Author Topic: PROMPT BOOK: What's in a prompt book?  (Read 8738 times)

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supershorty

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PROMPT BOOK: What's in a prompt book?
« on: Jul 23, 2005, 11:19 pm »
I am a high school senior interested in studying stage management in college.  For most schools, this requires a portfolio review (prompt book, paperwork, etc.).  Having lived in a town of less than 2,000 people and little interest in the arts for my entire life, I have never assembled a prompt book.  I've had no reason to... there's no SM position for our school plays, only a student director.  

I may sound like a complete ignoramus for asking this, but how do I go about assembling a prompt book?  How do I know where sound and light cues, etc. will go?  How do I notate them?  What else do I need?  

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

EDIT: Original title edited for clarity - was "I may sound like a complete ignoramus for asking this..." - PSMK
« Last Edit: Jun 10, 2009, 03:25 am by PSMKay »
-Katie Paige

Mac Calder

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I may sound like a complete ignoramus for asking this...
« Reply #1 on: Jul 24, 2005, 07:18 am »
That is something that is worked out during the production.

Basically before you tech everything, you are either given a cue synopsis, attend a plotting session where que placements are worked out, or something of the sort. It is not the SM's job.

However: MC's Basic Guide to PC Creation:

Take one script.

Use a photocopier to copy script , reducing it slightly, then cut out the block of text and paste it onto another in the upper right corner.

Create a small floor plan of the set. Paste this on ANOTHER sheet and photocopy as many as you need. (there is a method in this madness)

Arrange in book form so that there is script on the right (or left, your choice) and then a floor plan on the opposite page. If you flick through it, page one should be script page one, floorplan one. Flick the page, there are two blank pages. Flick the page again and you have script page 2, floorplan 2. This is so that when you screw up something totally, you can easily replace it, or when there are additions and subtractions they do not screw everything up.

Now I do blocking by placing a number over the word (in a circle) that the action occurs on, and use  "1,2,3" act as beat counts. I then write the action in a short hand on the opposite page under the ground plan.

Now this is what gets tricky. I find it easiest to lable objects - ie if there are 2 table, one up stage prompt side (Stage Left) and one down stage op prompt, and actor "Rory" walks from the up stage op prompt side of the USP table, to the up stage prompt side of the DSOP table, then a line later sits.

0 - R: USOP USP Table
1 - R: X USP DSOP Table
2 - R: Sit USP DSOP Table

0 being of course page start. Some people just draw on the ground plan.

As for cues:
Code: [Select]

SB LX5-12                                            THIS IS WHERE IT OCCURS
-----------------------------------------------------------------------^
SB SD12                                               sdfsdfsdf
                                                            sdfsdfsdfsdf
+----------+                                           sdfsdfsdfadsad
| LX 5 GO |                                            This is where GO is
+----------+--------------------------------------------------^

SDShelly

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I may sound like a complete ignoramus for asking this...
« Reply #2 on: Jul 24, 2005, 02:05 pm »
Well, I can only speak from my experience, but I was in a similar situation when I was applying to colleges. I had very little stage management experience, and no book.  I did have the desire to learn, though, and I think that was more important to them at the end.  I was upfront with them, and sent them information about what I had done, and tried to showcase that, everything from acting to hanging lights to running crew.  I felt it was really important for them to see that.  I also sent them a couple pages of a "make-believe" show, just to show them how I thought I would notate the blocking and cues, and a preliminary prop list of a script. I'm not saying that schools wouldn't prefer a book, but in my case I didn't have one, and everything worked out.  
But when you do them, the main thing to remember is that everyone has their own style and process for it, and the more detailed and organized the better.  Someone should be able to come in and run the show without you, just with information from the book.
Good luck with your quest for a program!

supershorty

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erm...
« Reply #3 on: Jul 25, 2005, 12:43 am »
Quote
Basically before you tech everything, you are either given a cue synopsis, attend a plotting session where que placements are worked out, or something of the sort. It is not the SM's job.


Our director doesn't really do much in the way of the technical end of things.  Our school is also cheap, so all we have in the way of lights are 2 rows of lights (just plain old lights) on the stage, 2 followspots, and a rented dimmer pack that we suspend from the basketball hoop.  The most I've heard her specify in the area of tech, sound, etc. was to say that she wanted this sound effect here and the lights are up/down during such a scene... this information is told directly to the ops, and not to me.  I suppose that if I bother her enough, she'll give me what I want.
-Katie Paige

Mac Calder

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I may sound like a complete ignoramus for asking this...
« Reply #4 on: Jul 25, 2005, 01:06 am »
Or bother your ops. Most shows will have a lighting and sound designer. They will do a break up of what they see as being needed (I also do my own before the first production meeting), and during a production meeting, the sound and lx synopsis is handed out, and the director um's and ahh's and then says "Yes, no, want this, want that" and voila, a cue synopsis.

