Author Topic: COMMUNICATION: What to include in a report vs when to send a private email  (Read 3902 times)

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ReyYaySM

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When writing your rehearsal and performance reports, where do you draw the line between what goes in the show report, which is commonly distributed to anywhere from 20-40 people, including the producer, director, designers, production staff, etc, and when to send a private note regarding the show to the technical director or production manager or applicable party?  Do you find it best to include everything in your report?  Do you feel you are editing your report or creating more work for yourself if you send a private note? 

BayAreaSM

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I feel it definitely matters when it comes to sensitive people. If this is a group you've worked with before and you know someone may react negatively to a note, it's best to start the field in a private email. Example:

I worked for a company for 6 seasons, and I knew the TD and how he reacted to notes. Even notes that were extremely plain and simple, sometimes set him off, even when worded in the most neutral and positive ways. I also knew he was a very stressed out individual, and he had unloaded on me regarding a note in the past, so I had to send a private email. When there was a request from the director regarding the set and the way a door swung, I sent a private email to the PM first, explained the situation, and let him field it with the TD. Once the two of them came to a conclusion, I included the note in the report the following day.

I think it's best, when you have a note that you just don't know how to word positively, and fear that it may cause a tailspin of angst, it's best to email the PM personally for assistance. It's their job to help you as well, especially if you're new to the company, and they should appreciate your want to not upset others and keep a positive work environment. Yes, it creates an extra step in the process, but don't you want a smooth and happy show?

Also, if you have time during breaks, and if you have the luxury of having your shops on site, it's helpful to go talk to your department heads in person. Even if you write your reports in the most neutral and straight forward of fashions, certain people will interpret tones and attacks, even if they aren't there, so sometimes it's best to field these issues face to face.


bethanyb5

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I would suggest that if you don't include it in the report that it be in writing some where. If you send a private email then print it and keep it so that if there are any issues later you have prof that you took action. Make sure you cover your butt.

MatthewShiner

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One of the great things about the ability to e-mail reports and send them out to everyone on the team is that everyone is up to speed about the issues involved in rehearsal or performance.  Rarely does a not only affect one department, and who knows who cares about what color the sofa is.  (Well, maybe the prop shop, scene shop, costume shop, lighting designer . . . see, everyone cares.)  Also, it’s a great way to document the process.

If someone is getting bent out of shape by getting notes – they are perhaps NOT in the right business.

If your gut feeling is a note is going to cause some angst, then of course, keep it out of the report, but do document the note.  For example, if you know changing the color of the sofa is going to cause some stress.  You might want to put a note in the main report that there is discussion going on about the sofa.  And then send a note to the scene shop and production management.  (I think that you are always going to want to include a third party in the conversation . . . )

There may be issues (such as personnel issues) that may just be an issue between production management and yourself. 

I find that with the medical situations or personal issues, I feel like just stating “so and so was out due to a personal health concern” is pretty much covers the need to put out someone was sick without me giving someone’s personal medical history.   
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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.

hbelden

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I just got into trouble with a designer because I put notes in the report that he felt stepped on his toes - that I was changing his design without his permission. 

One day in rehearsal the shop gave us a mock-up couch that was the designed height.  Two of our actors with back issues said "We can't go down that far.  We'll hurt our lower backs if we sit down too hard because it's so low.  We need it to be two inches higher."  So, my note in the rehearsal report was something like "Thank you for the mock-up of the couch.  Due to back issues in the cast, please add two inches to the height of the couch."  Both the director and the designer really flipped out over that - apparently the research done showed them that the couch was exactly the right height and could not be changed in any way without disconnecting it from the period.  I said to the director, "But so-and-so can't sit on it when it's that low, it'll hurt her back." and the director's response is "Then I'll change the blocking so she never sits on the couch" despite the fact that we only had three sittables total in the show, and this one was DC.  At the very next break, the director got on her cell phone to the designer and was all like, I'm so sorry, I didn't see that note, we're not changing a thing of your design, your design is perfect, that note didn't come from me, etc., etc.

It didn't even occur to me - and I think I'm usually sensitive to this kind of thing - that two inches would make a difference.  Six inches, sure.  But two?  And of course, by the time we got through tech, the couch had been rebuilt four times because it was too flimsy for stage furniture and it ended up two inches higher.  But that all came from the director and designer, not from me.  I just wish that we could have built it right the first time... but that's a design decision, one that I'm not party to.

The moral of the story is, no matter how insignificant the issue, never surprise a designer in a rehearsal report.
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Heath Belden

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

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I've always been of the opinion that everything goes in the report.  The Stage Manager is responsible for documenting the entire show, not select bits and pieces.  Everything should be written 100% objectively and simply fact.  Don't use the report as a tool to advance your personal agenda towards a certain desired goal, don't let your feelings show, etc...  

For example:

"The director has requested a larger couch.  With the current blocking we are having trouble fitting three people side by side." - good.
"The director has requested a larger couch.  The current version is obviously way too small for three people." - bad

"Barbara was absent from rehearsal today." - good
"Barbara was absent from rehearsal again because of more drama with her boyfriend." - bad

If something touchy needs to be addressed, there are ways to mitigate its effect on the recipients (phone calls, conversations, etc.. ahead of time are great ways).  
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

Amie

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hbelden, I've been in similar situations.
In those situations, if I haven't gotten the chance to talk to the director, I will always phrase a concern, "so and so have concerns about their lower backs and the couch.  Is it possible to add two inches or do you suggest anything that would help with this when they sit on the couch? Please advise. Thank you." or something to that effect.  I've always learned to phrase those sorts of things so it becomes the designer's decision and the stage manager doesn't come off as "stepping on toes."

However, put in your position, I would have thought the same thing.  To bring it back to the original topic, I still don't think that note would require a personal email.  I think it's about feeling about your designers and being careful to phrase notes in such a way as to be professional and neutral. 

If a designer is getting bent out of shape easily and often, I agree with Matthew, they really should rethink their profession....

~ Amie ~

“This whole creation is essentially subjective, and the dream is the theater where the dreamer is at once: scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience, and critic.”

NomieRae

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I agree that everything should be touched on in a report--if something requires a lengthy explanation, clarification, or side conversation I send a follow up email to keep communication going then put the resolved note in the next report.

Example:
Would it be possible to make the table taller, and use stools instead of chairs?
Send follow up email to designer/director/ LPs to keep conversation going... then the next day
Table and chairs will now be a stool and small cafe table (heights "..." and "..") color, and location on the ground plan is unchanged.
--Naomi
"First, I honor life, and with it my life in theatre." -- Jacques Burdick

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