Author Topic: RUNNING: set changes (how long is too long?)  (Read 9151 times)

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kate12

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RUNNING: set changes (how long is too long?)
« on: Jun 04, 2007, 05:28 pm »
What is the maximum time people set for scene changes?  I have always told my crews that everything is done in under 30 seconds, and we've always managed to do just that.  But should I be setting higher goals?  Obviously, if a change can be done in 20 or 10 that's great but should those by my standards?  I'm talking mainly community theatre here.  Thanks for any opinions!
Kate
« Last Edit: Jun 09, 2009, 12:29 am by PSMKay »

Mac Calder

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Re: set changes
« Reply #1 on: Jun 04, 2007, 09:03 pm »
I insist that set changes be done as quickly as possible, whilst being as safe as possible. I use 17 seconds as a goal number, but am happy provided large changes are done within 27. Odd numbers, I know, but those are the timings that feel right to me.

avkid

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Re: set changes
« Reply #2 on: Jun 04, 2007, 09:06 pm »
Our goal is under 30 seconds unless there is scene change music in the score.
Philip LaDue
Shore Production Group LLC
IATSE Local #21 Newark, NJ

LisaEllis

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Re: set changes
« Reply #3 on: Jun 04, 2007, 09:10 pm »
Awesome.

You know you're doing opera when you're happy that the shift is close to 2 minutes.

And it involves tripping a drop, striking large pieces of furniture, ripping up a groundcloth, and setting the full chorus.  At least this one doesn't involve a costume change for 40 people...those take closer to 5 minutes...

Guess your standard depends on WHAT you're talking about shifting.



lauria

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Re: set changes
« Reply #4 on: Jun 04, 2007, 09:14 pm »
I was always told that audiences lose attention after 10 seconds (and I definitely agree! 10 seconds is a long time), so I always strive for scene changes that take less than 10 seconds.

Of course I think it also depends on what the scene changes are. How grandious are they? If it's just a few chairs moving around then 30 seconds is a long time. If it's an entire house moving upstage except of the attic/roof which then touches the deck followed by the roof lifting off to reveal an attic bedroom... well I think the audience will be completely captivated for however long that takes. (I know I certianly was when I saw Mary Poppins!)
Is there music covering the change? What is the feeling of the change? One director I worked with liked to have actors help with the change to make it smooth and a part of the show. All kinds of things were added into the changes, including a backflip.

But I think that anything that shave seconds or milliseconds off of a scene change might be worth the time it takes to figure it out and rehearse it.

zayit shachor

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Re: set changes
« Reply #5 on: Jun 04, 2007, 09:20 pm »
Of course I think it also depends on what the scene changes are.

And also on how many people you have. A crew of 6 will be able to perform a scene change much more rapidly than just 2 people.

KMC

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Re: set changes
« Reply #6 on: Jun 04, 2007, 09:40 pm »
Something I don't think has been mentioned is what's going on in the scene change.  If it's a blackout and nothing is going on, yes of course quicker is better.  But if you have a a performer step downstage into an isolated special for a moment and the rest of the stage dark with a scene change behind the performer you'll want your stagehands to be almost in character.  Nothing is more distracting than 5 people quickly walking onto stage and tearing it apart.  I was taught and have always practiced as a stage manager you need to direct the scene changes, especially if the audience can see them.  If the audience can see it it needs to look neat, and even, and the last place their attention is should be where the next scene begins, at least in my opinion.
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

kate12

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Re: set changes
« Reply #7 on: Jun 05, 2007, 07:32 am »
I'm not sure how many people I have yet, I'm still at college for another couple of weeks, the producer just emailed me and asked if I would organise the shifts.  I'm waiting to hear what the set looks like and who I have on crew.  They're definitely not getting paid.  I'm just trying to be as prepared as possible so when I get there I can be of use.
The reason I ask about reasonable scene change times is that in the past I've had crews who have never done theatre before, and they think I'm crazy when I tell them we need to construct a house on stage in 30 seconds.  I picked that time because with a couple of practices it is easily attainable, but I would like to cut down on time even more this time around.
Thanks for the responses!
Kate

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Re: set changes
« Reply #8 on: Jun 05, 2007, 10:06 am »
I'm working on a show right now where the changes are averaging 60 seconds.  There are 9 of them over the course of the show -- but, they have to cover costume changes in all of those as wel....so even if the crew does move faster, the actors probably won't be ready.