Now this synopsis evolves throughout the show, and you make sure you keep track of it as well as the sound and light designers, and you end up with a cue list. Then the things are plotted - make sure you note everything as well as the ops/designers. The when, where and duration are noted, as well as the board states. You really only need the when. HOPEFULLY, your designers will give you the completed cue list and operator run sheet, but if they don't, you usually end up making one up yourself.

When you are doing a secondary school show, often the director/teacher does most of the SM work as well as the design work - a complete P in the A for the SM who wants to do things 'by the book'.

Scott (formerly Digga)

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I may sound like a complete ignoramus for asking this...
« Reply #5 on: Jul 25, 2005, 03:03 pm »
My blocking method is very similar with mc's.  However I don't generally use  a Stage Diagram on the back of the page, I just write the blocking.  It's good to come up with a method of shorthand that is easy for you to remember.  I try to use the 1st letter of a character's name and then all shorthand for movement; ie B XUR to J means Billy crosses UR to Julie.  Try to use reference points when actors do the crossing because it can help them to remember.  More often then not, when they ask where they went, as you start to tell them, they'll remember on their own.
Some directors let the show be more organic so the blocking changes often and you just have to stay on top of it.  I used to use colored pencils but found that a regular pencil worked well enough and is easier to erase.  I've never worked a show where blocking hadn't changed at least once during the rehearsal process.
For cueing, you write down what you have to call and that's a determination of the designers.  Generally lighting, sound, set movements, rail cues are the common items.  Some shows go into cueing actors for entrances as well.  Writing it down can be tricky.  Light cues are always numbered as they're numbered in the lightboard to correspond with what you're calling.  Then you determine what to call everything else.  Letters work, colors can be used if there aren't many of that item to call and then whatever else you can think of.  I've even used Disney characters before (the crew liked that one actually).  I put all cues on the right side of the script page as such:
Quote
B: First I'm gonna get myself a beer_______________L66
If more than one thing is cued there I just stack it on top of each other.
Anyway, that's what I do.  There are plenty of other options that you can give yourself.  Just find something you're comfortable with.

loebtmc

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« Reply #6 on: Jul 25, 2005, 09:40 pm »
I circle the initials for characters - that way I can shorthand that Romeo x UR without confusing myself later (no idea how to do it on the computer so no example - sorry)

also, when you finish writing in where you call the cues (which are a  beat or so behind when they actually go, depending on who is hitting the light board and how long their response time is combined with when in the show they need to be complete by) back up about a quarter- to half-page and write another note to call the stand-by (I write S/B lights and sound) and then I call that - how far back you call the S/B depends, again, on your board ops but also with enough time for them to get their fingers in place -

if you are using a manual board and need set-up time, back up a full page from the cue and call a warning - this allows lights/sound/rail/whatever to do the prep necessary to take the cue; the stand-by tells them you are almost ready to call it so they need to be done (or almost done) setting it up by then and be ready to go on your call -

A really good habit to get into - never, and I mean NEVER - use the G (as in GO) word unless you mean it - even in casual conversation - really -

supershorty

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« Reply #7 on: Jul 26, 2005, 01:43 am »
I don't think some of you fully understand my dilemma... I go to a high school of less than 200 people with a VERY small theatre budget.  We have no designers, aside from scenic (the art teacher/art club do our sets).  Because we have no designers, we  have no production meetings.
-Katie Paige

SDShelly

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« Reply #8 on: Jul 26, 2005, 09:02 am »
Katie,
If I'd never done a prompt book, I wouldn't submit one applying to schools.  Mostly because they want to see what you did use during shows, not something you made afterwords.  It's good to show them an organized presentation of things you have done, and show them you have good writing and computer skills.  Also show them you're well rounded.  When I first got accepted into undergraduate school, a lot of these things sounded like french to me.  I went to Rutgers, and they didn't expect ready made stage managers to come into the program, but they did expect them coming out.  You're there, after all, to learn.  They made us take classes like music theory, laban (dance) notation, rotated us in the different shops (scene, costume, electrics,etc).  It wasn't until later on in your sophmore year and on, that they expected you to know blocking and cue notation like the back of your hand.  They may even like the fact you've worked in some lower budget productions, since a lot of theatre out there is low budget, and it takes a lot of creative thinking to get through shows where you have very limited resources.  If a school absolutely won't consider you without a  prompt book for a bachelor's degree, and won't consider where you're coming from, then that's probably not the school you want to go to.

