Author Topic: Directors: director's power  (Read 4270 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

jNehlich

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 36
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Current Gig: PSM - Lyric Repertory Company ; SM - Aquila Theater
  • Experience: Professional
Directors: director's power
« on: Sep 18, 2006, 09:01 pm »
I'm just finishing up my last year of undgrad work and recently ran into a problem and I'm not quite sure how it should have been resolved.
 
I was stage managing a musical and the lighting designer stayed up to the start the second dress rehearsal and left, because he had to drive a couple states over to begin his summer work at a regional shakespeare festival. Now my problem occurred when the director-after the designer had left-decided he didn't like some of the light cues and personally went and changed them himself. I wasn't sure what to do. I wanted to tell the director he couldn't because he had already given the ok to the designer after our tech rehearsal, but I didn't want to step on any toes and cause problems between the director (who is also one of my professors) and myself. Ultimately, I had no choice but to allow the changes.

Should I have stood my ground? How are things suppose to be done? Does the director have any boundaries?

Thanks for any help.
« Last Edit: Feb 11, 2008, 12:53 pm by PSMKay »
-JN

Mac Calder

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 966
  • 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
Re: director's power
« Reply #1 on: Sep 18, 2006, 09:18 pm »
It is a difficult position.

From an LD point of view, I hate it when people mess with my designs - in fact, if I remember correctly, most contracts for LD's (I know mine fall in this category) do not transfer copyright to the company (most LD's are sub-contracted, so they do not fall under the "Company employing the worker owns the copyright" law) and as such, the LD is most likely able to sue the Director for messing with his copyrighted works. However I don't know US Law, and I don't know the contract between the company and the LD. There is also the arguable point that as the LD will be credited for the design that he could sue the company for damages should he loose any business due to the director destroying the design.

From the SM point of view - after tech, no cues should be added or removed and only slight changes should occur to lighting (namely overall intensity etc, not a change in style). So from that point of view I would be against it as well.

The directorial boundaries are often not formalised, however it is an unspoken rule that whilst the director is responsible for the direction and vision of the show, the individual designers have a certain level of ownership over their areas. Any changes the director wants to make go through the designer. So basically - it is just like a director working with actors. A director does not move actors like manequins - lifting their arms, pushing them etc - he tells them what he wants portrayed, and the actors interperet it, and portray it. It is the same thing for lights/sounds/etc.

So your director changing the lighting without the designers consent and knowledge is a breach of etiquette, however there is usually no rule (appart from the chance of infringing on the laws I mentioned) within the directors contract that says they cannot.

Aerial

  • SM Expert
  • ****
  • Posts: 199
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA, SMA
  • Current Gig: The Winter's Tale, Gamm Theatre
  • Experience: Professional
Re: director's power
« Reply #2 on: Sep 18, 2006, 11:32 pm »
In college theatre, especially with a faculty director, the lines get a little blurry.  Its hard assert yourself like that when you're in a position where the person you're questioning has grading power.  Was the LD a student or a professional? 

Recently, I did a grad school showcase in NYC, and we were horribly behind because our space was terrible, so the LD couldn't be there on the afternoon before we opened.  He knew that things were going to come up in that rehearsal that the two directors would want adjusted, so we set it that as soon as the rehearsal was over, I would pull out my cell and call him, describe the adjustments (with cues numbers ready), and he'd talk me through programming the change.  The director would look at it, okay it, and we'd move on.  Professionally, this is closest I've come to the director making changes on their own, but it was with the consent of the LD, and it was due to circumstances beyond all of their control.

As for minimal changes after tech, I disagree.  I've certainly had shows where my LD is giving me completely new cues for sequences up through the final preview.  Granted, after tech MOST changes are in intensity, most of the LDs I've worked with will throw in new cues here and there, link cues that were previously seperate, etc. for as long as they can.

hbelden

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 412
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Experience: Professional
Re: director's power
« Reply #3 on: Sep 19, 2006, 11:47 am »
In your case, the point is that the LD left after tech.  No director is ever going to be okay with "no changes after tech" - they're going to make changes up until opening.  The theatre (or school) ought to have made certain an assistant LD was in place for your dress rehearsals.

It sounds like your director was making minor changes to light levels and cue timing, and I would be totally comfortable with that, while e-mailing the LD to notify.  If the director wanted to add a special, change the hang, or do an "effect" with lights, I would contact the LD before making the change if at all possible.

