Author Topic: PEOPLE: Tense Director During Tech  (Read 5460 times)

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MileHighSM

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PEOPLE: Tense Director During Tech
« on: Feb 03, 2007, 03:51 pm »
So I'm sure everyone's worked with a director that just seems not to allow you to make a single mistake during the tech/preview process.  We have moving panels backstage on the show I'm PA'ing that myself and three other crew members are moving with ropes, and during one shift today during our rehearsal one of the ropes was pulled the wrong way so we had to stop and re-set.  The director was like, "What the hell happened?"  I explained to our SM that we simply had made a mistake that would never happen again, and the response was, "Yeah, please don't let it happen again or it's going to be a very long day."  It's not like the rope was *intentionally* pulled the wrong way and we wanted to mess up the set change.  How do you all deal with the pressure and not take it personally.  We did shrug it off, but I think it's totally un-cool that some directors don't seem to allow for an inch of human error.  What the hell!  The actors have had *weeks* to learn what they're doing, the rest of us aren't even allowed a brief learning curve...again-suggestions?
« Last Edit: Jun 09, 2009, 12:11 am by PSMKay »

smsam

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #1 on: Feb 03, 2007, 07:04 pm »
You responded in a fantastic way. Admitting the mistake, telling them you've learned from it and moving on is the perfect response! Unfortunately this won't be good enough for some Director's, but there is really nothing more you can do. Just keep telling yourself that they are under massive amounts of pressure, like you, and they don't mean anything personally. After time you may find it gets easier not to take things personally. I have some of the worst Directors (normally the camp queens or the bitchs!) and I have sort of grown immune to this behavior now.

However I can see it from both sides, as a seasoned Lighting Designer as well as DSM/ ASM, I regularly find myself getting very frustrated at crew and production electricians as a Lighting Designer, when they seem unable to do the simplest things at a reasonable pace! Just over the last few days I've been designing a show and had the worlds SLOWEST focus! But every time I felt frustrated with them though I had to tell myself that they are not intentionally being slow or messing up things - why would they, its only more work for them?!

The Tech process is a high-pressure environment where everyone is extremely stressed, as I'm sure you already know. Some people,. directors, designers etc. can deal with this better than others. Just try to remember nothings personal and this Directors career and artistic integrity is on the line until a good press night, so maybe when shes ratty cut her a little slack...

Everything will seem better after a beer!

Sam x
Sam x

ljh007

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #2 on: Feb 04, 2007, 10:43 am »
It sounds like you're handling this director wonderfully.
Aside from smSam's great answer, I have 2cents to add:

first cent: When I deal with Eeyore directors, I try to take an extra moment when things go right and when they are happy to point out to them that they are happy. Just one extra smile can mitigate a lot of griping over the course of a day. For example, when we're going over notes after a rehearsal, the director might pick apart dozens of things that weren't perfect, but maybe they mention that the light fade after the Act II monologue was perfectly called. I would just take a second to let everyone enjoy this success by saying "It perfectly timed and really gave me goosebumps" or "Yes - the moment was just right today." And try to get the director to smile, too. Or at least stop whining for a second. Something to point out the good moments too - to remind the director that they do happen.

second cent: A director who is perfectionistic and demanding can wear on the cast and especially crew quickly. And sometimes people can begin feeling unappreciated, frustrated, and ultimately hostile. Only a couple of unfortunate times, a director has been so bad that a crew sort of stops making effort to make the show the best it can be. Instead, people just do what they need to do. It's a defeatist attitude where it feels like no matter how much effort you pour into the show, the director will still complain, so why bother? As SM, when I feel this vibe developing, I start paying extra attention to everyone's efforts and thanking them often for their great work. I become the cheerleader and try to keep people's hearts invested in the show. I acknowledge that the director is difficult and demanding, but always support the director and remind everyone that we are all trying to get the show to be the very best.

smccain

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #3 on: Feb 21, 2007, 11:25 pm »
It's funny you should mention this about this time. I am currently stage managing a show that opens up tomorrow (Feb. 22nd). It is a college production and we have a guest director, who happens to be a faculty member's wife. Before this show, I was really excited to work with her. She is a very fun person, from the little time I have spent with her. However, when rehearsals actually got started, things changed drastically. This show seems to have become the the show from Hell. Not only that, but the director has to be the worst director EVER!