Mac Calder

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I may sound like a complete ignoramus for asking this...
« Reply #9 on: Jul 26, 2005, 06:44 pm »
Quote from: "supershorty"
I don't think some of you fully understand my dilemma... I go to a high school of less than 200 people with a VERY small theatre budget.  We have no designers, aside from scenic (the art teacher/art club do our sets).  Because we have no designers, we  have no production meetings.


That does not change much. You just make sure you get the cues for everything. Of course if you are in a small school with no budget for theatre, chances are you don't have coms, and if you don't have coms you cant call, if you can't call, you don't REALLY need cues in your book (I would put them there anyway for reference).

 There is also a high probability that in reality you don't have an SM, as there is little to no need for one. I know my school never had one (just over 500, no drama budget, same story).

Whilst you can make a prompt book without doing a show, actually writing a bible is an evolving process and you really can tell when a bible has been made up on the spot (ie, there are no eraser markings & everything is too neat.

When I did my first SM job, I took the bible home every night and 'fixed it up' - probably took 3 hours every night after a full 8 hour day. When we got to NC week (My 'no major changes' cutoff point, usually a couple of days before load in) I make a SECOND bible, I prepared the thing as I described above, only instead of separate pages for everything, I placed a blocking sheet on the back of every script page, and I photocopied a lined block onto the back as well (to keep the blocking neat), then I re-wrote everything. Took a full 2 days to finish it neatly. Sure it was great to call from, but the extra time I spent on it almost killed me due to lack of sleep.... There is a moral there somewhere about perfectionism in PC's, I am just too tired to find it.

Alice_S

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« Reply #10 on: Jul 26, 2005, 07:20 pm »
Quote from: "supershorty"
I don't think some of you fully understand my dilemma... I go to a high school of less than 200 people with a VERY small theatre budget.  We have no designers, aside from scenic (the art teacher/art club do our sets).  Because we have no designers, we  have no production meetings.


I don't mean for this to sound patronizing in any way, shape or form, but if you've never made a prompt book, attended a production meeting, called a cue, or held a stage management position...are you sure you want to join a college's stage management program? Universities are expensive (as you have no doubt discovered) and that's a whole lot of money to waste on the discovery that you’re not as passionate about stage management as you thought. Also, unless you look like a stellar-prospect, a lot of university theatre departments won't be beating down your door to throw scholarships at you.

Here's a much cheaper alternative. Read The Art and Craft of Stage Management by Doris Schneider. (It’s expensive, so buy it used at Amazon or somewhere similar.) It details out many, many different aspects of stage management...from casting to closing. When I mentored at my former university, I lent that book out like crazy. I've noticed that many university theatre departments around the country use that book as part of the stage management curriculum, so if anything you'll already own and have read your SM class' textbook.

Now mind you, I come from a much different schooling background; my high school had 2000 students, our theatre department was 60 members strong and our working budget was $10,000...I was not allowed to take a stage management position until I had read that book (as well as a couple of others...but their names escape me,) and was able to explain in-detail how each part of the process worked.

If you've read the book and you're still interested, I'd get accepted to a college that looked like it had a nice theatre department...then not join the theatre department right away. Try volunteering, talking to the department chair or even just attending a show there. It will become immediately obvious whether or not this is truly something you want to do full-time, every day, year after year.

Just be careful about deciding on your passion without first understanding everything it entails. Good luck to you.

~Alice~

Mac Calder

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« Reply #11 on: Jul 27, 2005, 12:52 am »
I am a big big fan of Laurence Sterns book - and you can pick up an earlier edition second hand really cheaply. I have the seventh edition in my collection which seems to spend a lot of time on loan to others.

Aerial

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« Reply #12 on: Aug 01, 2005, 10:21 pm »
For a quick background I like The Stage Management Handbook by Daniel Ionazzi.  My favorite stage management book though is The Backstage Guide to Stage Management, by Thomas Kelly.  That book is far more in depth.  I think its better to start with a more basic book like the Ionazzi one or the Stern one, which is what I used in college.

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