Author Topic: Bad ASM's  (Read 7347 times)

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Jill Young

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Bad ASM's
« on: Oct 26, 2007, 07:59 pm »
I have an ASM who has NEVER done stage managment before, and came to us only knowing the blocking notations (she has only had two years of high school drama class. that's it). She has a big mouth, and often doesn't know when to stop talking, and is seriously getting on my nerves, as well as our cast members. I can only think about the long run- our show opens in April- and I can forsee her getting her head bit off during Tech because she has no idea how tech works.

In the world of professional theatre, she would be fired. But since this is High School, we have to keep her because she would take it to the administration.

I don't know if  this sounds selfish, but I've worked towards this position for three years, and I'm now in my final year, lined up for a Tech Theatre/Stage Management course in University, and now I have to run a show AND train an ASM incase something happens to me? I don't know how I'm supposed to deal with this. I'm level headed, I feel terrible if I freak out at people, and I don't know how to deal with her. PLEASE, help.

lauria

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #1 on: Oct 26, 2007, 09:28 pm »
If you think that she's willing to take some criticism, then I'd ask to meet her sometime other than right before rehearsal (that way she has some time to think about what you said objectively) and tell her that you appreciate her taking on the difficult role of an ASM and that you want to assist her in becoming a better one. Reccommend that she read a Stage Management book (Stern's or Kelly's are great places to start) so that she can fully understand the job of a stage manager because an Assistant Stage Manager is a very important job and isn't just about "making coffee." Then outline what you expect from her and the importance of confidentiallity and being bipartisan. That means no more gossiping with friends about what the drama is offstage. If that's the kind of "big mouth" she is, that might help.

If you're uncomfortable doing so, then I'd go to whoever the advisor is and ask them for assistance in guiding this wayward ASM.

Be sure to give her clear instruction thoughout the rehearsal process. Spending a few extra minutes to teach her how to do XYZ can really help so that you're not "fixing things" after she's done them all the time. I like to be clear on what my ASMs responsibilities will be during the run so that I can encourage special awareness of said duties. For example, I had one ASM on costumes and the other on scene changes and they kept track of those throughout rehearsals so that when we got to tech and performance, they really knew what was going on with those things. Delegating is very important, even when difficult. It may help keep her quiet if she feels like she's actively working on something.


Good Luck, that's a touch spot to be put in.

Kelly

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #2 on: Oct 26, 2007, 11:58 pm »
I recently just closed a show with a bad ASM.  She was an ASM before but didn't know anything even the basics of word or excel.  I showed her some things and it helped a little.  Interesting enough, she did improve somewhat, just really slowly. If you’re show opens in April you have a really long time and hopefully she’ll get into because she has the time.  But I completely understand where you're coming from. 

It's okay to be frustrated but I’d find someone like an advisor to more or less complain to and bounce ideas off of.  Having her read the SM books might help.  What lauria said is totally right.  Another thing you could try is letting your director know what is going on. Once you tell him/her, he could talk to both of you at the same time about what he is looking for in an SM team. That way no one is picking on her, or calling her out and it's coming from an authority figure. But you and the director know that said talk is directed towards her.  It might give her another direction to go on or better idea of what her job is.

Also, if there are any other shows going on in your high school or community theatres that you go to one of their techs and kinda get an idea of what’s going on. But I realize this might not be possible. 

If I could offer you one piece of advice…find the things she is good at and use those to the best of your ability and then keep feeding her new things one at time.  Don’t do it all yourself.  I did that once and it makes your job as a stage manager not as good at it could be.

Good luck!! Let us know how it goes! Having a bad ASM is the worst.

killerdana

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #3 on: Oct 27, 2007, 02:23 am »
Just remember, we all started somewhere.  I've had ASMs who came to me not even knowing blocking notation, so she's already a step up on some.  High school is a time to learn after all...

lauria has good advice about discussing this outside of rehearsal time.  I would just recommend not framing this discussion as "this is everything you're doing wrong" but more as "since I have more experience than you, maybe you can learn from my advice."  It will keep things friendlier, since you'll be working with this person for several more months.