I think you have to take it show by show and figure out what is going to work in order to best tell the story of the play/musical/opera/etc.

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!

smsam

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Re: set changes
« Reply #9 on: Jun 05, 2007, 10:49 am »
I really don't think anyone can have a "goal scene change time" to aim towards. The time it will take will vary on lots and lots of different factors, specific to each individual scene change and each show. I would not expect nor require a scene-change which involves striking two chairs to take the same time as a scene change which involves setting four trucks, giving automation clears, adjusting a revolve and bring in flying pieces!

Every Stage Manager should be aiming towards the quickest possible and safest possible change. You can do no better than that... Even if the audience do loose their concontration/ attention span after 'X' no. of seconds I, when SMing a show, don't really care - I only care if we are not completing the change in the fastest & SAFEST possible way.

x
Sam x

ChaCha

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Re: set changes
« Reply #10 on: Jun 05, 2007, 11:02 am »
" There are 9 of them over the course of the show -- but, they have to cover costume changes in all of those as wel....so even if the crew does move faster, the actors probably won't be ready."

So here's a thing - if you know that the cast wont be ready and that you can do the scene change quicker than the costume change - do you
a) do the change as fast as possible and leave people looking at the empty stage
or
b)do the change in a slower but still choreographed and clearly 'set' manner so that the change finishes as the cast are ready?

(this assumes no curtain)

ChaCha

wtcsrstaph4life

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Re: set changes
« Reply #11 on: Jun 05, 2007, 11:17 am »
Personally I believe that unless it is written in the script, you should try to never have an empty stage, so I would try and have the crew finish as the actors are ready.

Rebbe

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Re: set changes
« Reply #12 on: Jun 06, 2007, 01:34 pm »
I wouldn’t create an artificial time limit within which the shift must take place.  The idea is to keep the show moving forward, and not disrupt the flow any more than necessary, but fast doesn’t always accomplish that.     

Ideally, the director and design team will have some kind of concept for what they do or don’t want to see happening onstage during the shift, so it can be integrated into the rest of the show.  Sound design can be particularly helpful; there have been plenty of times when we have sound to underscore a shift, and try to get the crew action to fit with the length of that sound Q.  That helps the crew keep the same pace each night and the audience stays engaged.  I’ve often had directors get involved in  “choreographing” the scene change so that it looks good to them, either by telling me what they’d like to see, or working directly with the non-union crew/ASMs.   

In your situation, I wouldn’t tell the crew about the length of the scene shift at all.  I would worry that would make them nervous, and lead to people rushing about and checking their watches.  As you find out exactly what needs to move in each shift, and how many bodies you’ll have to make it happen, start drafting your plan for organizing the shifts.  When your crew arrives, give them Run Sheets detailing what they need to do, and keep them focused on completing their individual moves efficiently and consistently.  Then you can watch them do the shift, concentrating on the big picture, and shave off seconds with specific instructions to each crew members on how they can do their jobs better (such as, “carry on the vase when you go to strike the chair, instead of making two trips”).  I’d think that strategy would be more effective than a general “lets make this happen faster everyone!”
"...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)

Sarah

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Re: set changes
« Reply #13 on: Jun 06, 2007, 03:33 pm »
Truly, safety first and it depends on several factors, all well-stated above.

A scene change can be a beautiful thing that's part of the fabric of the show, if it's well-thought out and, if necessary, rehearsed. Crew members walking onstage willy-nilly moving this and that looks like a scene change. Established traffic patterns combined with the most efficient number of actions help to fortify the sense of forward movement. A sexy scene change always makes me smile and feel as if the production has achieved a wholeness that is essential to our arts. A sexy scene change that takes 30 seconds is most preferable to a gotta-get-all-this-crap-offstage-NOW sort of change.

MatthewShiner

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Re: set changes
« Reply #14 on: Jun 06, 2007, 04:46 pm »
It all depends on the play.

I work with a director where no matter how sexy a 30 second change is . . . it would be a no-go.

You have to feel the rhythm of the scene before, the rhythm of the scene afterwards. 

Basically, as an SM, you should know exactly how long the scene change needs to be (based upon the style of the piece, the rhythms of the scenes, the type of scene change, etc, etc.)  and should be discussed and planned from the beginning of pre-production.  (I often have myself or my staff work on the backstage run book starting the day we have our scenic meeting.) 
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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.

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