Author Topic: ASMing: How to ASM  (Read 9239 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

carebear3885q

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 40
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
ASMing: How to ASM
« on: May 01, 2006, 10:07 am »
I'm ASMing The Music Man for a new theatre company. And I've never been as ASM before for a company I haven't worked with before. What questions should I ask. Should I assume my duties? What should I be prepared to do and not do? All the help is much appreciated.
« Last Edit: Feb 11, 2008, 12:35 pm by PSMKay »
Carrie

KC_SM_0807

  • SM Expert
  • ****
  • Posts: 118
    • View Profile
    • http://
How to ASM
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2006, 12:36 pm »
Talk to the Stage Manager and see what they expect from you.  That should be the person you report to the most, as your job is to assist them.  They should tell you what they need, what they expect your responsibilities to be, etc.  If they haven't told you, ask.  Ask what they expect from you during rehearsals, during tech week, and during the run of the show.  Also, if you see that they need help with something and don't ask for it, go ahead and attempt to help them out.  Do everything you can to make their job easier.  It's hard to be an ASM because sometimes there is nothing for you to do, at least in my experience.  However, it also depends on the stage manager.  Best of luck!
"Perhaps, therefore, 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."

TechGal

  • Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 53
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: IATSE
How to ASM
« Reply #2 on: May 01, 2006, 04:32 pm »
I know from experience that it can be a little daunting working with a different company for the first time till you get to know people. I would definitely second what KC_SM_0807 said about talking to the SM to find out exactly what is expected of you.  Musicals are always more demanding than straight plays and different SMs have different ways of delegating the things they may want their assistants to do. There are no dumb questions!  The best way to find out is to ask.  

You might also want to find out if the company has any special policies or ways of doing things that you need to know about. This helps to avoid any surprises down the road.    

Things might be a little boring at the beginning of rehearsals, but the closer you get to opening, the more there will be for you to do! Best wishes!

Kimberly

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 21
    • View Profile
How to ASM
« Reply #3 on: May 01, 2006, 09:55 pm »
I ASM'd for 4 yrs. before being tugged by the earlobe to try to SM instead. But during my tenure of ASM'ing shows........I was 'assumed' anywhere from a Running Crew Chief or sorts, backstage Manager, to the backup SM for calling a show if he/she was out sick, had an out of the theatre emergency, or whathaveyou. But, all in all, you really do need to coorespond with the SM so you're both on the same page with things. You do becoming his/her right hand woman/man, just as the SM becomes the Director's right hand woman/man! Break a leg with it!!  :wink:  :D
Live well, laugh often, and love much!

Debo123

  • Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 80
    • View Profile
How to ASM
« Reply #4 on: May 02, 2006, 01:14 am »
One of the great things an ASM can do for me, and what I try to do as an ASM, is be on top of it during tech. When I am worrying about calling cues and negotiating between the designers and directors and all the other people in the room, it is so spectacular to just get the info that "it's all taken care of" or "We figured it out" without having to ask, "you know the lamp is still onstage?" (Some people may want to know what went wrong and how you fixed it; if it's something small, I generally let it pass, keep moving, and conversate post rehearsal or at a break if it's not urgent to the moment).
If I can trust you, I love you. It's so great when my ASM is another set of eyes who is watching for the same things as me and handles stuff as I would. I also tend to delegate to my ASM as much as I think they can take on, but the good point was made here that not everyone works that way. Just talk with your SM about how they work with ASMs (if they are a good SM, they will know and communicate this), what your abilities are (I know/don't know about tracking props/how you track props in your company), and be honest and ask questions. Hopefully the theater has an SM who is good about showing you the way they do things. ASK QUESTIONS and don't be afraid to communicate.

Likes:


oso_te_great

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 27
    • View Profile
How to ASM
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2006, 04:04 pm »
I had a very interesting experience as an ASM.

