Author Topic: Directorial relations crisis  (Read 3926 times)

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Laura

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Directorial relations crisis
« on: Feb 28, 2008, 04:01 am »
How does everyone else relate to directors?

I know I am young and still learning, but I've had one hell of a time with bad directors. I just cant seem to shake this trend. I can write off one or two directors to them being the jerk, or they don't know how to work with stage management, but I am really starting to think it's me.

I can be a good stage manager... no, I AM a good stage manager. I am an intelligent, competent, confident person... and social to boot. I do not understand why I have such a hard time connecting with directors. And it ultimately always ends up with me making a mistake (or at least having to take responsibility for a mistake) and looking bad in front of the director (only the director... if I'm lucky). Then I get flustered and freaked out and I resent my director--and MYSELF--and I doubt myself. Which when you're starting your career... doubting yourself is not exactly a good starting place.

I've only really worked regional theatre... no where near any kind of union, although we all like to run under equity rules. I've worked with a lot of unkowns, but I've also been exposed to some bigger names... good experience, right?

I'm not so sure.

Okay... pause... I'll be a little more specific.

O... general note: my mistakes almost always have to do with scheduling. Inevitably, I probably could not make it a week without messing up a daily call. [sigh]

So tonight... it was again the schedule. Last night when my director and I went over the rehearsal call, I felt confident that I understood what he wanted. He even watched me write it down. It's in the nightly rehearsal reports. He even said to our choreographer, "So, I guess it's an all you night, again..." So I felt sure it would be choreography. I was prepared for choreography. The actors were prepared for choreography. My team even thought the same thing. I walk into rehearsal tonght, and... "Is our fight choreographer coming?"

I say, "O, I thought that was on the schedule later this week. I already emailed him about the change..."

And then my director so kindly starts scolding me--in front of other people-- going on about the "first rule of stage management, NEVER EVER EVER assume anything. When you assume, you make an ass of you and me..." etc etc.

I didn't know I was assuming anything!! Fight choreography was specifically on the schedule for later this week...the schedule the director wrote himself.

As luck would have it, the fight choreographer did show up. Whew!

But then, I call everyone's attention to begin rehearsal... and the director starts working scene transitions and running lines. I feel awful because my actors aren't prepared. My team is not prepared to track props, etc... it was just complete shite!

He specifically said to the choreographer, "It's an all you night..." How am I supposed to know that means something completely different!!???



...deep breaths...



this is a somewhat tense, touchy subject for me...



I want to do better with and for my directors. I want to learn. I just don't know what to change, if I'm doing everything the way I'm supposed to...

I wonder if it's an intimidation factor, because I am so young... and the directors are more self-assured and experienced. I just don't know how to break through that "unapproachable-don't-ask-me-questions" barrier. Literally, this director practically bolts out of the rehearsal room as quick as the actors at the end of the night. How am I supposed to build better communication if he won't even stick around for questions and rehearsal notes??

The thing is, this guy is not exactly a nobody. He's a pretty big name in our mid-east coast region. He's professional and well connected. I just can't read him [rumbles of frustration]!!! So it has to be me, right?


okay... I've ranted enough. This turned out to be too long a post, but I would truly appreciate ANY advice.

LCSM

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Re: Directorial relations crisis
« Reply #1 on: Feb 28, 2008, 08:36 pm »
Well, the best way to get over the "don't ask me questions" barrier is to ask questions. Sit down with the director in a private and relaxed environment and ask them what they value in a good stage manager, what things you are doing well, and what they think you could improve upon. Make sure you're both on the same page with the way you handle things like scheduals. Ask him to explain his logic and then when he's done explain yours. Make sure your director knows that you are doing this to help make you better at what you do and not as any sort of criticisim.

There are always things that we, as stage managers, can improve upon but things like this do not mean you are bad at what you do. Clearly, you don't seem to have problems in other areas that you work on; therefore my best advice would be to look at the way you handle the making of scheduals and talk to people to see if they can give you pointers. Also, always double-check with the diractor about what they want done and keep a written record of their response so you can go back to it if you need to.

Good luck!

Fitz

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Re: Directorial relations crisis
« Reply #2 on: Mar 03, 2008, 12:41 pm »
Scheduling issues are frustrating for everyone involved. I've had very similar things happen to me where directors have attempted to humiliate me in front of the cast because of scheduling conflicts. Fortunately, by now I've learned how to get the director out into the hallway so we can work it out in private when the explosions come.

The easiest way to get past scheduling issues is to put EVERYTHING in writing.