Just relax and remember that you set the tone.  Try to be a good example for this newbie.
Science without art is sterile.  --Albert Einstein

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Scott

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #4 on: Oct 28, 2007, 12:47 pm »
I recently just closed a show with a bad ASM.  She was an ASM before but didn't know anything even the basics of word or excel.  I showed her some things and it helped a little. 

I like to general gist of your post, but i find it hilarious that you define a bad ASM as one who doesn't know the basics of Word or Excel...

I would rate those skill sets as probably the least important for an ASM, well under the ability to pay attention and follow book, take blocking, handle preset, take attendenace, organize props, shop for props, post signs using a magic marker and scrap paper, drive a car, handle and filter actor needs, move quietly backstage, use a glue gun, run a photocopier, collate, staple, etc., etc., etc.  Oh yes, did I mention pay attention in rehearsal to what is happening in rehearsal?

Since the primary purpose of Excel is a Spreadsheet (and all other uses of it are software abuse -- using a spreadsheet as a word processeor is like using a wrench as a hammer), I can imagine one might function nicely as an ASM for oh, say 50 or 60 years without knowing excel.

Give me someone who knows how to organize using a yellow legal pad and a pen and pencil set over any computer literacy anytime.

megf

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #5 on: Oct 28, 2007, 01:41 pm »
Scott, I see where you're coming from - but, looking at Jill Young's original post, it looks like what she's writing about is not necessarily the specific learned skill sets (Word, Excel, driving a car, etc) that good/bad ASMs bring to the room, but the ability of an ASM to truly be an assistant. That means to take any responsibilities that the PSM delegates, be attentive to the needs of the show - whatever that requires - and, in my opinion, lay low to avoid creating problems in the room or outside of it.

Jill - could it be that your ASM feels a bit over her head, and is overcompensating by being chatty at inappropriate times? I think that taking a moment outside of rehearsal to figure out how you can make this process a good experience for both of you (and, of course, for the rest of the cast and crew) would be an excellent start, as would a friendly offer to point her toward your favorite SM book.

Keep the SMN posted on how things go :)

centaura

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #6 on: Oct 31, 2007, 09:20 pm »
Its also a chance to test your own boundaries of patience.  Because no matter how good we get at conflict resolution, there are times when you can meet up with an individual that will just not change, rubs you the wrong way, or is inadequate in some way or another, and every attempt made to change their behavior ends in failure.  I don't want to be down, I think some very good suggestions have been made in this post.  There is one actor in particular that stands out in my memory from a tour I did, whos behavior offended almost every single venue we went to.  But absolutely nothing that was said to him would make him change his behavior - in his mind he was hilarious and charming.  He should have been fired, but the company that I worked for didn't know how to fire someone (they were a very sheltered group).  I was stuck with him for 9 months, dealing with his insulting locals wherever we went.  Use this as a learning experience - the patience you discover in yourself will be put to good use later in life.

-Centaura

Rhynn

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #7 on: Nov 11, 2007, 09:47 pm »
Take the ASM on a field trip to your local library--whether it be the school, the public, or the nearest university.  Have her check out either Stern's, Kelly's, Fazio's, or Ionazzi's text and then tell her you expect her to read the entire book within the next two weeks and to start applying what's found in the text within the next two days.

If she doesn't respond, go to your faculty supervisor and indicate that she isn't doing the work and needs to be replaced.  At the very least, if she is receiving a letter grade, it should not be a "C" or higher, because her work is below average.

Alternately, if you can't find a stage management book at your library, have her try this link:  http://www.geocities.com/dollariquestnet/SMhandbook.html
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Trinity