I had no experience in theatre at all (besides working as a stagehand for the company at previous shows), and was scared as hell.  The things that I wish I had known before I had started were, that I should never work with the director, and that I should be ok with times where I had nothing to do.  I had an interesting experience because I worked for a kids theatre company, where the director was used to having to work by himself.  I agree with the post above me with the fact that I should be on top of things during tech.  Since there were three casts, and two stage managers between them, one stage manager called all three shows, and one was the deck manager.  Since I knew nothing about theatre (sort of) I was put as one of the spot ops.  The only time my SM got frustrated at me was when I didnt know my cues, or came in too early, anticipating him.  Basically you are an assistant to a stage manager.  I did everything from telling the kids to shut up, to what I think are action charts (Which parts are in which scenes).  

The one piece of advice I could give you is, ask what you need to do, then do it, then sit and wait for more instruction.  With my job, about half the time I had nothing to do, and half the time I was busy as hell.

So basically I would tell you to talk to your SM.
Malcolm Foster
Seattle Academy Class of 2007
University of Montana Class of 2011

Rebbe

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 271
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Experience: Former SM
How To ASM
« Reply #6 on: Jun 03, 2006, 10:56 am »
I’d echo what everyone else has said about communicating with your SM.  As well as comparing expectations before you start working, it’s helps to take a couple minutes just before or after the each rehearsal to check-in and make sure you’re still on the same page.  If you don’t have the time or privacy to talk, sending a brief email may work too.  Clue them in if you sense or see trouble brewing backstage, and do your best to be a positive presence on behalf of Team SM.  Remember that you are part of a Team, and if you find yourself underutilized, see if someone else is overburdened.  Try to help the team succeed.  

ASMing gives you a great chance to learn how other theaters and SMs operate.  Ask why things are done as they are if you have questions, and at least try the existing systems before you look to change them.  

I’ve found that gossip and kvetching can be a way of life for staff and crew who have been with a theater for a while.  While it’s important to hear what they have to say, you should base your opinions on your own experience more than hearsay.  Keep the drama on the stage, and don’t let other people’s voices drown out your own good instincts.
"...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)

Mac Calder

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 970
  • Gender: Male
  • Plan for the future, live for the now
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: Live Performance Australia / Media Arts and Entertainment Alliance
  • Current Gig: Technical Director
  • Experience: Former SM
How to ASM
« Reply #7 on: Jun 03, 2006, 01:21 pm »
Just to add my 2c - ASM is a LOT different to SM. You (as an ASM) really need to keep flexible - I know I have asked strange things from ASM's in the past which are often quite outside the box - be prepared for that sort of thing.

The best ASMs I have worked with have very quickly learnt how to anticipate what I will need and have it done by the time I get arround to asking. For example, during tech, when I stop, a good asm would be on the ball, already resetting. (background: In australia, ASM is usually responsible for organising running props) Or they would notice that we were working on a new scene next week that requires x and y, and have them to me before I need to ask.

Scott (formerly Digga)

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 230
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
    • Scott Pomerico
  • Affiliations: Actors Equity Association, Stage Manager's Association, Alpha Psi Omega
  • Current Gig: TheaterWorks Hartford
  • Experience: Professional
How to ASM
« Reply #8 on: Jun 03, 2006, 02:25 pm »
I'll agree with mc here.  The best ASM I've worked was someone I was able to trust implicitly with props and set management during rehearsals and performance.  She allowed me to maintain my focus on the actors and technical side of the show.  I like when it gets to the point where I don't have to have them check in with me before running off to do things.  They just do it and I know that they know what they're doing.  Like mc said, be flexible and learn to anticipate your SM's needs.  You'll be most valuable in that aspect.

ljh007

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 340
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: SMA
ASMing for the first time
« Reply #9 on: Jun 04, 2006, 11:46 pm »
Absolutely, ask the SM what they will expect of you. Get to know their style, find out what they love doing and what they don't like doing (so maybe you can schedule all the costume fittings because they hate making phone calls - that's me!). You might even ask to see an old book of theirs to see what their paperwork style is. Ask if the SM has worked with the company before - if not, you'll both be trying to get into the "feel" of how that particular company likes things done. Ask the SM to describe the best ASM that they worked with in the past. Their answer will tell you a lot about the SM's priorities.