When I'm SM'ing, I like to make a calendar listing exactly what scenes are to be rehearsed on what dates and at what locations, by scene number or page numbers, including a list of actors and techs who will be needed. (When I get my hands on a script I make a spreadsheet of who is in each scene and where fights/dance #'s/songs/etc. happen so I can sort/filter for attendance planning. Excel is my best friend.) I review any notes I have in my calendar about cast absences or other scheduling issues (holidays, room conflicts, etc.). Then I email the calendar to the director for final approval, letting him/her know that it will be going out to the entire production team (including techs, designers, producer, cast, etc.) within a specified time frame and if no response from the director making a change before that time is up (generally 24 hours), he/she will be stuck with that schedule. I have also done this in writing for directors who don't use email. I make up the schedule, take it to a meeting with the director and have him/her initial it. People generally like to read things they are signing. If they object to signing it "Oh... we trust each other, why do we need to do that?" I tell them I have several versions kicking around and this way I know for sure which version is correct. ;)

I once worked with a director who liked to plan rehearsal schedules one week at a time. ??? (Okay, he wanted to do it at the end of each rehearsal for the next one, but I got the producer involved because that was definitely not going to happen.) So, what we agreed to was a similar type of outline, but on a smaller scale. He gave me his plan for the following week on Wednesday night at rehearsal. I went home that night, made the schedule for the next week and emailed it to him. He would check Thursday morning before he left for work. If there was no reply from him with changes by 6:00 Thursday night, I sent it out. That way everyone knew what was agreed to and it was in WRITING. The cast and crew loved it because they knew when they needed to show up, and had a few days notice so they could plan around it.

I've had no formal training in Stage Management, but I've had a few very good directors and stage managers over the years that I've tried to learn from, and a few spectacular failures of my own to learn from. This may not work in a professional setting if there are specific rules that need to be followed, but I find it very effective in my community theatre shows. Of course, in community theatre you can probably get away with more because a competent stage manager is hard to find and directors who alienate stage managers end up having to call their own shows.

RuthNY

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Re: Directorial relations crisis
« Reply #3 on: Mar 04, 2008, 10:15 am »
Real world alert!  Although a director might very well have a plan in mind for each rehearsal week or, indeed, the entire rehearsal process, it IS common practice for the next days schedule to be generated once the current day of rehearsal has ended. (OK, sometimes, no-rarely, I have gotten the schedule for the next day during the lunch break.)  This is reality!



snip...
I once worked with a director who liked to plan rehearsal schedules one week at a time. ??? (Okay, he wanted to do it at the end of each rehearsal for the next one, but I got the producer involved because that was definitely not going to happen.)
"Be fair with others, but then keep after them until they're fair with you."
--Alan Alda

MarcieA

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Re: Directorial relations crisis
« Reply #4 on: Mar 04, 2008, 02:53 pm »
Real world alert!  Although a director might very well have a plan in mind for each rehearsal week or, indeed, the entire rehearsal process, it IS common practice for the next days schedule to be generated once the current day of rehearsal has ended. (OK, sometimes, no-rarely, I have gotten the schedule for the next day during the lunch break.)  This is reality!



snip...
I once worked with a director who liked to plan rehearsal schedules one week at a time. ??? (Okay, he wanted to do it at the end of each rehearsal for the next one, but I got the producer involved because that was definitely not going to happen.)


Especially here in the land of Showcases (NYC)! When you have to allow actors to leave/come late/miss rehearsals for auditions and voiceover work, your schedule can change at midnight for the next evening's rehearsals.

Most of the director's that I've worked with in the last 6 months have tried to put together a rough schedule for the week, but we've rarely been able to stick to it. One director that I worked with wouldn't even think about the next day until we were finished with the current one.

An actor friend said this to me once, and I think it's a wonderful attitude for an actor to approach rehearsals with: "If I am cast in a show, regardless of the part, every minute of rehearsal that is on that schedule is a minute that I should expect to be there. If I'm not called until late in the day, or I'm not called on a random Wednesday, then that's just some bonus time off for me."
Companions whom I loved and still love, tell them my song.

Amie

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Re: Directorial relations crisis
« Reply #5 on: Mar 04, 2008, 10:14 pm »
I'm with Fitz. 

I can only speak on community level stage management.

Regardless if scheduling is well planned and detailed ahead of time or can change the night before, what I am getting from these posts is that there needs to be communication and a clear sense of organization.  If you feel you are communicating well, and that is not so, sit down with your director and address that.  I am also a stage manager who sends very thorough and detailed emails and schedules and information.

Be detailed and as thorough and clear as you can be and put it in writing. When the actors are there in rehearsal, be sure not to waste their time.
I've worked with directors who have called people and intended to work their scenes but changed their minds halfway through the rehearsal. VERY frustrating! 

I guess some of this is redundant information, but I can't stress enough or agree enough to put things in writing, be detailed, and when there is confusion with what you understood versus what the director understood...refer to the schedule in writing. You know?

It seems, also, that you get flustered and frustrated by mistakes.  We all make mistakes. Part of your insecurity may show through, which can have an impact on how directors treat you.  You seem very dedicated and sweet and willing to learn.  Look for ways to improve, but to do so, analyze what is NOT working. If it's a consistent problem, discuss this with the directors on ways you can improve upon those.

Okay. I hope this isn't too confusing.... :)

~ Amie ~

“This whole creation is essentially subjective, and the dream is the theater where the dreamer is at once: scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience, and critic.”

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