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #8 on: Jul 02, 2008, 10:38 am »
I had a hard time with ASM's during my first job as a SM for my college program. We had changed our venue from our usual location to a bigger auditoriam at the director's decision.  The set ended up being a fully functional two story set, and our first years that were in charge of building it had little to no experience with woodworking tools.  There were problems all around basically.  I ended up going through 4 ASM's during the rehearsals of that show.  It didn't help my personal moral as I was for the most part learning what had to be done as well.
My first ASM approached the director asking if she could be an ASM and claimed she had experience with the job.  I agreed that she could, thinking she'd probably know more then I did, and end up giving me a run for my money.  I'm not exactly sure what theatre she's been associated with, but if she's been an ASM/SM for them as she claims I feel Very sorry for them. She disrupted rehearsals and never had her script open for when the director would randomly ask for which page we were on or even to just follow the show.  Needless to say the Director himself removed her from the position.
My second ASM actually ended up sticking with us til the end.  Though there were times I would have liked to replace her. She didn't disrupt the actors too much, but she had problems with attendance as she was usually sick.  If I could I probably would have replaced her, but eventually it got to the point of I needed someone that the actors were semi familiar with, and it would be unfair to them if I brought someone in that had no working knowledge of the play backstage.
My third ASM was my attempt at getting a second ASM: someone I could rely on more... She accepted the position from the Director, but 24hrs later when I called her to inform her of when I needed her, she replied she couldn't do it anymore.  I wasn't the happiest of campers.
My 4th ASM would have worked... except after being given the scheduale of rehearsals, and insisting that he could be there... he showed up for the first one, and then never again. I had reached the end of my patience with it so I let him go.  The Actors didn't notice too much.
I ended up using the Assistant Costume Mistress as my 2nd ASM... she wasn't too familiar with the show as costume's didn't appear til the last couple of weeks of rehearsal, but since she was backstage doing nothing anyway unless a repair had to be made, I was able to use her for a few duties backstage.

ndschulnick

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #9 on: Mar 10, 2015, 11:38 am »
I am currently working on my show with my old college.  They brought me on to help out and be an ASM.  However, the production stage manager has very little experience and is not very professional...so my question is how can I not over-step my role as ASM while dealing with an unprofessional PSM?

nick_tochelli

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #10 on: Mar 11, 2015, 07:30 am »
It's hard to figure out what the issue is by such a vague post. Unprofessional can cover a lot of different things from not putting out reports to sexual harassment and everything in between. Can you provide some details?


Not for nothing (and still workout knowing the situation) but the show being in a college setting automatically lends itself to being unprofessional. I don't mean that as a dig. Everyone involved will be at a different experience level and mistakes will be made. After all its kids learning how to do this for real. Instead of going around the PSM why don't you figure out how to mentor them. Teach them something. Give them advice. I would have loved that opportunity in college. If you're truly stuck as to how to proceed speak to the college staff about your concerns.

KMC

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #11 on: Mar 11, 2015, 09:48 am »
Reading into your post I assume the PSM in question is a student, so by definition this person is not a professional SM (to be clear, non-professional and unprofessional are very different words) 

People use the term "unprofessional" very broadly.  Truly unprofessional behaviors are acts that are dishonorable, unethical, etc...

Piggybacking on Nick's thoughts - I think it's important to clarify the actions or behavior patterns that you find concerning.  Then, differentiate if those behaviors are truly unprofessional or if they're more in the territory of mistakes that an amateur or relatively inexperienced SM might make.  If it's the former, you're likely needing to involve faculty.  If, which I believe to be most likely, it's the latter - then consider it a teachable moment and offer guidance.
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

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nick_tochelli

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #12 on: Mar 11, 2015, 01:24 pm »
That is what I was trying to get across with the Unprofessional and non-professional. Thank you for summing that up far more clearly, KMC.

MatthewShiner

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #13 on: Mar 11, 2015, 01:32 pm »
Remember, there is no right way to stage manage, just wrong ways.

One person can easily sit in judgement of another stage manager and their style.

Yes, there are things perhaps a stage manager maybe failing, but as a student, it seems like that is what they are paying for the opportunity to learn, fail, and grow from it.  (If this was a professional environment, it would be something different.)

Now, as ASM, in this situation, I would do everything I could to support the PSM, doing the best job one could do, and see if there are tasks that the ASM can take over the PSM - maybe part of the issue is they are overwhelmed.

But hard to give specific advice without specific issues being raised.

If his unprofessional behavior, for example, is hitting actors with 2 x 4's, then I was suggest taking away the 2x4's.


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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.

nick_tochelli

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Re: Bad ASM's
« Reply #14 on: Mar 11, 2015, 01:48 pm »
My college theater department had an unofficial motto: Fail here because you won't be afforded the opportunity to fail in the real world. I benefited greatly from this. I only did so in hindsight of course. At the time I was a very angry young man.

I'd personally only take the 2x4 away if there was a nail sticking out of it. Smacking people with a 2x4 with a nail just isn't cool.

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