I would also recommend getting a bit of info from the production manager (or from the company in general). Maybe it would be more appropriate to ask your SM, but they may not always know. It's important to be aware of who does what (and who has more than one "official" job), what unions/professions are involved, how formally the company handles chorus/extras, video releases, stage safety (while everyone strives to be safe, some people have rigorous guidelines and others, well, just don't). Find out who orders supplies (like spike tape) and if you can be reimbursed for expenses. Find out what you're NOT allowed to do - like talk to the director/maestro/prima ballerina, or pick up props in an IA house, or swear at all in a children's theatre. Learn about the stage space so you can anticipate traffic jams and strategize scene changes. Your SM will champion most of these solutions, but you must be fully aware of the issues at hand.

I usually assign the ASM to nearly fully handle a particular area of tech, often giving them a choice between wardrobe or props. They will then generate all running sheets, check with department heads on production development, pass along rehearsal notes, etc. Turning over a department gives the ASM a sense of real ownership in part of the show, and also lets them spread their wings a little and really show what they can do when they do it "their" way instead of just following the SM like a duckling.

Like TechGal said, there are no dumb questions! Most SMs will appreciate that you're thinking ahead and being considerate enough to ask about everything from their headset etiquette to their preferred font/file type. You don't have to become a clone of your SM, but you deserve to have a solid idea of what people will expect of you. From there, just keep your eyes and ears open, and always be ready to hurry up and wait.

Rhynn

  • Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 50
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Experience: High School
Re: ASMing: How to ASM
« Reply #10 on: Nov 03, 2012, 11:44 pm »
If you have ASM'd before this job, figure out what part of the job you enjoyed and what was challenging.  Discuss that with your future employer.  Let them know what you want to work on and what you know you can handle well.

The employer probably already knows what they're going to give you, but if you're upfront with what will be easy and what will be a challenge, they will know what to expect and when to inspect to make sure you accomplished the hard stuff.
-----
I'm flattered, but the answer is still no.

Samazon

  • Contributor
  • ***
  • Posts: 52
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: UNC Greensboro, SMA, AEA
  • Experience: Professional
Re: ASMing: How to ASM
« Reply #11 on: Nov 04, 2012, 03:25 pm »
Coming from the position of being both an SM at school and then immediately switching to being the ASM at a professional theatre, I definitely agree with the above.  As an ASM, I try to anticipate what the SM needs and stay on top of my department, which is generally props and run sheets for costumes and scenery.  While I'm not one to ask very many questions, I do observe a lot as an ASM and have become a second set of ears and eyes on deck, particularly with troublesome actors or crew, when the SM is dealing with designers in tech as most times, people tend to not notice me in downtime. Probably the most important thing is getting a feel of the SM's personality. Being someone they can talk to stressful or less busy moments seems to help. 

As an SM, I take everything I learned as ASM and adapt it to my ASMs. While I'm always open to questions (especially as SMs are the primary ones who teach stage management at my university), I try to let each assistant take ownership of their assigned area and help them define their responsibilities as the show progresses. I also give them a sense of what the full extent of my job is, generally by having them come to meetings with me or going to an errand that I generally might do by myself (this came in handy one time when I ran into the master electrician and one of the ASMs witnessed him venting to me about a particularly tense meeting earlier in the day). This way, by the time tech rolls around, they have an idea of why I appreciate it when they deal with problems backstage.  I'm always there from them to talk out issues, but it helps when they start handling things on their own as well.
“All things are possible until they are proved impossible and even the impossible may only be so, as of now."

brettnexx

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 40
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Current Gig: Apprentice; Closer Than Ever; Dry Cold Producions
  • Experience: Professional
Re: ASMing: How to ASM
« Reply #12 on: Dec 29, 2012, 12:30 pm »
It's kind of different where I'm from.

Someone can be an SM in one show, and an ASM in the next four then SM the next five etc... (i assume that's how it is most places)

But (this is how it is professionally here) the ASM is not necessarily an assistant to the stage manager, but on par with the stage manager. The stage manager and assistant both take notes during rehearsal, in case someone missed something. If there's a question for the director, the SM or the ASM can ask.

