Author Topic: Balancing humor and seriousness as a university stage manager  (Read 2627 times)

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JJ Hersh

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So this last quarter I ended up working on three completely student run productions(this includes direction, design, supervision, and acting). One thing that I came across very early that I never fully solved was learning how to joke around with my cast and have good morale, but also have their respect when I need it. I know that when I was the stereotypical dictator stage manager I got everyone listening, but I also know that this is rarely a good technique, and likely would not have been sustainable over a long rehearsal period. Any suggestions on being able to incorporate humor and familiarity with a cast while maintaining your role as stage manager?

mkristinect

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Re: Balancing humor and seriousness as a university stage manager
« Reply #1 on: Jun 03, 2015, 03:33 pm »
I don’t think this is by any means unique to education…except insofar as the inexperienced cast may display more of a lack of discipline than is strictly speaking desirable.  But that happens with chummy casts in theater communities the industry-over.  Recently I worked on a new comedy musical.  It was super fun.  The cast gelled right away, I became good friends with many of them, the production team was great to work with, the subject matter was stellar with an all-bets-are-off sort of design (all the color!  All the unicorns!  All the confetti!).  It was a recipe for delightful chaos.   

I generally found it was best to pick my battles.  If the MD is giving an actor music notes, it’s quiet on set.  If the director is deliberating with his assistant and people take 30 seconds to breath and joke, cool.  If a scene disintegrates into fits of uncontrollable laughter because of an acting choice, I’ll let it play out for a minute until we can get things under control…because it can be hard to come down.  Once I even had to call a five to let people regroup, but that was drastic.

Maybe the most important thing is to respect the spirit of the show.  In a project like the one described above, the silliness (within reason) could add to the creative output.  In a more serious drama, it could hinder it.  Also keeping in mind mitigating circumstances—for example, when I worked on Streetcar and we were blocking the rape scene there was a certain amount of levity on set and while we treated the discussion with due seriousness, I felt I had to consider the difficulty of the subject matter and respect the actors’ coping mechanisms.

So in answer to your actual question, I would engage the cast as long as it furthers the goals of the rehearsal.  Also make your expectations (whatever they may be) clear from the get-go.  If it's too difficult to maintain authority and be their friend, let them know you'll be their friend outside the rehearsal room.  *my ten cents...shutting up*   :-X

MatthewShiner

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Re: Balancing humor and seriousness as a university stage manager
« Reply #2 on: Jun 03, 2015, 07:44 pm »
It's all about the management style that fits you well - and yes, you always need to adapt to the surroundings.  Ironically, I find the most serious shows - I have found my sense of humor to be most useful - it's sort of dreadful to mucking about in drama, death and destruction - so the well place light hearted comment can go a long way.  It is also depends on the director.

You have to feel comfortable in your management style - can the fun loving, joke cracking SM, also turn around and reprimand a cast member for being late . . . and, as you further down your career, will they trust a multi-million show to a comedian . . . ?  There you go.

It's a very, very fine line . . .
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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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deana.velandra

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Re: Balancing humor and seriousness as a university stage manager
« Reply #3 on: Oct 25, 2015, 02:00 pm »
I think in any creative environment, finding the balance between disciplined work and lighthearted moments is an art form in itself. A stage manager who is all business all the time potentially creates a solemn work environment which is not conducive to a spirit of teamwork or creativity. On the other hand, it is the stage manager's job to keep the group focused and on track to complete tasks in a timely fashion. Only trial and error can teach people how to manage this.   

Claire.bouwkamp

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Re: Balancing humor and seriousness as a university stage manager
« Reply #4 on: Oct 26, 2015, 06:02 pm »
It all  depends essentially on what you are comfortable with. From my experiences in which I needed to take leadership roles, adding that humor to your directions helps gain that familiarity with the people you are working with, and make the atmosphere more comfortable for the lot of you. Even in serious shows or with difficult material, humor can help balance everything out and help you achieve the attention and familiarity you seek. In the reeling in of the group through humor, you gain their comfort and in turn can gain their attention for those more serious notes.

brynneanika

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Re: Balancing humor and seriousness as a university stage manager
« Reply #5 on: Oct 26, 2015, 10:54 pm »
I think it's definitely important to have a little bit of distance from the cast. Being too close to the cast while in your position as a stage manager can set you up for people disregarding what you say and not taking you seriously. Although it's not enjoyable to have a "dictator" stage manager, the job needs to come before the social aspect of it. Sure, there will be many times where you can joke around, but make sure you have the respect of the cast so that cooperation occurs during rehearsal and the shows. It's integral for you to have the respect from the cast, but also get along well with them.

oroberts2015

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Re: Balancing humor and seriousness as a university stage manager
« Reply #6 on: Oct 27, 2015, 08:21 am »
I think wroth this it is definitely important to on breaks be able to sit and joke around with the cat and everyone else. However once it's time to get back to work the joking goes to the side. Sure laughing and having a good time while you are working on things is good but you have to remind yourself that you are ultimately there to do a job and do that job well. Then once the job is done the fun can  resume:D

rckennedy

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Re: Balancing humor and seriousness as a university stage manager
« Reply #7 on: Oct 27, 2015, 10:58 am »
The stage manager is a part of the creative process just as much as everyone else involved, so I think that though they should be strict at some points in order to keep the rehearsal moving, they should allow for there to be moments of laughter or chatter. The key is knowing how long to let people be distracted before moving on. I think that it also helps if the stage manager develops some sort of a relationship with people in the cast, so that it isn't necessarily the SM's first instinct to take on the "dictator" type role.

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