you feel the same way?


I have been in the position, where I left the show, and two years later it was still running.  I has also passed on shows to other theaters.  I don't mind taking the time to answer question questions about the show to the other stage managers.  Professional courtesy, no fee would be applied. If I left under less-than-favorable circumstances I guess it depends on who's end - but I think again, it's a professional courtesy.

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loebtmc

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Re: NOTING A PERFORMANCE: How do you maintain a show?
« Reply #7 on: Oct 15, 2012, 12:47 pm »
I'm with Matthew (again). When I pass along a show, I make sure as much info as possible is avail, offering time to answer qqs and help bring them up to speed on show-specific peccadilloes. Same when I take over a show - I recently took over two transfers from out of town, and I had great phone or email chats with the SMs handing off the shows I was brought up to speed on certain personalities, things like who was constantly late and who I cd rely on for discrete inside info, and when I got the scripts we spent a short time on their shorthand and what cues tied to those things that have to be felt or eyeballed.

I consider it part of my job - whether I am the giver or receiver.
« Last Edit: Nov 02, 2012, 03:10 pm by loebtmc »

MatthewShiner

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Re: NOTING A PERFORMANCE: How do you maintain a show?
« Reply #8 on: Oct 15, 2012, 02:42 pm »
I have a multi-level process in maintaining a show.

After I call half-hour, I make eye contact with every actor, say hellos, and check in with them and see if they have any questions form the notes I gave based on the last performance.    But the most important thing, I am there in person - and easily step out of the room for private conversations.

At the end of the show, my assistant goes around and touches bases with each actor.  (In my years of experience, I have learned that there are notes people will give to the SM and their notes they give to the ASM.)

We start this process in tech.  It's good to start the communication flowing.  (In tech/previews, it's good to see if the cast has notes to put into the schedule for the next day...)

The new thing I do is send out a daily report for the actors.

It includes all the run times, and house count form the show we just did, plus the run times from the previous day's show.  Includes the schedule for the next day.

Then there are general notes - or notes from specific scenes or groups of people.

Good pace on the first scene. 1.3, remember although it's secret, the audience still needs to hear you.  We will discuss what went awry in the battle tomorrow at fight call.

And then I send out specific notes individually to cast members.

And I will let you know there is 60/40 split - 60 praise notes, 40 you are out of your light notes.

(I do this as I know have done three shows in a row with a cast that check's emails daily (I get notes via email and text during the show).

But this way I am presenting the cast with three times for notes to be exchanged (both given and/or taken) - two in person, and one just a reply away.

And as always, they can call me.

At first, we deal with perhaps too much input of notes from the cast, but trust me, it levels off . . . and I thrive in the atmosphere we were all talk to each other.
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Anything posted here as in my own personal opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of my employer - whomever they be at a given moment in time.

omaira17

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Re: NOTING A PERFORMANCE: How do you maintain a show?
« Reply #9 on: Nov 02, 2012, 11:42 am »
I'm with you Matthew...

I have a few different ways of dealing with my shows. As the Assistant Production Manager, the SM, ASM's, and Tech Crew report to me. However, I am very involved with all aspects of the show. During Tech I let the actors know to come to me 1st for any problems, I build the rapport with them then. During the run, the SM goes backstage and does the first time check (House Open). They know to have eye contact with each actor and recieve the customary reply (Thank You House Open) from everyone. The cast knows to bring any concerns or questions to the SM at this time. After that they have to go to the ASM. The notes I take for every show (missed light cue, speed up scene, missed scene change, missed line, etc.) we give to them at call time the next day. They know when they sign in to take a note sheet and read them. Anything we don't want everyone to read I give to the actor, or crew personally. My tech crew reports to me at the end of the night for any notes they need addressed (prop broken, costume repair, etc.). I can then have the person resonsible for that handle them when I send out the Production Report that night.

I treat each show differently in knowing that since we don't have the same actors or crew for every run, I know there are multiple personalities to deal with.
This season we are trying something a bit different. I will be working with the SM's during the rehearsals and handling all of the reports. Since I work well with the designers and know what they need and we always have different SM's for each show, this should allow a smoother transition to Tech Week than before. We tried it out on the current show and we were amazed at how "easy" tech went!

I got the suggestion from a previous thread of yours Matthew! Thanks!   

LizzG

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Re: NOTING A PERFORMANCE: How do you maintain a show?
« Reply #10 on: Nov 02, 2012, 02:07 pm »
Related question: If you were "stage manager zero" on a show that went on to a long run, how would you feel about a new SM on the gig calling you a few years down the road for pointers? Would you be willing to talk about it? Would you expect to be paid for the consultation? How about if you left the show under less-than-favorable circumstances, would you feel the same way?

Of course!!  Countless times I've relied on previous members of the crew on my current show for troubleshooting.  And I would fully do the same without expecting to be paid.  Like Matthew said, it's a professional courtesy, and it'll come back around.

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