Author Topic: PEOPLE: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS  (Read 8446 times)

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swood09

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PEOPLE: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« on: Mar 23, 2007, 02:13 am »
I am about to work on a show that has 80+ cast members.

Lets all take a deep breath on that one.
Okay, here we go.

I'm a bit intimidated by getting names right. For example, if I'm taking notes and I can't remember the person's name, how the HELL do I get that note to them?

If anyone's got any experience in this situation, lemme know.
« Last Edit: Jun 09, 2009, 12:13 am by PSMKay »

dallas10086

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #1 on: Mar 23, 2007, 08:29 am »
Just remember that if you can't keep their names straight that the cast members themselves are probably having the same problem too. For a cast that large, when you start rehearsals be sure to make up name tags for everyone and have them wear them for at least the first week of rehearsals. It'll help out everyone, including you.

ReyYaySM

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #2 on: Mar 23, 2007, 10:09 am »
Make yourself a cheat sheet by taking digital photos on the first day of rehearsal (or scanning headshots, if available, though headshots are rarely a true representation of what a person looks like in real life). Whoever is taking the pictures should write the actors' names down, in order, as the pictures are taken.  Assemble the pics into an album either by having prints made, doing it through Word or a picture album program, or simply using the Print function on the Windows Photo Wizard, which allows you to print up to 9 pics to a page.  Take the printed photos and write names underneath them.  You can make copies of the final document for the entire SM team.  This is similar to what we used to do at the summer theatre workshop until we could remember the names of all of the students. 

Alternatively, I'm guessing you're working with at least two assistants on a show of this size.  Divide the cast into sections, such as chorus men, chorus women, and principals, and assign a group to yourself and each of your assistants.  Learn the names of that group of people, and lean over to your assistant to ask names from their respective sections.  As the show goes on, you're likely to learn the names of everyone, but until that point, make sure that collectively the SM team knows the name of each cast member. 

So, what show are you working on?

thehayworth

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #3 on: Mar 23, 2007, 11:03 am »
Just call everyone "Boo." 

I used audition photos to keep kids straight for a children's musical.  cheat sheet for the first week.

i just spread them out on my tech table
"This time for sure."

lauria

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #4 on: Mar 23, 2007, 01:47 pm »
Eep! Sounds very intimidating. Especially because I'm not great with names in general. The picture ideas sound like a great idea.

For The Caucasian Chalk Circle we have only (in comparison) 24 cast members, but they all pretty much play multiple roles including 7 of them being "Ironshirts." Brecht did not write a SM friendly show. Anyway, the dramaturg gave each actor letters before we did auditions in order to figure out the doubling. So I had all my actors wear name tags with their letter on them and used their letter when it came down to writing hte blocking in my script. Every day I give out the letters to the actors to help me remember who gets what. I think I've got everyone down by now, but it's been a week of spring break so we'll see what happens when we get back...

The point of that was just to give you an example of how I did blocking notes for a larger cast and it obviously wouldn't work for a cast the size of 80, but maybe it will help give you an idea for having to take blocking notation.

Mac Calder

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #5 on: Mar 23, 2007, 09:40 pm »
I am hopeless with names. The quick photo idea is a good one. I would talk to your cast about the idea first - maybe suggest that you put up a photo board as well if the rehearsal room is yours alone as most of the cast will be in the same situation as yourself - you could even make it a place to pin up those memorable shots that invariably occur. Otherwise, go with name lables or badges.

Balletdork

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #6 on: Mar 24, 2007, 12:46 pm »
Well- it is certainly not unusual that we work on ridiculously large shows where we don't know everyone's name right away- My blocking notation gameplan is always:

For character's w/ names the blocking is done by character name abbreviation's.

For the womens ensemble or chorus everyone has a number: W1, W2....

For the mens ensember or chorus: M1, M2....

For the childrens chorus it's either G1, G2 or B1, B2...

This is a dance world steal- this way when Sally McReady (W2) needs to be replaced we can just look through all the notes and replace W2.

The list of cast with numbers is publicly posted, and is also by height- so the choreographer can begin to work out sections on their own. Everyone knows their number- and it's also how scripts and other paperwork are distributed, dressing rooms are assigned, costumes fittings are scheduled etc... etc...

Sharesies from your dance world friends!  ;D

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LisaEllis

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #7 on: Mar 24, 2007, 10:55 pm »
I love that idea!

Unfortunately, that would mean I would have to get the pertinent information regarding height, etc. early enough to create a numbering system, which is different than whatever the director has already used to plan things out.