As far as I'm concerned, the show's not open until it's open.  One dress rehearsal is not enough time for an LD to confirm that's the design they wanted, no matter how good the LD is.
--
Heath Belden

"I'm not good, I'm not nice, I'm just right." - Sondheim
--

stagemonkey

  • SM Expert
  • ****
  • Posts: 104
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: director's power
« Reply #4 on: Sep 19, 2006, 04:50 pm »
I would agree that changes can be made all the way up until opening.  Granted this can be stressful on the SM if things are changed at the last minute.  A part of previews that I think have been overlooked a lot is that it is a preview so that you can see how the audience takes responds to the show.  In many cases shows preview then perform.  In reality there should be some sort of rehearsal in between as it gives you to the chance to adjust to the audiences response.  In one show I was working on I ran lights and Sound for 2 one acts while SMing and during the run i went to the LD and the director saying that the one light cue had bad timing (to me it didnt sync well with the cresendo in the music cue).  The LD said if I think it will looked better then slow down the timing, so I did and it worked much better.  So ultimately I say you can make some changes all the way through the run of a show, just make sure you it is the proper people making the decision to change it. 

Balletdork

  • Permanent Resident
  • *****
  • Posts: 210
  • Gender: Female
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA
  • Current Gig: PSM, The Human Race Theatre Company
  • Experience: Professional
Re: director's power
« Reply #5 on: Sep 19, 2006, 05:37 pm »
I always prefer to not have things change after the final dress.

That said- I tend to live in a dream world!

Whenever a director wishes to make adjustments after the final dress (and sometimes after opening) I always inform the designer of the changes the director wants to make. Being in residency the designers job hangs on the directors opinion. Therefore we have never had a designer say no to changing a cue during tech, after tech or into the run of the show.

There have been cues that I have refused to change; for example- a cue that is set 5 years ago; and has been run the same way every performance-- I feel should not/ cannot be changed.

I hope your faculty and staff are enough supportive of one another and enough understanding of your position as student stage manager to make these sorts of normal adjustments as easy and comfortable as possible!  ;)

KC_SM_0807

  • SM Expert
  • ****
  • Posts: 118
    • View Profile
    • http://
Re: director's power
« Reply #6 on: Sep 20, 2006, 12:06 am »
It's a very difficult situation because as someone else stated, things are a lot different in University theatre.  Most of the directors are also professors, and you have to worry about your grades and status in the deparment while also trying to get your job done as a Stage Manager of a production.  Unfortunately,  college professors/directors sometimes do not take a very professional approach and just do things the way they want regardless of how the designers feel (even when the Stage Manager does say something).  Although there is no kind of rule about this type of problem, I would be cautious in the future about letting these types of things take place.  As we all know, the SM takes the heat for everything, and you want to cover yourself as well as the other artists working on the production.  I'm very lucky in the fact that I have a great relationship with all of the professors that I've Stage Managed for, both inside and outside of rehearsals and classes.  Therefore, I would have approached the Director and told them how I felt about the situation, and would have reminded them that this is academic theatre and they should be preparing us for the professional world.  These types of actions do not demonstrate professionalism.  If you don't really have a relationship with the Director then I would be careful, but next time I would at least let them know that it is a situation that you felt uncomfortable with as a SM.  It's all about communication, so make sure that you communicate how you feel about the production and your job at all times. 
"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."

MatthewShiner

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 2477
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: AEA, SMA
  • Current Gig: PSM THE LION KING NORTH AMERICAN TOUR; Assc Director and Production Supervisor HUNCHBACK International
  • Experience: Professional
Re: director's power
« Reply #7 on: Sep 20, 2006, 08:29 am »
It happens, more then you would like to think.

A director comes in and changes a little something, that changes a cueing sequence.

The director asks for a time change on a fade.

There director asks point blank to make a change.

This can happen post tech, during previews, through the run.

Usually these requests need to be programed into the board, which means the LX department needs to get invovled.  At my current theatre they are really good about talking to the designer about requested changes, and making them.  (I find the two biggest changes don't come from a director's request but mine - timing and sequence.  Often as a show settles, the timing of cues can get off - and understanding the design behind the cue, you see what is going on on stage is not fitting the light cue anymore.  And it just feels wrong if the actors are doing great onstage to ask them to slow down to keep to the cue.  The other thing is, as a show settles, sometimes a show written with a lot of cues taken on visuals, have cues that become out of order . . . I worked with one designed where this happened a lot.)
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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.

philimbesi

  • SM Expert
  • ****
  • Posts: 117
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: director's power
« Reply #8 on: Sep 21, 2006, 11:13 am »
In terms of tweaking cues I'm comfortable with it happening pretty much up till opening night, dress rehearsals are just that - rehearsals, previews are a different story but considering I've been to Broadway previews where the house lights came on mid act and the director stopped the show... go for it. 

As for boundaries I agree that the LD needs to be there till the show opens if not discussed prior.  If they should need to go somewhere before the show opening. The Design should be "locked" before they go.  After it's locked, small changes can be done but any large scale work should be run by the LD first, and he should be notified of any work period.