On to my point: I am not only a stage manager in our theatre company, but I am also the master carpenter. During the daytime, I am in the scene shop working on a show; at night, I am a stage manager. The way our school works is that during the month of January, many students study abroad and the band and choir do a tour. Well, our props coordinator was in China touring with the band, and the scenic designer was in Peru studying art and architecture. Well, she didn't understand that we were all students and we have other things going on in our lives. Every rehearsal, there were tons of complaints about what wasn't done on the set and how slowly it was coming along. (Remember: I am the master carpenter, thus that is a direct insult to me.) She would change tons of things and expect them to be done by the next rehearsal day, but our theatre company doesn't require shop hours for our theatre majors during the month of January. Also, she did things like write out light cues, which stepped on the toes of the lighting designer. (Before even seeing his design.) A week and a half after costume parade, she decided 2 of the characters' costumes needed to be changed entirely. She even went so far as to disallow her actors from helping out with a paint call because they "needed their sleep." (Even though they had the entire day before off. She goes behind everyone's back and tells them to disregard our notes. (Even the ones that jeopardize an actor's health and the set's well-being.)

Everyone knows this kind of director, the kind that is actually an actor wanting to be a director. Well, the actors generally didn't like her because she is used to working with children and she shows the actors what she wants rather than letting them develop their own characters. Our faculty technical director has tried to explain that we are students and have full-loads of classes. Also, she will just say to change something, but won't say what. I have tried to get her to elaborate, but she doesn't do it.

Yesterday was our first dress rehearsal. She only had 1 note for me on the timing of a cue. Tonight, she yelled at me, after yelling at our technical director for something stupid, because apparently I have been missing the opening couple light cue timings every single time. However, this was the first time I have heard of it. Mainly, I suppose I just had to vent, but has anyone else ever been in a situation like this? Any advice. Thanks.
« Last Edit: Feb 21, 2007, 11:29 pm by smccain »
Sean

OldeWolf

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #4 on: Feb 22, 2007, 12:43 pm »

Yesterday was our first dress rehearsal. She only had 1 note for me on the timing of a cue. Tonight, she yelled at me, after yelling at our technical director for something stupid, because apparently I have been missing the opening couple light cue timings every single time. However, this was the first time I have heard of it. Mainly, I suppose I just had to vent, but has anyone else ever been in a situation like this? Any advice. Thanks.

Fortunately, NO, I haven't been blessed with this particular challenge--though I did have an ASM who was nearly the death of my first show--but it sounds like you have plenty to vent about.

Advice? Breathe. Just Breathe. Sounds like you've been able to pinpoint a large part of her motivation for the behavior. Add to it Fear of Failure, need to Look Good, perhaps because she's out of her comfort zone, and try not to absorb her negative attitudes or let them jade you. You aren't in a position to change her, so about all you can do is detach your emotional self from the equation. Don't take anything personally. Do your best and do it cheerfully. Don't bother to try to defend yourself when you find out she thinks you've been missing the cue all along. Take the note and say "Thank You." People around you in an educational setting are watching to see how you handle the situation, and more important, actually, than ever getting the cue, how you handle the challenge of working with a difficult director. People who will eventually be asked to give you references and recommendations will look back and say, "He works well under pressure."

Remember, too, that your attitude about the director will carry through to the cast and crew, even if you never say a negative word about her. You can't just pretend to like her. It goes deeper than that. I like the advice "accept what I cannot change, change what I can, recognize the difference".

All the world's a Stage...

Matt.L

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #5 on: Feb 23, 2007, 06:15 pm »
A few weeks back i was asked to be a stage hand a college production, so i turned up on the final rehersal before the tech and the director tells me that i am cueing the show! I was absolutley shocked that she had left it until the last minute to arrane this! I think if your faced with situations like yours and mine you just ahve to keep your chin up and do the best you can. If you can keep a level head and stay pleasant, i've found it rubs off on other people and the mood lightens

Rebbe

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #6 on: Feb 26, 2007, 01:49 pm »
A lot of great points have already been made.

I’d add that it’s healthy to vent your feelings in some way; writing in a journal, or talking to non-thespian friend about the situation to help put it in perspective.  If you keep your frustration bottled up, it will be harder and harder to stay calm and positive, and people will likely notice that something is under your skin, no matter how good your poker face is.  Just be cautious about your tone and word choice if you end up venting to co-workers.  Make sure they are truly trustworthy; you don’t want to come across as having a bad attitude, or have the wrong person overhear your conversation. 

