Author Topic: TEACHING: Teaching someone to call the show  (Read 4929 times)

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LizzG

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TEACHING: Teaching someone to call the show
« on: Apr 02, 2012, 02:09 pm »
I recently trained my new ASM to call the show I'm working on, and it made me wonder, how would you/do you all train someone else to call your show?

For this case, we split the show up into two chunks, and worked through them one at a time.  First, we talked through the script, what all the cues do and where to call them.  We talked specifically about any cues she had questions about (she'd been running a deck track for about a month, so she was very familiar with the music and most of the show call, so it wasn't much), and for some more complicated sequences, we reviewed a show DVD (we have the luxury of having a recording of every show).  She sat with me for 1 show for each section, watching me call, as I showed her which monitors I was looking at for different cues, and pointed some things out, and then she jumped right in and did an awesome job. 

There are 2 hard cue light/calling sequences, and since we do a sound check every day, we ran those in show conditions in the sound check.  My crew had also helped me make a DVD of the show, with show audio AND the audio of me calling the show, so she was able to review that on her own if she wanted (which she did).

Edit to subject line-Rebbe
« Last Edit: May 12, 2012, 01:20 pm by Rebbe »

loebtmc

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Re: Teaching someone to call the show
« Reply #1 on: Apr 02, 2012, 02:48 pm »
(what show are you doing?) -

I have learned by watching, then asking qqs, but much of my replacement was on shows I didn't know. Knowing a show makes it so much easier....learning to call on my first tour was mo'bettah cuz the PSM had opened the show and run the first 10 days, finding the grey areas and fixing the wobbly stuff. Most of the time, it's the old standard - observe 1-2 times, be observed 1-2 times and then it's yours. On more complex shows, it used to be 1 week shadow and 1 week being observed, but that may be old-school.

Me personally, the first few really complex shows I called, I would go in an hour early, before anything was live, and practice all calls and hitting all toggle switches and cue lights so I cd get it in my hands.

At USITT I saw a new computer program being developed for this purpose, but it's in the early stages and there is a lot to build to make it useful. However, your having a video of the show is an amazing asset!


Aerial

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Re: Teaching someone to call the show
« Reply #2 on: Apr 02, 2012, 09:18 pm »
Most of the time, it's the old standard - observe 1-2 times, be observed 1-2 times and then it's yours.

That's what my experience taking over shows has mostly been as well, with seeing it from the audience once in addition to observing it 1-2 times.  I find that that first show when you're calling it being observed is the most informative, as there are things that you thought were clear while observing are less clear when you're the one calling it. 

I'm also a fan of practicing tricky sequences over and over preshow, both on my own and with sound/light help as available.

Bwoodbury

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Re: Teaching someone to call the show
« Reply #3 on: Apr 02, 2012, 10:09 pm »
I've never taken over a show myself, but I'm curious: do you guys find there to be a huge difference in taking over a show when you're an asm versus an outside sm?

BayAreaSM

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Re: Teaching someone to call the show
« Reply #4 on: Apr 03, 2012, 01:11 am »
I've been a replacement SM for a show I didn't know, and I moved from ASM to PSM within my current company - so I've called a lot of the shows I used to ASM.

As loebtmc points out, the "1-2 show shadow, then 1-2 shows observed calling" was what I went through. I watched the show once from the house to actually see it and understand it. Then I sat next to the SM the next night and watched her call. Then I took over for her, having her watch me. I then took over for the rest of the run. It was actually my first AEA calling experience, and it wasn't that bad. Granted, it was a fixed set with 2 actors, but walls moved, there were sound and lighting cues, so there was stuff for me to do.

For the ballet company I work for, on our more complex shows, we make what LizzG refers to - we call it our Cue Track. We pick one performance, and while you have the video and audio of the show, you also get ALL headset chatter for one channel. For our large shows that include pyro, rail, deck, spots, fog, and symphony - it's helpful to hear all of the communication. It can get confusing at times, but that's why only the Electrics channel is selected to be recorded, as the PSM always talks on that channel and adds the Carpentry channel when necessary. Back in the early days of our company, the ASM would call spots while the PSM would call Deck and LX, which is why you'd want to hear all of the electrics channel vs. just one person.

For myself, I've ASM'd and PSM'd Swan Lake, Giselle, Pirates of Penzance! the Ballet, and several years of The Nutcracker. There have been times when I can still hear the cadence of the previous PSM calling the cues - especially in Nut. I will say it is a completely different way of thinking (at least for me) when moving from ASM and the deck-minded ways to PSM and the big picture calling on the same show. Granted I had some of the calling sequences engrained in me from 5 years of listening to the PSM call the show, but there were some sequences that I was not familiar with, because I had several other things going on deck-side so I didn't have the opportunity to mentally memorize what the PSM was saying.

Yes, I think it's beneficial to move from ASM to PSM on the same show, but it really derails you as it's a completely different way of thinking (at least in my ballet world). I honestly think it's easier to pick up someone elses show as an outsider, because you don't have a track stuck in your body and mind. There are still times when I hear certain musical cues or see black outs that make me think of my ASM track and what I'd be doing right then, and I have to remember to forget about that - there's a new ASM doing it now - and I focus in on my PSM track.

Maribeth

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Re: Teaching someone to call the show
« Reply #5 on: Apr 03, 2012, 02:12 am »
I've subbed/taken over a number of shows I had no previous involvement with, and worked on 2 shows as an ASM that I ended up calling. I haven't trained someone to take over for me since college, so my experience is mostly from the the "trainee" side of things.