Also, since I can hear him/her say, "Sally, you and Joe cross over to Mary to say hello."   I don't have to look up to keep writing the blocking, or spend time remembering that Sally is W16 and Joe is M5.

Named characters have a 1 or 2 letter code in a circle, but chorus I learn by 1st name.  If there are too many duplicate 1st names, I'll use a shortened last name.  If I catch what the director is saying, he/she is addressing them by first name, so I don't have to remember it as much.

Also, I highly recommend the 5 x 7 colored note cards for name tags, with a big old safety pin.  I can see those from across the room (or stand on a chair to see the group behind), and if it's on a pin it can't get spun around.  You can also fit longer names in a BIG font, and they go thru a printer pretty easily.  You can color code by whatever is useful (usually voice type in opera).

stagebear

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #8 on: Mar 25, 2007, 12:15 am »
is this a musical? if so, i always take the first vocal rehearsals as my opportunity to learn the names. i look around the room while they're working and try to get all of the names straight.

hbelden

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #9 on: Mar 25, 2007, 11:35 am »
Stagebear, I do that in Shakespeare as well.  At the first read, there's no reason for me to follow along in my script, so I spend at least fifteen to twenty minutes going back and forth between the contact sheet and peoples' faces, memorizing names and roles.  At the intermission break, I go up to the two or three people I'm confused about and make a point of checking in with them.  By the end of the read I know thirty strangers' names and faces quite well. 

Of course, it helps that I've been typing their names and checking the spelling for a solid week.
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KMC

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #10 on: Mar 25, 2007, 03:27 pm »
This is a great example of why it's imperative that you have a flexible style of management.  Obviously the way you communicate with a cast of 8 is going to be much different than the way you communicate with a cast of 80.  With a cast this size you have no choice but to trust your assistants and delegate effectively.  Doing that will allow you to focus on the "big picture".
Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action. -T. Roosevelt

ljh007

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #11 on: Mar 26, 2007, 01:59 pm »
Now that I live in the opera world, pretty much all my shows are 100+ people.

I have the chorus and supers wear nametags, color-coded by voice type, throughout staging rehearsals.
I notate blocking using initials (make a quick check before rehearsals begin to identify any repeat initials, like Brad Smith and Betsy Sledd). Prinicipals are notated with the character's initial inside a circle - this also helps the principals stand out on my blocking pages that end up covered with scribbled initials. Also, stage management usually makes little wallet cards for ourselves listing principals and small roles. This way we can always pretend to know their names. Eventually we'll get the chorus. Or maybe not - which is unfortunate and a little cold, but not a tragedy.

In order to get to know chorus/super names faster, I try to talk with people during breaks and before/after rehearsals. I get to know them, so then I remember that Joni Arnold is a little kooky about her cats, and George Parks loves to garden. It helps make them into real people and not just faces in the crowd. I also get to know stagehands this way. Actually, at load-in I write down the names of all the people working the show - by department - so that I can remember their name, especially over headset. Now, recognizing crew by headset voice alone, that's a little trickier.  Also, I have some sort of chip misplaced in my brain and have trouble recognizing faces. Just when I've got the cast down, they go into dress, wigs, and makeup, and I can't recognize anyone! I warm people about this before first dress rehearsal, and they always tease me about it.

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Balletdork

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #12 on: Mar 26, 2007, 05:27 pm »
I know! Isn't it funny when you never meet someone in person- you only speak to them over headset? This happens to me all the time in road houses with spot ops! They'll go directly to their positions and not come down until the spots are cooled post-show, by which time I'm giving notes in dressing rooms!  :D

Jessie_K

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Re: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #13 on: Mar 26, 2007, 07:22 pm »
I also use initials for ensemble members and circled character initials principles.  I do this is both dance and theater. If there are duplicate initials, I will use 3 letters for those in question.

MitchieSM

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Re: PEOPLE: Keeping it Straight with BIG CASTS
« Reply #14 on: Mar 13, 2014, 04:49 pm »
Working in opera, I'm also a big fan of having the number of people that you'll be sending onstage. I'll keep a list of last names (tends to be easier to differentiate between 5 different Marys, or the Billy Smith/Betty Sacks issue) so that if I'm missing a person I can go through the list of names, but if I know I'm supposed to have 27 people entering from the SR3 ramp, I find it easier to count heads before going through the list of people.

And even though it's a big group, you will learn almost every single person. Delegating out groups, like dramachic mentions is always a good plan to get everyone's name. And when you just can't remember, most people don't mind a 'hey, friend!' or another generic welcome to get their attention.

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