When I’m dealing with a “challenging” personality, I try to remember that we’re all on the same team, working to make the show the best it can be…we just have different means to that end.  I try focus on the things that are going well or making me happy, anything from the TD who brought in donuts, to the actor who always has a new and hilariously bad pun to tell me backstage. 
"...allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster."  (Philip Henslowe, Shakespeare In Love)

jempage

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #7 on: Feb 27, 2007, 08:13 pm »
During a tech, my best friend is the God Mike - lets me talk to anyone backstage or onstage immediately by simply pressing a button on my console backstage.

My #1 tip is to always run a tech from backstage if that's where you'll be calling it from, and my #2 tip is to not let the director run the tech. Absolutely - after each cue sequence, check in with the director to see if they're happy - but don't let them physically run the rehearsal.

The most useful words you will use are: Yes. I know where and why the problem occured and No, it won't happen again.
Cheers,
Jem.
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“Perhaps, therefore, ideal 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.”
-Sir Peter Hall

Matt.L

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #8 on: Feb 27, 2007, 09:16 pm »
I was doing a show where the director wouldnt let us get on with the tech so the LD decided to go extrmely slowly which didnt help matters in the end. communication wasnt easy because the director kept taking his headset off

BalletPSM

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #9 on: Feb 28, 2007, 06:30 am »
Quote
I was doing a show where the director wouldnt let us get on with the tech so the LD decided to go extrmely slowly

Matt -- can you elaborate on this a bit?  What do you mean by this? I'm confused why the LD would have gone slowly becuase the director wouldn't let you get on with the technical rehearsal -- why wouldn't he, and how did that impact the LD?
Stage managing is getting to do everything your mom told you not to do - read in the dark, sit too close to the TV, and play with the light switches!

dramabrit58

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #10 on: Mar 09, 2007, 11:00 am »
I feel your pain.  I have worked with a few demon directors myself.  I was called in to SM a show two weeks prior to the show going up.  It was a music variety show and there were individual bands and singers.  They had all been rehearsing at different venues at different times and I was not able to see the entire show from start to finish before we went up.  To make matters worse when we did have a tech rehearsal (the only one we had) which included moving platforms for a 17 piece band quietly behind curtains while another act was going on in front of the curtains in 5 mins the director would not let me call the shots.  Also, I wanted to run a rehearsal from the end to the beginning so we were ready to start the show in the right spot. The Director would not let me. This rehearsal took place the morning of the actual show.   OK are you all with me so far...... cos it gets worse......  The poor front of house staff were going nuts because when I wanted to end the rehearsal 15 minutes prior to the show going up so we could let this "older" audience in the Director told me I couldn't.  The show started 30 minutes late and ran 1 hour and 30 minutes longer than it should have.  The Director yelled at me the entire time I was calling the show.  My only saving grace was that (no I didn't take to drink though it was tempting) was the fact that we only had to do one show.  It was a total disaster and I know we can't always choose the directors we work with but I sure as heck won't be working for that one anytime soon.
:)

DeeCap

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #11 on: Mar 09, 2007, 04:35 pm »
There is some great advice here. One of the first things I learned when I got into theatre is to NEVER take anything personally. Works well for the real world as well.

When things get real bad, I always think of Dori from "Finding Nemo". She sings "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming..."

Beer is a big help as well.

ScooterSM

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Re: Tense Director During Tech
« Reply #12 on: Mar 10, 2007, 06:32 pm »
Having just opened a show with many of these same issues (seems to be going around... must be the time of year), the best thing I can say, in addition to everyone else's great advice that has already been given, is to let the negativity roll past you. 

It always seems to be ten times worse if you engage the confrontational person, instead of just allowing them a minute to vent.  After they have had their say, don't address the problem, just suggest solutions. 

Think of it like putting your fingers in your ears and saying "la la la la la la...." until they have finished, and then move on.  (As tempting as it sometimes feels to actually do this (instead of just thinking it), I don't know that I would recommend it, although I would love to see the look on the director's face... :D)

I really appreciate all the other suggestions.  They have all been very helpful this week during tech!

Thanks!!
SSM
“I've never been paid a lot, but the theatre has kept me, and for that I shall be eternally grateful.” Tony Church

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