For theatre, my experience has been similar to the others who have responded- usually observing 1-2 times and then calling 1-2 times while the SM observes and gives notes. For dance, the company I worked with taped every performance. They would send me a DVD of the most recent performance and calling script, and then I would observe a rehearsal or two to see what changes were being made to the performance, and we'd have a few hours of tech to implement changes/re-cue the show.

The advantage of being the ASM on a show that you end up calling is that you already know the rhythm of the show, how each moment flows. You may not have seen the show from the FOH since you moved to the theatre, but you at least have a good sense of what to expect. You also will have a better sense of when something is wrong- if a key prop is not set, etc etc. (Once, I took over a show, and during the first performance that I called, there was a "brown-out" and the sound system shut down, killing the booth monitors. I couldn't hear anything happening onstage for a few minutes while the sound system was reset- and without knowing the show, I couldn't tell exactly where the actors were in the script. Luckily we were in a section without many cues, and the system restarted fairly quickly.)

I find that that first show when you're calling it being observed is the most informative, as there are things that you thought were clear while observing are less clear when you're the one calling it. 

Agreed! I've come to really enjoying taking over calling shows- which is fortunate because that's my summer gig this year!

Rebbe

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Re: Teaching someone to call the show
« Reply #6 on: Apr 04, 2012, 09:34 pm »
I’ve taken over as new-to-the-show and as ASM, I’ve also handed shows over to other SMs.  The biggest benefit with being an ASM is that I knew the names and faces involved, even the nick-names we gave to the props or set pieces.  That lessens the learning curve needed to translate the note in the book to what I see on the stage and vice-versa.  In either scenario, I’ve usually done it where both the outgoing and incoming SM are on headset together in the booth.  That way the new person can call as much as they are comfortable with, and get help as needed.  If they shadow for a 5-show weekend, they’d probably watch Friday night and ask questions during the run, call at least part of the show by Saturday night, and by Sunday night be calling uninterrupted with the opportunity to ask questions/get notes after the show.  Doing a dry tech of tough sequences can definitely help.  I may have even had times when we’ve gotten the actors to walk through a transition with us for training purposes.  Understudy rehearsals and fight calls may also provide opportunities to get an extra look at parts of the show.
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LizzG

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Re: Teaching someone to call the show
« Reply #7 on: Apr 04, 2012, 11:29 pm »
(what show are you doing?) -

I'm on the Blue Man Group National Tour right now.

I've actually only ever taken over a show after ASMing or working on the show in another capacity, but I've found it to be very useful to have that familiarity.   And I've found that knowing the backstage track of my ASM (and thus the other backstage tracks) is super useful, from knowing who can help you solve a problem, to knowing when someone is too busy to talk and lots more.

loebtmc

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Re: Teaching someone to call the show
« Reply #8 on: Apr 05, 2012, 12:12 am »
I haven't done a ton of tours, but every one I've done has rotated all the SMs so everyone knows everyone else's job. And all the shows I've observed but one do the same thing, so any of the SM crew can do any piece of the puzzle as needed. They also have one spare body (it seems to always be a PA/spare crew who is a spouse of someone essential like the TD) who becomes the 2nd or 4th or whatever ASM and learns the show, so if someone is completely out of commission there is that last-ditch save. It's a very healthy system!

SMeustace

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Re: TEACHING: Teaching someone to call the show
« Reply #9 on: Jun 08, 2012, 01:08 pm »
       I've never had to teach my ASMs to call my show. Majority of the ASMs are students who volunteer to help or needed work hours (some classes require students to work hours toward a production) who are not trained nor experienced in Stage Management. I am lucky to get a ASM with tech theatre knowledge/experience.

"On the first day the lord said....Light cue 1, GO! Then there was light".

Trak26

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Re: TEACHING: Teaching someone to call the show
« Reply #10 on: Jun 14, 2012, 10:47 pm »
I have taught a couple of people to call a show. What I tend to do is after opening week, when people are feeling more relaxed, lx and sound ops are familiar with the show and cover if the call is late/early.
I will sit an ASM with me. I make sure they are on the cans and can hear all that is going on. Then I will get them to call a series of cues, something like Act 2 about ten minutes after curtain is up until ten minutes before curtain down kind of thing. It is not the whole show but a good introduction.
I try and emphasis about rythm of calling and it is not about saying go because the actor has spoken the right word. That is something that really can not be taught.
When the ASM is calling in my place, I make sure I am close by but not on cans. Why? They need to have the confidence they are the SM and not have that feeling of being watched over.  If they feel comfortable after that, I will set up an opportunity to call the whole show. We do sit down afterwards and go through what was a problem, timing etc and it tends to work. 
Then I have to manage the actors as some get a bit worried when you change their routine  :)
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NomieRae

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Re: TEACHING: Teaching someone to call the show
« Reply #11 on: Jun 15, 2012, 09:17 am »
Quote
Then I have to manage the actors as some get a bit worried when you change their routine

Yes! This! On my current long standing gig we have had the same SM team for the last year and our cast got truly nervous when an outside sub was brought in to call the show as an added backup.

In my experience even on the shortest of runs it is super helpful to make sure the SM/ASM are on the same page in case there is a problem and someone needs to change their track. The whole 'hit by a bus' scenario comes to mind. For me it is so important that if I'm calling a show I also know and am familiar with the ASM track, just in case I need to run it, or train a last minute replacement. Similarly when I'm an ASM I am always very attentive to know that if the PSM is out that I need to be able to step up.

In that way I think it is easier to start as an ASM and then learn to call the show, gives me a much better feel of the show as a whole.
--Naomi
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