The SM is in charge of how the stage looks and sounds, whereas the ASM is in charge of how that is acheived (set changes, costume changes, props, making sure actors are in place). So, during the run of the show, yes, the ASM is a sort of assistant, only because the SM is not able to check on things themselves. but during rehearsals, the ASM and SM are more on par.

I don't know, maybe it's unusual the way things are done where I'm from.

leastlikely

  • SM Expert
  • ****
  • Posts: 137
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: EMC
  • Current Gig: The White Snake - Constellation Theatre Company
  • Experience: Professional
Re: ASMing: How to ASM
« Reply #13 on: Dec 30, 2012, 02:03 am »
The first few rehearsals may be a little weird because you don't know what to do, but you and your SM will find a rhythm pretty quickly. The SM might want your help setting up the rehearsal room and breaking it down each night. Maybe the SM will take blocking, and will want you on book. There may be a fair amount of the SM furiously scribbling blocking, and then checking with you "hey I didn't catch it, which way does he turn at the bottom of the stairs?" If you hit a break and several different actors rush to the SM with a question, they might tell you "okay I'm going to deal with this first question, can you handle the second one?" and so on. Or sometimes they might just send you to the green room to grab them another cup of coffee, which honestly feels pretty crappy the first time they ask that - but you are there to do whatever you can to make their job easier, so when they are too busy to get themselves coffee you do it for them because it makes everything smoother. Little things count in an ASM. At first, yes definitely ask what they need you to do. But if the SM asks you to sweep the stage everyday, they'll love you even more when you take it upon yourself to sweep without being asked. Or maybe when you take a 10 and people leave the space, the SM might want you to give them a 2 minute warning or whatever else.

In my experience (I suspect mileage may vary) when I'm ASM this often means that once we hit tech, I'm deck boss. Prior to tech, I'm the SM's right-hand-man, but once tech begins, the SM is in charge of what happens onstage... and backstage is all mine. Run crew answers to me first - SM is the next tier up. The SM might say "okay I need a deckhand to do this shift" and it's up to me to determine who can be there, and to delegate that task. It's my job to assign dressers, to make sure every prop and costume pre-set is where it should be, to make sure that each shift is covered, and that any actor who needs a cue can get one (if we don't have cue lights). And then on deck I'm the one to give the places call (assuming it's a space without an intercom), and so on and so forth.

The ASM job really changes pretty drastically during tech. You go from being second-in-command to being in charge of your own realm.

Likes:


ejsmith3130

  • SM Expert
  • ****
  • Posts: 155
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: EMC
  • Current Gig: Coordinating a Move to Napaskiak AK- Harder than any show I've ever done!
  • Experience: Professional
Re: ASMing: How to ASM
« Reply #14 on: Dec 31, 2012, 07:02 pm »
Most of the time as a freelance SM/ASM I am working for companies that I have never worked for before. Usually I start my questions with the basics during the interview process to get a general feel for the company. After that, I am usually introduced to the SM through an e-mail. I then contact the SM (if they don't reach out first) and offer some information and ask some questions.

I like to be able to show that I have some knowledge of the show we are doing, and let the SM know where I'm at. After that, I ask a pretty general question; usually: "Is there anything you would like me to prepare prior to arrival/our first rehearsal/meeting?"

After that you really just take it from there. Some SM's will be really greatful for the offer of help and give you a list of stuff right away, and other times I have been told that they have it under control and will see me at the first rehearsal/meeting. Generally keeping you eyes and ears open and your mouth shut is my rule of thumb as an ASM. I try to figure things out first through observation, but ask the important questions.

Starting out on a good foot can really make a big difference!

Tags: asm 
 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
6 Replies
4200 Views
Last post Aug 14, 2006, 11:16 pm
by stagemonkey
21 Replies
9372 Views
Last post Nov 15, 2007, 11:37 pm
by KimSM
8 Replies
6014 Views
Last post Jan 20, 2008, 04:22 am
by smejs

riotous