Either way as the SM, imho you work for the director and if they want to be that unprofessional you can object, but in the end… you help. 


Mac Calder

  • Forum Moderators
  • *****
  • Posts: 966
  • 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
Re: director's power
« Reply #9 on: Sep 21, 2006, 04:58 pm »
Either way as the SM, imho you work for the director and if they want to be that unprofessional you can object, but in the end… you help. 

You see, there I disagree. I feel the SM's duty is NOT to the director, but to the show - which I feel is an important distinction.

The director is still an employee of the company, and basically their sole job is to have a vision of how the show will appear, and direct people to make it happen. Your job is to basically make sure everything works well, and keep the directors feet on the ground (no we cannot fly those actors from the counterweight fly bars etc) whilst enabling them to put across their vision.

This is where I think schools and universities do a great disservice to theatre. Most of them do have directors at the upper tier, as the director is usually the one organising the show, and it does lead to new Stage Managers comming out into the world and being Directorial Lap Dogs in a way. As SM's, we are largely responsible for OH&S - and an SM being a "Yes (Wo)Man" scares the hell out of me in that respect. Above I inserted the bit about flying actors from counterweight scenic fly bars. I have been asked about flying actors from them at LEAST 30 times by directors. Now that is an extreame example, but what about when it comes to things that are only "slightly unsafe" - narrow stairs with steps that are not deep enough, and too high for example. Completely against regulations, and chaces are nothing will happen - but it is still extreamly dangerous.

Down2life

  • New to Town
  • **
  • Posts: 12
  • Gender: Male
  • The true talent on set
    • View Profile
  • Affiliations: USITT SETC J.S.U.
Re: director's power
« Reply #10 on: Sep 21, 2006, 06:27 pm »
In the educational world it begins to be blur. But I feel that after a point there should be no changes. I do agree that if it is something small i.e. timing of a fde or where a blackout comes it is different but if the director changes the look then I completly disagree. As far as the US laws on that I do believe a design falls under creative property, that is the design for that show with that theatre is yours and they are using it, and thus so they arent to make changes without your (LD) approval or the approval of someone designated to make those decisions i.e. ALD, ME. It is difficult to fight that battle, but your loyalties, at that point, lie with the show the whole show. But thats just my opinion and it is difficult to work with a proffesor and expect all you would expect in a proffesional setting.

stagemonkey

  • SM Expert
  • ****
  • Posts: 104
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: director's power
« Reply #11 on: Sep 21, 2006, 07:36 pm »
I agree with Mac Calder on this one, that as the SM your duty is to the show as a whole.  Yes the director is a part of that so you have a duty to him, but you also have a duty to the LD, Scene Designer, Costume Designer, Production Manger, ME, TD, and even the actors (plus some more I probably left out.)  Often on the job I find myself telling directors "no you cant do that cause according to the scene design there's no exit over there, if you want one we need to talk to the scene designer."  As SM you are the informations hub of all things related to that show, so should something come up needing to be changed in any scenario you need to know who all this change will affect.  For example if the director up and decides he doenst like the blue light in the one scene obviously you will need to talk to the LD since its a light but at the same time change that blue light to anything else may make the costumes and set look hideous.

Ultimately I think the show can be forever changing, I admit this can be a pain if one night the LD comes in with 30 more cue's, usually I tell them if you adjust timing or deleting cues not a big deal, but adding cues means i need time to run through the sequences.  So if things need to change so be it just remember your job is to maintain the integrity of the show so make sure the changes are coming from the proper channels.

philimbesi

  • SM Expert
  • ****
  • Posts: 117
  • Gender: Male
    • View Profile
Re: director's power
« Reply #12 on: Sep 23, 2006, 10:10 am »
I appologize I didn't meant to sound so dictatorish... I guess I'm coming from the "other world" of community theatre where the director is king  ;)  Or at least they think they are. 

Truth is I'm directing right now and needed to change a light cue... it worked in rehearsal but the Rythm of the show has slowed down so timing needed to be changed and the inevitable "tweaks" in blocking that an actor does on thier own brought one of them out of light, so my SM spoke to the LD and he approved the change which I made. 

Of course the SM needs to make the contacts and clear the changes but in stagemonkey's senario if the director stamped thier foot and became all "directorish" about it would't the change happen?   Remember I'm not a pro so be gentle with the smitings :)

« Last Edit: Sep 23, 2006, 11:04 am by philimbesi »

Tags:
 

Related Topics

  Subject / Started by Replies Last post
4 Replies
3254 Views
Last post Apr 17, 2006, 01:50 pm
by j-la
4 Replies
2509 Views
Last post Sep 20, 2006, 11:32 am
by thehayworth
2 Replies
2748 Views
Last post Apr 10, 2007, 11:26 pm
by Aerial